The History of Maori People

The interesting history of the Maori people can be traced to Southeast Asia. Some historians hold the opinion that the Polynesians, who first settled in what is now known as New Zealand, were originally from China and that In the past, they took the long journey through Taiwan, the Pacific and finally reached New Zealand.

Ancient History

An anthropologist, Thor Heyerdahl, argues that the Polynesians were from America and not from the east. His claims are based on the fact that the staple food, kumara, of the pre-European Maori, came from Central South America. The Bismarck Archipelago was occupied by the Polynesian ancestors thirty thousand years ago where they had a Lapita culture which is evident in their colorful and peculiar earthenware pots. The pottery was named Lapita after the name of an archaeological site located in New Caledonia.

1000 islands, Palau, Micronesia, Bismarck Archipelago

The Lapita pottery was first discovered in the mid-second part of the millennium. This evidence could be traced from Melanesia to New Caledonia and Samoa on the east side. The creators of the Lapita pottery founded places such as Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa where many features of the typical Polynesian culture developed in the first millennium.  By the time New Zealand was founded, the essence of the pottery was already lost, and other kinds of crafts took its place, such as stone adzes and fish hooks, a change attributed to Eastern Polynesia in New Zealand.


The Polynesian culture started to spread eastwards from its original location in the Bismarck Archipelago about 3,500 years ago. While some of the people stayed in the central south pacific, other Polynesians relocated beyond Tahiti and settled around South America, the kumara’s home. There is no record of the exact date the islands of New Zealand were settled, and scholars are still debating whether it happened between 950AD and 1130AD or not. Kupe, the Polynesian navigator and mythical figure, is believed to have landed in 925, according to ethnologists of the 19th and 20th centuries. The same scholars also estimated that Toi, the Maori mythical figure, arrived at New Zealand around 1150.

The arrival of a larger number of Polynesians who settled in New Zealand is said to have taken place in 1350 although modern scholars are skeptical of both the date and the mass arrival of Polynesians. The Maori canoe tradition incorporated the Great Fleet into their practice as passed down from generation to generation, a tradition that states that the great fleet came from Hawaiiki, the mythical ancestral homeland in eastern Polynesia. The Polynesians first settled on the coast of New Zealand, mainly on the eastern coast due to its friendly and temperate climate and later animals such as dogs and the Polynesian rat were introduced.

The Maori culture, though of Stone Age, was developed before the coming of Europeans and the use of metal.  Bird bones, ivory teeth, human bones, whale bones and dog bones were used as the materials for work before the introduction of metal. Archeological discovery within New Zealand has revealed these historical facts.