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Iwi face to face with "Aunty"

Published: 6:59PM Sunday April 04, 2010 Source: ONE News

The face of a Maori woman who died on the Wairau bar in Marlborough more than 600 years ago has been revealed using digital technology.

Skulls found on the Wairau Bar in 1939 have been used to help digitally recreate the faces of the people who once lived there.

Local iwi Rangitane have affectionately renamed the woman as "aunty".

Aunty's features were painstakingly put together over six months using CT scans of her skull.

Doctor Susan Hayes has also unveiled the faces of two men also buried on the Wairau bar.

Aunty's ancestors felt a connection long before they knew what she looked like.

"To be able to look at one of my own ancestors from the 12th century - (it's) pretty cool," says Richard Bradley of Rangitane Iwi.

"One of my aunties said "boy, you've got to show a bit of respect for this old girl."

Her skull, along with other remains, was finally returned to its first and now final resting place at the Wairau bar a year ago.

The scientists who studied their bones have been fascinated with their unveiling of the skulls.

"It was a surprise how recognisable they were in terms of modern Maori and Polynesian people," says Doctor Hallie Buckley.

Bradley agrees.

"It's really funny, when I look at the old girl I can see some likenesses from people I know in Blenheim."

The remains of these people, believed to be the first to settle in New Zealand, may be reburied.