Skip to comments.Ancient DNA points to Maori feather trade
Posted on 06/05/2011 9:04:46 PM PDT by SunkenCiv
When New Zealand's Maori tribes went into battle, combatants enveloped in kiwi feather cloaks were spared from harm by their foes. The laboriously crafted cloaks, known as Kahu kiwi, were so revered that some were given names -- one, called Karamaene, was traded with the Auckland Museum in exchange for a giant wooden war canoe.
Now, kiwi DNA preserved in such cloaks -- some dating back to the nineteenth century -- has revealed clues to the origin and construction of Kahu kiwi, and hinted at a previously unknown trans-island feather trade1.
David Lambert, an evolutionary geneticist at Griffith University in Nathan, Australia, and lead author on the study, published online in Molecular Biology and Evolution1, says of the cloaks, "They have a remarkable kind of power themselves. They're extraordinary things."
Records from James Cook's 1769-70 voyage to New Zealand describe flax woven cloaks, the most prestigious of which were adorned with dog skin and worn by Maori chiefs. Kiwi-feather-covered cloaks came into fashion in the early 1800s, but no written records document their origin or construction, Lambert says.
(Excerpt) Read more at nature.com ...
[can't use Corbis images, right?]
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