An iwi believes a burial ground being prepared in Marlborough for the return of ancient Maori bones may be the oldest in the country.
Archaeologists are helping Rangitane to excavate sites on the Wairau Bar, where bones removed by Canterbury Museum for study up to 70 years ago will be reburied.
Rangitane chairman Richard Bradley says early excavation of the site showed the link between Maori and their origins in East Polynesia.
He says the return of the bones will be significant to the whole country.
Mr Bradley says it will take two to three weeks to prepare the burial ground and the bones held by Canterbury University could be returned by April.