The modern understanding of early NZ history includes the acceptance that Maori brought Polynesian rats (rattus exulans) with them on their epic voyage circa 850AD.
We know that the Polynesian rat (Maori "kiore") does not swim (unlike the Norwegian rat) and had to be intentionally carried on, or slip aboard, any seafaring vessel.
The discovery of fossilised rat remains that have been carbon dated to as far back as 160 BC, +/- 130 years ( "Nature" Nov 1966 issue, Dr Richard Holdaway, a specialist in animal fossils) is then, of interest, and raises more questions than satisfactory answers. Orthodoxy explains the arrival and settlement of this rat in NZ as arriving with transient Polynesians - a thousand years before the arrival of Maori.
But why transient Polynesians, who would have left other evidence of their settlement, and why not voyagers not from the Pacific, but from the west? Did an advanced and explorative culture exist at that time on the one hand, and did it know or host this species of rodent ?
The rat remains were found in Predator Cave, at the top of the South Island, as the regurgitated balls of Laughing Owl deposits - that is, the Owls fed on the rats and regurgitated the bones on to the cave floor.
Near Taupo, in the North Island, rat teeth have been dated to 220 AD, +/- 93 years. The South Island finds pre-date the North Island remains.
About 200 BC, Indian explorers from the large and explorative dynasty of the Mauryans were indeed sailing to, exploring with, and trading with, the islands of SE Asia and Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Java and Sumatra. The Indian impact was in fact so great that Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms were created in these countries.
This was the Mauryan Empire (326-184 BC) founded by Chandragupta Maurya, a foe of Alexander the Great, and expanded by the Ashokas - Ashoka, said to be the greatest emporer of India, killed 100,000 Kalinga (now known as Odissa) enemies in 264 BC and was so sickened by this that he converted to Buddhism 2 years later.
The Polynesian rat was well established in Indonesia 4,000 years ago - far more so than in Polynesia - and vagrant rats could easily have come aboard the ships of Mauryan explorers who had sojourned there there to replenish their supplies.
The Indonesians had been trading with the Melanesians for thousands of years, so the Mauryans would have learnt of the lands to the east, and, being explorers, headed to the east, where they would have encountered winds best suited to sailing south - where New Zealand lay.
If they discovered NZ in 240BC, the rats would have come ashore, and within 50 years bred, as rats do, to provide ample food for the Laughing Owl and other predators - in turn, the rats would have preyed on existing birdlife.
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