The Full Wiki

More info on Archaeology in Samoa

Archaeology in Samoa: Map


Wikipedia article:

Map showing all locations mentioned on Wikipedia article:

Archaeology in Samoa began with the first systematic survery of achaeological remains on Savai'imarker island by Jack Golson in 1957.Since then, surveys and studies in the rest of Samoamarker have uncovered major findings of settlements, stone and earth mounds including star mounds, Lapita pottery remains and pre-historic artifacts.test>[854693]Samoan archaeology: a review of research history by Helene Martinsson-Wallin, Archaeology in Oceania, October 01, 2007. Retrieved 1 November, 2009An important part of archaeology in Samoa and Oceania involves finding the answer to the origins of Polynesians and in particular, the first Polynesian 'homeland.'test>[854694]Samoan archaeology: a review of research history by Helene Martinsson-Wallin, Archaeology in Oceania, October 01, 2007. Retrieved 1 November, 2009


Earlier accounts of 'earthmounds' and 'monumental architecture' were known but no scientific surveys were carried out until Golson's indepth work in 1957. Golson also carried out field work on Upolumarker where he discovered the first pottery sherds in Samoa at Vailelemarker village on the island's north coast. At the 10th Pacific Science Congress in Honolulu in 1961, archaeologists decided to make a coordinated approach in investigating the region's pre-history. During 1963-1964, this work was carried out by an international team led by Roger Curtis Green under the Polynesian Archaeology Programme of Auckland Universitymarker.Building on Golson's surveys, the team carried out field work on the islands of Savai'i, Upolumarker and Apolimamarker. Another team leader was New Zealand archaeologist Janet Davidson who has made major contributions to the field of archaeology in Samoa and the rest of the Pacific. Green and Davidson laid the groundwork for archaeology in Samoa. Among the many findings of this project were ceramics on Upolu and Apolima. However, a key finding near the end of this trip was the discovery of Lapita pottery remains at Mulifanuamarker with radio carbon dates of 930-800 BC. Up to 2008, all known pottery in Samoa is 'plain ware' except for those excavated at Mulifanua.test>[854695]Samoan Plain Ware Ceramics of Tutuila Island, American Sāmoa:Some thoughts on their Spatial and Chronological Distribution by David J. Addison, Jeffery Toloa, Tuipuavai Tago, Siaki Vaueli, Recent Advances in the Archaeology of the Fiji/West-Polynesia Region, p. 97, Editors David J. Addison and Christophe Sand. University of Otago Studies in Prehistoric Anthropology · No. 21, Dunedin 2008. Retrieved 1 November, 2009 An important part Davidson's work in Samoa over the years focused on settlement patterns prior to European contact. She became the first to make a case based on archaeological field work for the distribution of a much greater Samoan population in the 17th and 18th centuries AD. Early population estimates in the 1800s had been vastly different. There were other archaeologists who carried out important field work in Samoa, including American Jesse D. Jennings and Richard Holmer in the 1970s. Jennings led studies at Mt Olo Plantation on Upolu and inland from Sapapali'imarker on Savai'i. Extensive pre-historic setttlement ruins were surveyed, mapped and excavated in August, September and October of 1974, 1976 and 1977 under the University of Utah Samoan Archaeological Program. From 1978-1979, further field work was carried out with extensive surveys of a pre-historic settlement in the Palaulimarker district. This survey at Palauli was carried out by Gregory Jackmond, an American Peace Corps who had previously carried out field work of pre-historic ruins inland from Sapapali'imarker village.

Key Sites


Key sites in field work on Savai'i include pre-historic settlements situated inland at Sapapali'imarker, extensive village settlements in Palaulimarker, where the Pulemelei Moundmarker is situated and a midden site at the village of Si'utu on the south coast.test>[854696]Archaeological Excavations at the Si’utu Midden Site, Savai’i Island by Tomo Ishimura and Tomohiro Inoue, The Journal of Samoan Studies, Vol. 2, 1006. Retrieved 1 November 2009Archaeological work at Sapapali'i was carried out by Jackmond, who surveyed a 20 hectare area and discovered extensive pre-historic ruins. The data from Jackmond's work at Sapapali'i tended to replicate the data collected at the Mt Olo Plantation site on Upolu with similar stone walls, raised walkways and platforms. One important difference were the greater number of earth ovens uncovered at the Savai'i site. The team at the Mt Olo site had previouly theorised that earth ovens were a sign of social ranking and status. When these surveys were completed in 1976, Jackmond's Peace Corp work was extended for a further two years and he carred out field work on the extensive pre-historic settlements in Palauli district. Earlier mapping of Savai'i including the Pulemelei mound had been carried out by S.D. Scott and A.G. Buist in 1969.


The pre-historic settlement at Letolo is situated in the Palauli district on the south coast at the east end of Savai'i. The site is situated on land which is known in modern times as the Nelson Plantation under the Nelson Corporation Board. During colonialism in the late 1800s, the land came under German ownership and sold to a Swedish trader August Nilspeter Gustav Nelson, who married a Samoan woman and ran a trading post in Safunemarker. In recent years, court cases have resulted between chiefs in Palauli and the Nelson family over ownership of the land.

Entry into the plantatation is over the bridge at the west end of Vailoamarker, the capital of Palauli.

Jackmond's survey during 1977 - 1978 at Letolo covered an area from the south coast to gently sloping land 3km inland to an elevation of 135m at the northern edge. The area is bounded on the east side by the Faleata River and on the west side by the Seugagogo River. Within the 198.8 hectare area surveyed, approximately 3,000 features of human manufacture were recorded, including foundation platforms, 64.6km of stone fences, primary and secondary walkways, and some 300 house sites. A total of 1059 platforms were recorded, the larget of these is Pulemelei Moundmarker which had previously been reported by other archaeologists. The Pulemelei mound is 50m x 61m and 12m high. From the ground, it slopes inward and upwards, in steps, to a flat level top. From the top of Pulemelei, one can view the sea looking south. Estimated dates of construction place it between 1100-1400AD.In general, the platforms averaged 236 ± 251m2 in basal area and 46 ± 52cm in height. The platforms were rectangular or oval in shape, except for two small star mounds 7.8m (7 arms) and 10m (5 arms) in diameter and 50cm in height. All the mounds are constructed of basalt stones and boulders.test>[854697]Samoan Village Patterns: Four Examples by Jesse D. Jennings, Richard Holmer and Gregory Jackmond, University of Utah, Journal of the Polynesian Society, Vol. 91, No. 1, 1982. Retrieved 1 November, 2009

The archaeological survey showed that there were once literally hundreds of household units, which extended far inland beyond the mapped area, past the Pulemelei stone mound. The main pathway through the settlement went on to cross the mountainous interior of Savai'i in an 'old road' mentioned by early missionaries. Earlier field work on Savai'i in 1969 showed archaeological remains of dense inland settlements prior to European contact in Safotumarker, Safunemarker and Fagamalomarker (Matautu traditional sub-district), on the north coast of the island.test>[854698]The Growth and Collapse of Pacific Island Societies: Archaeological and Demographic Perspectives by Patrick Vinton Kirch and Jean-Louis Rallu, p. 222. Retrieved 1 November, 2009



Key sites on Upolu include the Lapita site at Mulifanua where 4,288 pottery sherds and two Lapita type adzes have been recovered. The site has a true age of circa 3,000 BP based on C14 dating on a shell.test>[854699]New Information for the Ferry Berth Site, Mulifanua, Western Samoa by Roger C. Green and Helen M. Leach, Journal of the Polynesian Society, Vol. 98, 1989, No. 3. Retrieved 1 November, 2009This is the only site in Samoa where decorated Lapita sherds have been found.test>[854700]Temper sands in prehistoric Oceanian pottery: geotectonics, sedimentology, petrography, provenance by William R. Dickinson, p.34.Retrieved 2 November, 2009The submerged site was discovered in 1973 during work carried out to expand the inter-island ferry berth at Mulifanua.


A large mound, Laupule, at Vailele village on Upolu is comparable to the Pulemelei Mound on Savai'i. In the 1940s, J D Freeman studied earthmounds lying near the Tausala stream which enters the sea between Fagali'imarker and Vailele. The mounds mainly lay three-quarters of a mile inland at an elevation of 200ft above sea level. Of the 8 mounds in the area, 7 were truncated, rectangular pyramids constructed of earth. The 8th was conical, truncated and made of earth and stone. The largest Laupule, measured 346ft x 314ft at the base with a height of 40ft. Three smaller mounds were situated close to it. All lay on the west side of the Tausala stream. On the other side of the stream were three mounds which all came under the name Tapuitea (evening star). The largest measured 384ft (which made it longer than the main Laupule mound), with a width of 235ft and height of 15ft. nametest>[854701]The Vailele Earthmounds by J.D. Freeman, Journal of the Polynesian Society, Vol.53, No. 4, 1944. Retrieved 2 November, 2009According to oral tradition, the Laupule mound was associated with a figure called Tupuivao in the 17th century.test>[854702]Lagaga: a short history of Western Samoa by Malama Meleisea and Penelope Schoeffel Meleisea, p.20. Retrieved 2 November, 2009

Other Villages

Other sites on Upolu include achaeological remains found inland at Luatuanu'u (house sites), Lufilufimarker and Falefamarker. There were also a scatter of sites on the south coast from Lotofagamarker to Lepamarker extending inland two to three kilometers.Janet Davidson spent six months carrying out site surveys on Upolu (1965-1966) in Sasoa'a at Falefa Valley, Lalomanumarker village in the Aleipata district and at the government owned WSTEC plantation at Mulifanua.

Mt Olo

Davidson was also the first to examine inland settlements at Mt Olo Plantation, at the west end of Upolu. In 1973, another team, unaware of Davidson's earlier examination, located an extensive area of ruined platforms, walls and walkways. The field work at Mt Olo Plantation was carried out at different periods over three years under the University of Utah Samoan Archaeological Programme.test>[854703]Samoan Village Patterns:Four Examples by Jesse D. Jennings, Richard Holmer and Gregory Jackmond, University of Utah. Journal of Polynesian Society, Vol. 91, No.1. 1982. Retrieved 1 November, 2009


The Utah Samoan Archaeological Program also recovered pottery remains at two coastal middens on Manono island.test>[854704]Review of Report of 1976 and 1977 field seasons of the University of Utah Samoan Archaeological Program by Janet Davidson, University of Otago, Journal of the Polynesian Society, Vol. 90, No. 4, 1981. Retrieved 2 November, 2009

Settlement Patterns

Part of Davidson and Green's work was studying the settlement patterns of Samoan communities. Davidson noted, The archaeologist engaged in site surveys in Samoa is confronted with a bewildering range of archaeological sites which often seem to be continuously distributed over the land.Golson's work in 1957 suggested that settlements occured inland followed by later settlemens along the coast,test>[854705]Environmental Factors Inhibiting GPS on Tutuila Island, American Samoa by Taylor Houston and Epi Suafo'a, 2001. Retrieved 1 November, 2009 which was been the predominant pattern since the earliest European arrival in Samoa in the 1800s.



  • [854706]Settlement Patterns in Samoa before 1840 by Janet M Davidson, The Journal of the Polynesian Society, Vol. 78 1969, No. 1, p.44-82. Retrieved 1 November, 2009
  • [854707]Samoan Village Patterns: Four Examples by Jesse D. Jennings, Richard Holmer and Gregory Jackmond, University of Utah, Journal of the Polynesian Society, Vol. 91, No. 1, 1982. Retrieved 1 November, 2009

External links

  • [854708] short video of Janet Davidson at Te Ara Encyclopaedia New Zealand.

Embed code:

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address