Thursday, 07 Aug, 2008 Science

Captain James Cook Did Not Discover New Zealand First?


Scientists discovered that the skull, found by a boy while walking his dog in 2004 on the banks of a river, turned out to belong to a European woman who passed away over 260 years ago. The discovery led to serious doubts regarding the historical fact that Captain James Cook was the first European who stepped on the shores of the island in 1769.

The skull was found near Wellington in Wairarapa region of the North Island. The site was settled by Europeans after the New Zealand Company set up a colony in 1840.

"It's a real mystery, it really is. We have got the problem of how did this woman get here? Who was she? I recommended they do carbon date on it and of course they came up with that amazing result," Robin Watt, a Forensic Anthropologist, was quoted by British newspaper the Daily Telegraph as saying. He was called in by police who investigated the finding.

In 2004, the year when the skull was found, police started an investigation of murder, considering the finding as evidence of committed crime, said John Kershaw, the local coroner.

"One of the reasons some work was done on the skull was because it had a number of puncture wounds. We don’t know how this lady met her death, although the historian we used indicated drowning was a reasonable guess. This (examination) suggests that the deceased may have been alive somewhere in the South Wairarapa in or about 1742," Kershaw said.

After the examination, researchers stated that the skull was surely not Maori, which is the only race known to exist in New Zealand in the 18th century. They believe that the skull most likely is European.

Source: Daily Telegraph

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