Archaeologists believe they've uncovered a Maori village in Gisborne dating back to the 14th century.
The find is significant because not much is known about the early occupation of the area.
The site was first found 18 months ago, beneath a Gisborne port.
Developers called in local iwi and archaeologists to investigate.
"It's significant that we have a pristine representation of the life of the very early tipuna who came here to Aotearoa," said Ngati Oneone spokesperson Nick Tupara.
It's the same site of early waka landings and where explorer James Cook first landed almost 250 years ago.
Researchers found shells, tools, food remains and moa bones.
They say not many very early sites like this exist.
"It's about filling in the gaps. This is a really important period of New Zealand history. This is a period just after the first Polynesians have landed in New Zealand. They're moving around the coastlines, they're setting up villages, establishing trade networks, establishing gardens," said archaeologist Professor Richard Walter.
Researchers have only uncovered the outskirts of the village, and won't dig into the village itself.
It'll remain locked under land for future generations to discover.
"Part of our archaeological ethic, I suppose, is it's important to understand the site, but it's also important to leave part of the site for the future because there's all sorts of technologies in the future that might be able to tell us even more than we know now," said Pam Bain of Heritage New Zealand.
The artefacts are now being anaylsed at Otago University.
They’ll eventually be returned to the people of Tairawhiti.