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Researchers Make a Link Between the Ancient Maori Arrival and Antarctic Ice

By: April Carson

A study of six Antarctic ice cores found that black carbon emissions rose by about 1297, according to researchers. Modeling and paleofire data revealed that New Zealand was the source of this pollution. The arrival of the first Maori settlers on the islands, who started fires, is thought to have triggered this process.

The association between carbon emissions and the arrival of Maori to New Zealand

New Zealand was one of the last large areas on Earth to be inhabited by people. For a long time, academics have disagreed about when the first Maori arrived in the islands. There were three possible dates: more than 1500 years ago, less than 600 years ago, and an unknown date – around 1000 years ago.

Radiocarbon dating of peat and macrofossils in the late 1990s established that Maori influences on the environment date back to 1200-1400 AD.

The arrival of small rats ( Rattus exulans ) to New Zealand islands subsequently led to additional research to define the timelines. The seeds and bones of the animals devoured by these rodents were radiocarbon analyzed, revealing that the tiny rat first arrived on both main islands of New Zealand in 1280. This dating was consistent with archaeological data, evidence of fires, and middens.

The latest radiocarbon dating on rat bones place the entry of rats on islands in Foveaux Strait at 1280 AD, more than 650 years before they are recorded to have arrived in Australia.

Dr. David Eades, an associate professor at the University of Nevada's Department of Geology and Environmental Sciences, has examined ice cores to determine pre-industrial sources of aerosol pollution and their concentration levels after collaborating with scientists from Australia, Austria, Argentina, the United Kingdom, Germany, Norway, and the United States. The burning of biomass is one of the dominant sources of aerosol concentrations globally.

The team found that biomass burning was far more intense in the Southern Hemisphere compared to the Northern Hemisphere – a puzzle considering there were comparable levels of human populations on both hemispheres before European colonization. But Dr Eades says a new hypothesis has emerged from their findings: pre-industrial, indigenous peoples living in the tropics and having little contact with outside populations may have played a major role in driving biomass burning.

The cores from which the analysis was conducted were recovered from James Ross Island and continental Antarctica. Samples dating back to the last two millennia, with a margin of error of 5 years, were studied, as well as those going back 1st millennium AD – with a margin of error of 20 years.

These cores were hundreds of kilometers away from potential emission sources, like industrial activities in Europe.

Researchers discovered that black carbon levels in Antarctica have varied considerably over the last two millennia, with a significant difference between data from the Antarctic Peninsula and the continent as a whole beginning at the end of the 13th century and continuing to today. Modeling showed that emission sources were located closer to south than 40 degrees latitude, which was in Tasmania, New Zealand and the southern part of South America.

Paleofire Research and Tests

Paleofire research and simulations have shown that Patagonia and Tasmania's climate has been humid for the past 700 years, and hunters-gatherers there only used small blazes to manage land resources before Europeans arrived.

Radiocarbon dating has dated the bones as being between 1502 and 1520, which indicates that they were probably placed there after European contact. The first settlers arrived on New Zealand around 1300, according to radiocarbon dating.


The ice core research reveals that New Zealand experienced significant black carbon emissions beginning in 1297 ± 30, with a two- to threefold increase. In contrast to the rapid rise at the start, the amount of mud rose linearly rather than exponentially during the XIV-XVI centuries. This appears to be consistent with a large number of early settlers.

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About the Blogger:

April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on

To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav







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