WELLINGTON, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- A war of words has broken out between New Zealand and Australian academics over a find that could rewrite the early European exploration of the South Pacific.
The row centers on whether other European explorers ventured secretly to New Zealand between Dutchman Abel Tasman's discovery in 1642 and British explorer James Cook's expedition in 1769.
No other successful European explorations are known from that time, but carbon dating of timbers from an ancient shipwreck in the Kaipara Harbor at the top of the North Island have suggested at least one other expedition.
An Australian-led study dated the timbers to around 1705, making it the oldest known wreck in the region, and surmised they were of Dutch origin, according to a paper published in the international Journal of Archaeological Science.
Lead author Jonathan Palmer, a climate scientist at the Sydney- based University of New South Wales, said in an AAP story Thursday that competition between European colonial powers to claim new territories might have meant voyages were kept secret.
However, New Zealand historian Professor Paul Moon, of Massey University, on Friday dismissed the theory of secret colonization plans as a "ridiculous cloak-and-dagger story."
Moon criticized both the scientific as well as historical methods used, saying only a few pieces of wood were tested with no systematic attempt to get samples from all parts of the vessel, which has since been submerged by sand under water.
"The wood samples tested could easily have been pieces from the ship that were reclaimed from other, older vessels. This was a widespread method of ship-repair at the time. This makes the dating exercise conducted on this vessel almost valueless," Moon said in a statement.
He criticized the "shameful" absence of any documentary proof to support arguments of a secret campaign by European countries to colonize the South Pacific.
"Three centuries after the event, with all the archives open, we would expect to see solid evidence of such schemes. The more sensible conclusion to reach from the lack of any paper-trail is that there was no such secret scheme it's as simple as that. Instead, what we have been told is this ridiculous cloak-and- dagger story."