Open daily, 10am–5pm, Free

419 Great King Street Dunedin, New Zealand

Southern Land, Southern People


Level 2

Our region’s prehistoric past and unique links between people and land


  • New Zealand’s largest fossil, discovered on a fishing trip
  • One of only three complete Haast’s eagle skeletons in museum collections worldwide
  • The world’s most comprehensive display of articulated moa skeletons
  • A glass plate camera used by the Burton Brothers, who established a nationally important photography studio in Dunedin in the 19th century
  • A crocodile jaw fossil discovered in 16 million-year-old rock in Central Otago


Visitors to Southern Land, Southern People are greeted by the Overlander – a life-size model of a Māori man dressed for overland travel in the sometimes adverse climate of southern New Zealand. 

A semi-circle of iconic southern objects surrounds the gallery entrance, including a distinctive Moeraki boulder, a mounted takahē and a gold nugget. Above your head, the night sky twinkles as it would have in October 950AD – the date, according to some traditions, of Māori arrival in New Zealand.

Diverse usage of natural resources allowed people to survive, thrive in and shape southern New Zealand, a region also moulded by natural phenomena. Dunedin’s fiery volcanic past throws up clues to the city’s stone foundations, while fossil-rich limestone remains – including prehistoric marine reptiles, whales and giant penguins – shed light on the evolution of modern species.

From grass to gold, fur seals to flax, clay to coal, the natural resources available have shaped the human stories of southern New Zealand, who have in turn left their mark on the landscape.

Facts and figures

  • Opened in August 2002 by Sir Edmund Hillary and Dame Sylvia Cartwright
  • 10 articulated moa skeletons on display
  • 23 teeth in each side of the sperm whale jaw