Secrets of Britain's royal rulers hidden in 600 year old Canterbury Roll

Researchers in Canterbury are working to unveil the secrets of one of the country's oldest artifacts.

The family tree is one of New Zealand's oldest artefacts. Source: 1 NEWS

The 600-year-old Canterbury roll maps out the family tree of Britain's Royal rulers.

It is the only one in the Southern Hemisphere, but even after all this time there is plenty more to uncover.

University of Canterbury Dr Chris Jones said it is New Zealand's most important medieval artifacts.

"Fascinating to have, it's tremendously important."

Nottingham Trent University Dr Natasha Hodgson said it is a genealogy of the Kings of England.

"It starts at the time of Henry VI and goes through to the Norman conquests," she said.

"The Anglo-Saxon Kings all the way back to Noah in the Bible."

The scroll tells the tale of myth, royalty and family feuds on a historic scale.

Dr Hodgson said there is still a lot of disagreement even within the text as to who has the right to kingship.

"It was produced during the war of the rose when they were fighting against one another for the crown."

How the scroll, one of only 11 genealogies, got into New Zealand is a mystery.

But 100 years ago it was brought by Canterbury University professors for 50 pounds – about $5,000 today.

Dr Jones said, "It wasn't quite put in a filing cabinet, but that is the equivalent of what happened. It was left in a box."

Centuries of wear on the sheepskin document and some liberal editing means part of the scroll have disappeared or been hidden.

Now, it is the focus of the historians, scientists and linguists all trying to uncover its secrets.

Nottingham Trent University Professor Haida Liang said, "You can pick out the spectrum of the ink which will serve as a fingerprint to the material."

Dr Jones said it is incredibly exciting as a historian.

"I'm hoping we see much more over the coming weeks."