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The People of Wairau Bar: a Re-examination

Hallie R. Buckley, Nancy Tayles, Siân E. Halcrow, Kasey Robb, Roger Fyfe


A new study of macroscopic evidence of health in Wairau Bar human skeletal remains (koiwi tangata), prior to their reburial in April 2009, generally supports the views of Houghton (1975), but reports new evidence of childhood stress, the presence of specific infectious diseases, and revises dental evidence of diet. Assessment of health parameters between spatially separated groups within the cemetery (uruupa) found differences in the demography, with more old females in Group 3 (Burials 12–44) or the ‘southern uruupa’. The oral health of the burial groups was also different where individuals of Group 1 (Burials 1–7) had more evidence of periodontal disease and less extreme wear suggesting a diet different to that of Group 3. Differential health between the sexes and groups at Wairau Bar is implied. Overall parameters of health and disease indicate that the Wairau Bar people survived the observed stress during childhood and lived active, mostly healthy, lives.


Wairau Bar; koiwi tangata; health; disease

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ISSN (print) 1179 4704; ISSN (online) 1179 4712
Published with the assistance of the Department of Anthropology & Archaeology, University of Otago.
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