Changing Planet

The Genographic Project unveils the ancient ancestry of New Zealand, the world’s last settled islands

The Genographic Project results are in from 100 Kiwis (or New Zealanders). The results were revealed to an excited crowd of participants, which included New Zealand’s own Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae.


Earlier this year, a team from National Geographic’s Genographic Project was invited by the Allan Wilson Centre to North Island, New Zealand to shed light on their genetic journey and collective past. Genographic scientist based in New Zealand, Dr. Lisa Matisoo-Smith joined Project Director Spencer Wells to discuss the project and lead the event.  Celebrating traditional Maori history, 100 excited participants interested in tracing their own ancient ancestry were brought together in the nation’s capital, Wellington. New Zealand’s Governor-General, Sir Jerry Mateparae was among the participants.

New Zealand: The world’s last settlements

How does New Zealand fit into the larger human family tree? New Zealand’s two islands were among the last discovered by humans just 800 years ago, and also one of the last places colonized by Europeans just 200 years ago. And like Americans, Kiwis are an admixed* group, yet the genetic mixture is younger, and thus easier to piece apart. And it can’t go without mentioning; Wellington is the last (southern-most geographically) of the world’s capitals, and almost the last one alphabetically, too. No thanks to Zagreb, Croatia.

Results revealed

Well, you lasted this long, so here are the Genographic Project results:

Map of maternal lineages in New Zealand

Among the participants, nearly all European maternal haplogroups (branches of the human family tree) were accounted for, yet only three Asian lineages and two Oceanic, or Pacific Island lineages were detected. And among the European haplogroups, Northern Europe accounted for more than half of the groups, while Mediterranean haplogroups accounted for about a quarter of participants’ results.

Map of paternal lineages in New Zealand

Two distinct maternal Oceanic haplogroups were found in the DNA of six participants. These groups are commonly seen in Polynesia especially among the Maori people, New Zealand’s indigenous population. However, only one Oceanic paternal haplogroup was found  among the male participants. This special honor belonged to the Governor General himself, who is only the second person of Maori ancestry to be appointed leader of the country.  Sir Jerry Mateparae had the most Oceanic DNA overall (23%) among those present. By contrast, only ten other participants had at least 1% native Pacific Island ancestry. Although Mateparae was not overly surprised by this, he was more surprised by something else: “I’ve got a Mediterranean heritage. And gosh, I’d like to find out more about that”.

Do you have any genetic ties to this region of the world? Join the Genographic Project and uncover deep secrets about your past. Don’t be the last of your group to participate!

*What is an admixed group? 

By this we mean, a group with a mixture from different genetic backgrounds and geographical locations. You can learn more about reference populations here.

Dr. Miguel Vilar is the Science Manager for National Geographic's Genographic Project. Miguel is also a molecular anthropologist and a science writer. His fieldwork has taken him to remote places throughout the South Pacific, East Africa, Mesoamerica, and the Caribbean. In the laboratory he researches the modern genetic diversity of human populations from Melanesia, Micronesia, North and Central America, and the Caribbean. Miguel has published in several anthropology and genetics journals, as well as popular science magazines.
  • Preston Garrison

    Graphic are way too dark to see be able to tell anything.

  • Hubert Wells

    The only kind of DNA info you’re going to get in Wellington is self-righteous hipster. Auckland / Waikato regions would have given a far better indication of the real New Zealand.

  • Jose Gros-Aymerich

    Hi!: from tales about Spanish immigration, I read that not long ago, an Spaniard arrived to the Maori land, and married several women, his descendants forming a distinct tribe inside Maori, and accounting for 14’000 persons, but this was more than a decade ago. From Geno2.0 data, we know that average inhabitans of the Iberian peninsula are 48% Mediterranean, 37% Northern European, and 13% Southwest Asian, a mix of Spaniard parenthood Maori tribe may explain the Mediterranean part of Governor Jerry Mateparae genome, but in digging into genetic roots, you always get surprises. I was attributed 2% Oceanian and 2% Denisovich (please let me choose by myself the way to write my ‘Genetical Surname’), and my family has no memories that arrived to me about travelling to Oceania. The Denisovich heritage is known to be present today mostly in Oceania, but samples from ‘Sima de los huesos’, Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain, also found Denisovich DNA there, remains are over 300’000 years old. It could be proposed that the Denisovich portion in some Europeans, an Italian woman pointed in SciAm having 3% Denisovich, may not be coming from Oceania, but be remains of the original populations living there before ‘Homo sapiens’ appeared in Africa.

  • Philip Middlemiss

    I took the Genographic dna test a couple of years ago. Very interesting and revealing.

  • Muzeffer Haseb

    Hi, I’am from Irak why we not try this method in Iraq to know from kurd or turkman.

  • nick

    Thought about buying the GENO kit, but looking at the map in the kit there is no New Zealand

  • Tuia George

    I bought the kit last year for my dad mainly out of curiosity, and wanting to know our ancestors origin, and the test confirmed that my pacific island ancestry was from East Asia and Oceania. My dad is from the Cook Islands , a colonised country, by Britain and his mixed heritage showed up in the results.

    One of the haplogroups he belongs to is an ancestral branch of the ui Neill, or niall of the nine hostages an Irish king but this dude has like 3 million descendants in the world today!

    . Dad also had regional ancestry in 6 of the 9 regions, Northern Europe, North East Asia, South East Asia, Oceania, meditteranean and west asia, On top of that, 3.7% Neanderthal and 4.8% denisovan.
    I found that this test did confirm what I expected, and got a few suprises out of it.

  • Allen Decke

    I have orderd the kit
    just wondering if i can connect the dots with other Deckes around the world or if they are connected .

  • Georgina

    I don’t fully understand the maps. Why is there no Polynesian /Maori route in the male ancestry map?
    Can someone explain?

  • Georgina Christensen

    Can anyone suggest an answer for my question?
    Why does the male line not show Maori/polynesian route to NZ.

    Was the sample inadequate?

  • Sonia S

    I am from Aotearoa.
    Please note: there is no disrespect towards anyone who participated in this study.
    Thank You National Geographic for sharing, absolutely love and appreciate all that you do.
    If I may make a suggestion, for a more definitive result, perhaps try visiting some of the Maraes;
    North Island
    Kawhia (Descendants from Rarotonga)
    Waikato – Kingitanga (Maori Royal Family)
    Bay of Plenty (Tauranga, Whakatane), Hawaiian/Tahitian Connections
    East Coast Ngati Porou – Danish Connections
    Wanganui, West Coast of New Zealand and South Island.

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