Samoan Archaeology: A Review of Research History

By Martinsson-Wallin, Helene | Archaeology in Oceania, October 2007 | Go to article overview

Samoan Archaeology: A Review of Research History


Martinsson-Wallin, Helene, Archaeology in Oceania


Abstract

This paper describes the history of archaeology carried out in the Samoan islands. Two archaeological programs under the leadership of Roger Green in the 1960s and Jesse Jennings in the 1970s have laid a firm foundation for the understanding of Samoan prehistory from an archaeological point of view. Subsequent research in American Samoa has also added to this knowledge. This review describes some of the major findings of settlements, mounds and artefacts and discusses the contributions of archaeological research in Samoa and points towards important theoretical and methodical issues for future research.

The setting of sights in Samoan archaeology

The Samoan Islands occupy an especially revealing place in Pacific history. They lie at the very edge of Lapita expansion as it is currently known, yet they have often been considered, on both traditional and archaeological grounds, as the locality of origin for subsequent Polynesian expansion. Archaeological research to date in Samoa has been rather limited. The research has focused mainly on establishing a general framework of prehistory with efforts directed at locating different sites and field monuments and investigating their temporal status. During the initial research, discussion on cultural chronology was focused on the shift from Lapita to plainware pottery and the abandonment of pottery altogether. The development of monumental architecture has been discussed only briefly (Davidson 1974a:228-30) Renewed archaeological investigations and a further discussion of such issues from a theoretical and comparative standpoint are seen as important.

No robust cultural chronology was worked out for Samoa during initial research but changes seen in the material culture and settlement pattern were discussed in a narrative way (Green and Davidson 1969a; 1974a). Subsequently, Roger Green (2002) suggested a cultural chronology for Samoa much in line with the one worked out by Burley et al. (1995) for West Polynesia as a whole (Table 1).

A search for origins, especially of the Polynesian 'homeland', has been a dominant paradigm for archaeology in the central Pacific region. The discussion has centred largely on the early Lapita settlement and its dispersal and the subsequent development of Ancestral Polynesian Society in West Polynesia (Kirch and Hunt 1993). The distribution, after initial settlement, of Samoan adzes from Fiji to central Polynesia suggests extensive interactions, which by late prehistory seems to have involved marriage alliances and the exchange of sandalwood and red feathers amongst other communities (Clark 2002, 2004:35-6).

Previous archaeological research and the natural setting

The Samoan chain of islands is today divided into the independent state of Samoa (formerly known as Western Samoa) and American Samoa (a United States territory) (Figure 1). The former consists of the large volcanic islands 'Upolu and Savai'i, the two smaller islands Manono and Apolima between them and a few offshore islets beyond the Southeastern point of 'Upolu. The latter includes the larger island of Tutuila with its offshore islet Anunu'u and a group of smaller islands under the name of Manu'a, (Ofu, Olosega and Ta'u Islands). The Samoan islands are of volcanic origin and essentially are mountains and ridges sitting on the Pacific plate just north of the Tonga-Kermadec trench. The larger islands in the west are older than those to the east. Volcanism is most recent in the east where Ta'u (American Samoa) dates 100,000 BP. The oldest flows on 'Upolo and Savai'i are the Fagaloa and Salani respectively. Fagaloa volcanics may be of Pliocene origin (5.3-1.8 million years ago) and Salani are probably late Pleistocene (1.8 million-10,000 years ago). The Mulifanua flow is presumed to be between 10,000-40,000 years old, the Lefaga flow is post-Pleistocene, the Puapua flow is mid-Holocene (c. 5000 years old), and the Apo flows are from the historic period with its last eruption in the beginning of last century (Kear and Wood 1959). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Samoan Archaeology: A Review of Research History
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.