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DNA in ancient Maori cloaks

A Maori cloak. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

There’s a cool story by Ewen Callaway up at the Nature news site about researchers who went searching for DNA among the plumes of Maori feather cloaks.

These cloaks were apparently the height of Maori fashion in the 19th century. And, as Callaway writes, “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…”

By connecting the feather DNA to fowl (such as kiwi birds) on New Zealand’s islands, David Lambert at Griffith University in Australia and his colleagues uncovered what appears to be previously unknown ancient feather trade routes.  

I wonder how the new information will fit into what the British Museum and Museum of New Zealand have to say about the history of these cloaks.

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