Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Data from: Genetic analysis identifies the missing parchment of New Zealand’s founding document, The Treaty of Waitangi.

Citation

Shepherd, Lara; Whitehead, Peter; Whitehead, Anna (2019), Data from: Genetic analysis identifies the missing parchment of New Zealand’s founding document, The Treaty of Waitangi., Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.5vb1601

Abstract

Genetic analyses provide a powerful tool with which to identify the biological components of historical objects. Te Tiriti o Waitangi | The Treaty of Waitangi is New Zealand’s founding document, intended to be a partnership between the indigenous Māori and the British Crown. Here we focus on an archived piece of blank parchment that has been proposed to be the missing portion of the lower parchment of the Waitangi Sheet of the Treaty. However, its physical dimensions and characteristics are not consistent with this hypothesis. We perform genetic analyses on the parchment membranes of the Treaty, plus the blank piece of parchment. We find that all three parchments were made from ewes and that the blank parchment is highly likely to be a portion cut from the lower membrane of the Waitangi Sheet because they share identical whole mitochondrial genomes, including an unusual heteroplasmic site. We suggest that the differences in size and characteristics between the two pieces of parchment may have resulted from the Treaty’s exposure to water in the early 20th century and the subsequent repair work, light exposure during exhibition or the later conservation treatments in the 1970s and 80s. The blank piece of parchment will be valuable for comparison tests to study the effects of earlier treatments and to monitor the effects of long-term display on the Treaty.

Usage Notes