Star Mounds in Lalomanu

On our last day in Aleipata we checked out an upland area surveyed by archaeologist Janet Davidson in the 1960s. Janet found heaps of structural remains, walls, platforms and tia se lupe or ceremonial pigeon snaring mounds.

Archaeologists Janet Davidson (left) and David Addison at the Mulifanua site during the 2011 Lapita Archaeology conference in Apia.

Archaeologists Janet Davidson (left) and David Addison at the Mulifanua site during the 2011 Lapita Archaeology conference in Apia.

We located one of Janet’s mounds, number 16 from this map, and Janet’s sketch matches what we saw on the ground through an absolute haze of mozzies.

Janet Davidson's map of Lalomanu from Green and Davidson's (1974) second volume on the archaeology of Samoa.

Janet Davidson’s map of Lalomanu from Green and Davidson’s (1974) second volume on the archaeology of Samoa.

These mounds surround former calderas, Lua o Tane and Lua o Fafine. According to at least one oral history, after a war with Tonga, the Tongan invaders threw all the men in one pit and the women in the other.

Figure from Janet's chapter on Lalomanu in the 1974 Green and Davidson volume. We relocated Lal-16 on the right.

Figure from Janet’s chapter on Lalomanu in the 1974 Green and Davidson volume. We relocated Lal-16 on the right.

Petelu and Matiu Matavai Tautunu of the National University of Samoa on a mound, Lal-16, in Lalomanu.

Petelu and Matiu Matavai Tautunu of the National University of Samoa on a mound, Lal-16, in Lalomanu.

There’s plenty of archaeology here and a future project might involve mapping and excavation to date construction events. Also, a classification based analysis of platforms (of tia and all “ethnohistoric types”) is needed to explain variation within this feature class. I’m not convinced by current interpretations of “mounds” in Sāmoa. Something, perhaps, for a BA Honours or Master’s student to figure out…

Pottery! (not Lapita)

On our last day of coring we found pottery. For the last few days we’ve been coring the northern area of the Aleipata coastline, generally inland of the swampy area here to locate sand deposits. We cored around a small hill that looked suspiciously like an ancient dune (no such luck). After looking around we found a plainware sherd on the surface, a lithic flake and a flake from an adze (to`i ma`a).

A plainware sherd found on the surface at Aleipata (no calcareous temper).

A plainware sherd found on the surface at Aleipata (no calcareous temper).

There are also some rock alignments in the area that could be the remains of structures. A few tens of metres away on a path we found a broken adze.

A broken adze (to`i ma`a) found on the surface in Aleipata. 353 students: what Duff type is this?

A broken adze (to`i ma`a) found on the surface in Aleipata. 353 students: what Duff type is this?

This is definitely an area to examine further when we come back for more work in 2014. As the coring is now finished I need to analyse the data to estimate the subsurface layer topography and determine the best locations for excavation next year. There are a few potentially early deposits on which we are likely to focus, but no obvious Lapita yet. That remains to be found.

Three More Days to Core

We’re nearing the end of fieldwork here. I’m pretty satisfied with what we’ve accomplished–found some possible anthropogenic sand deposits (often in back of swamps, see below), although I’m not convinced they are that old.

There's cores back in the coconuts!

There’s cores back in the coconuts!

For the next few days we’ll finish up on the huge coastal plain at the northern end of Aleiapata. It’s not all work though (well for me it has been, marking 353 Labs, article review…): Saturday is Fiafia night at Taufua.

Fiafia at Tafufua Beach Fales

Fiafia at Tafufua Beach Fales

Oh, a hot tip for your obsessive-compulsive types. If you forget to bring your fingernail clippers with you in the field, don’t try to cut your nails using a sharp knife or the may end up looking like this.

And When There Was No Crawdads We Ate Sand!

It’s all about finding ancient beach sand with our archaeological coring at Aleipata. Trying to reconstruct the ancient coastline is difficult, but we are making progress.

That's 3 metres of hot coring action you're looking at!

That’s 3 metres of hot coring action you’re looking at!

 

At the southern end, near Vailoa Village, I think there was a rocky headland in the past as there are no subsurface beach sands at all, only clayey sediments overlying bedrock. Moving from Vailoa to Satitoa Village we encountered interesting beach sand layers surrrouding swampy sediments. Ancient cultural deposits? Unclear, but excavation in 2014 (with pumps!) should clear things up. We definitely need to bring a total station in 2014 to create an accurate topographic map.

 

Matiu (left) and Petelu, the real workers.

Matiu (left) and Petelu, the real workers.

Farther north up the Aleipata coast near the village of Sale’a’aumua the coastal plain is huge and we plan to core near the back of it on Saturday and next week. Wish us luck, or at least cool breezes, with oka Sāmoa and ulu for lunch.

Selfie!

Selfie!

10 Cores in Two Days!

Coring on Monday and Tuesday in the village of Satitoa in Aleipata District has been quite successful. After consulting with the paramount chief of Satitoa, Matai Togafau Sio, we have freedom to work wherever we like. And with our able assistant Petelu (Peter, centre), Matiu (to left) and I are in good hands.

 

The coring crew! It's really not as bad as they make it look.

The coring crew! It’s really not as bad as they make it look.

We are trying to track the horizontal and vertical distribution of ancient beach sediments and the water table is giving us a headache (pumps will likely be necessary for excavation!). Typically we have swamps to seaward and then a slope break to the uplands. There are some successes with the cores as we locate elevated areas pushing out into the swamp.

 

A mozzie infested coring hell. Fun!

A mozzie infested coring hell. Fun!

Core 8 has abundant charcoal (for a core) in subsurface beach deposits and a nearby core pulled out this possible artefact from the same layer (colleagues, please confirm: abraded pencil urchin spine?). These subsurface beach deposits are probably not Lapita in age, but I’ve got charcoal to date…

Is this an abraded pencil urchin spine?

Is this an abraded pencil urchin spine?

Over the next few days we will move south towards Vailoa village where there is less swampy ground between the current shoreline and possible ancient dunes—the topography here may prove fruitful.

 

Not a bad place to eat lunch

Not a bad place to eat lunch