The Chilean ambassador to New Zealand says new joint research involving Maori and indigenous Easter Islanders will get to the root of where early Polynesians first found the kumara.
Two doubled-hulled waka set sail from Auckland on Friday to Rapanui (Easter Island) to retrace ancient voyages made across the Pacific.
The Waka Tapu expedition is a joint project between Easter Island indigenous leaders, the Chilean government and the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute.
Ambassador Isauro Torres says there is evidence to show the sweet potato grown in Aotearoa originally comes from South America.
He says corpses of Polynesian origin have been found buried in Chile, along with their artefacts.
Mr Torres says a number of eastern Polynesian groups, including Maori, reached the coast of South America and probably returned home with the kumara.