Last updated 16:40 21/03/2013
TROY BAKER/Whakatane Beacon
An archaeologist will assess the Whakatane Hospital car park where a human skull, thought to be of Maori origin, was found during excavation work today.
Police had determined the area was not a crime scene and after further sifting of soil in the immediate area would hand the area over to the Historic Places Trust as an archaeological site, the Bay of Plenty District Health Board said.
Work on the car park, which is part of a $67 million redevelopment of the hospital, was stopped after the skull was found about 11.30am today.
A police liaison officer, along with hospital cultural adviser Pouroto Ngaropo, had determined the skull was likely to be of Maori origin, the board said.
Police had been supportive of local custom being observed, and workers had taken part in a karakia for the area, which was known to have been a traditional cultivation site for Ngati Awa.
The skull had been removed to Regional Maori Health Services for further determination to allow liaison with iwi about an appropriate burial.
Workers in the car-park area were stood down for the remainder of the day, and possibly tomorrow, depending on a decision from the archaeologist.
A blessing of the full construction site, with all construction staff, will take place tomorrow morning.