Marae reflections: on the evolution of stratified chiefdoms in the Leeward Society Islands.
Based on archaeological data it is time to re-evaluate the stratified chiefdom of the Leeward Society Islands. The model was constructed mainly on ethno-historical/ethnological data and has been used extensively, and this social system has been projected back in time, sometimes maybe too far. The question that may be asked is: What happened during almost 1000 years of settlement in the Society Islands? Here we take as our starting point Irving Goldman's interpretation of social organization in the Society Islands, and argue for an earlier existence of either traditional chiefdoms and/or open chiefdoms in the Leeward Society Islands. New archaeological investigations of marae and habitations show that the stratified chiefdom in the Society Islands was a late development, and that the society went through several changes through time.
Keywords: Polynesia, Society Islands, marae, chronology, chiefdoms
This paper aims to investigate the evolution of stratified chiefdoms in the Leeward Society Islands, French Polynesia, using archaeological data of marae chronology. Our main focus is to reconstruct the prehistoric and historical development leading to a stratified chiefdom society on the island of Huahine, as well as commenting on Irving Goldman's interpretations in his classic Ancient Polynesian Society (1970). Although we do not believe in the validity of general evolutionary models of social organization, we expect that the trajectory of Huahine will have validity for the whole Leeward Island group, because all of these islands were part of a common--but not united--political system based on alliances and intermarriages. It is also a fact that ceremonial and ritual life in the Society Islands was to some degree integrated through the arioi society, a travelling band of entertainers and religious facilitators (Henry 1928:230). The question addressed in this paper emanates from results of our archaeological investigations carried out in Huahine between 2001 and 2004 (Wallin and Solsvik 2010), which focused on dating the initial phase in the 'life cycle' of marae (temple) structures through excavation of ten individual structures. The results indicate that marae as a social and religious structure did not develop on this island until c. AD 1450. The excavations also showed that the large coastal slab/ahu marae structures developed much later than the medium-sized lineage marae. However, our data also show that the lineage-marae functioned up to historic times, alongside the large coastal marae structures, demonstrating that various types have emerged at different times (cf. Wallin 1993). We also discuss whether or not the inferred socio-political development testified to in our marae sequence actually reveals when this society changed from an 'open' rivalry based society into a 'stratified' society with a concentration of central power. Detailed archaeological settlement pattern studies have so far not been carried out in Huahine. Such studies would of course be of interest to augment the current study based on excavations on marae structures.
Much of the data used for defining the stratification of Polynesian chiefdoms were data collected from c. 1910 to the mid-1930s by researchers from the Bishop Museum in Hawaii. This research was undertaken as salvage ethnology and hence aimed to present the final and ultimate history of the various island societies surveyed. To achieve this goal the fieldworkers had to resort to a reconstructive approach, where new ethnological data was fused with previously collected ethno-historical data, resulting in a rather static version of Polynesian social organizations (Thomas 1989). Classic studies of Polynesian social organization such as those by Sahlins and Goldman utilized information on individual island societies as definitive statements on the social organization and history of these places, to make regional models based upon general evolutionary mechanisms. In later decades anthropologists have undertaken the difficult task of untangling the histories of various island groups (e.g. Thomas 1990) and tracing trajectories for individual islands or valleys. Archaeologists have also made their own contributions both to general evolutionary models and to trajectories of individual communities (Kirch 1984; Kirch and Sahlins 1992). Recently, anthropologists have abandoned the generalizing approach of functionality and evolution in favor of historical reconstructive exercises and event-driven perspectives (Sahlins 1985). This paper, being a comment on Goldman's work, partly seeks a return to a perspective of evolutionary models, but only so far as these models are constructed on direct archaeological temporal data, and 'evolution' is seen as specific and tied to individual genealogies following both vertical and horizontal trajectories. We attempt to do this below, focusing on diachronic data for Huahine, based on the development of ritual architecture.
Early settlement on Huahine
The early settlement of Vaito'otia/Fa'ahia on the northwestern tip of Huahine Nui was discovered by Sinoto in 1972. After the initial excavation, a decade of extensive investigations were carried out by Sinoto, his associates E. Komori and E. Rogers-Jourdane (Sinoto 1988:114), and the local institute Te Anavaharau/Centre Polynesien des Sciences Humaines. The age of this site has not been disputed to the same extent as the more 'famous' sites of Hane or Ha'atuatua in the Marquesas Islands. However, in a recent study concerning the age of colonization of East Polynesia, Anderson and Sinoto analyzed ten additional dates from Vaito'otia/Fa'ahia, concluding that it had been established around AD 1000-1100 and that the settlement can be divided into two broad phases: level V, which spans the period c. AD 1000-1200 and level IV from c. AD 1200 to 1350 (Anderson and Sinoto 2002:248). The settlers of Vaito'otia/Fa'ahia probably interacted with local communities on Huahine and communities on other islands. A large double-hulled canoe, as well as abundant artefacts were recovered from the excavations (Sinoto 1988). The presence of a large double-hulled canoe certainly gave the community the means to undertake inter-island voyages. Studies of the chemical components in basalt adzes have proved that inter-island contact was undertaken in East Polynesia at this time (e.g. Sinton and Sinoto 1997). This supports Sinoto's interpretation that at least part of the Vaito'otia/Fa'ahia community produced artefacts intended for trade with other communities either locally or on other islands in the Leeward group. Evidence for habitation and for specialized and separate working areas was also uncovered during the excavations. At the outskirts of the habitation area, next to the area for making fish-hooks, four small houses built on stilts were found; these lacked fireplaces or artefacts and hence Sinoto interpreted them as storage houses (Sinoto 1988, fig. 10). During the following phase IV, a large round-ended house was built, which may have been a residence for a community leader or may have served as a meeting-house. In the area where the storage houses were located during phase V, there was now a well, a pavement, and an upright stone placed into a carved coral pedestal. Following Sinoto we would argue that this small upright stone (Figure 1) had some ritual or ceremonial function, although at present it cannot be stated that it is a precursor for the marae structures on the island. We suggest that these two incidents indicate a more independent chiefly role was developing. Upright stones/wooden poles, as features on their tuahu/pouahu have been described in New Zealand, which according to Goldman was a traditional chiefdom.
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
Sometime after AD 1200-1250 people also moved to the interior parts of Huahine. Based on the current data this indicates a shift in settlement pattern, as well as a change in the structure of settlement, which became more scattered and began to be organized around individual households, as found in historic times. We lack a detailed chronology of this change since all the chronological data derives from a few test-excavations at the Mata'ire'a Hill (Sinoto and Komori 1988; Wallin and Solsvik 2010). However, clear stratigraphic evidence shows that house-platforms and terraces were constructed in this area prior to the construction of marae structures, hence the initial move to the interior in this area predates the development of marae proper as sites of ritual focus. Whether this pattern is true for the entire island is unclear. Recent surveys indicate presence of settlements but generally absence of marae in the interior areas (Eddowes 2003). However, more investigations on this matter need to be done.
The emergence of marae and the 'open chiefdoms' on Huahine
Our excavations on Huahine resulted in 23 new radiocarbon dates from twelve individual marae structures. These results indicate that marae with a platform ahu were being constructed for the first time around AD 1450, both on the Mat'ire'a Hill behind Maeva Village and in areas outside the symbolically important Maeva district. All these early structures seem to be medium-sized marae of Wallin's type 4.1 (Wallin 1993:66) and probably functioned as family or lineage ritual spaces (Figure 2). Table 1 provides our dates of medium sized marae on the island of Huahine. For more detailed descriptions of these dates see Wallin and Solsvik (2005, 2006, 2010, in press).
Discussion of marae developments
In Ancient Polynesian Society (1970) Goldman defined an evolutionarily based typology including traditional chiefdoms, open chiefdoms and stratified chiefdoms. Goldman opined that both morphological data and historical reconstructions indicated that most societies in Polynesia can be traced to one of the social types in his general model (1970:568). Generally, it may be that Huahine followed this trajectory, indicating a traditional chiefdom in the period AD 1000-1400, expressing an open chiefdom with competition for symbolical, political and economical control between AD 1450 and 1650, and, finally, forming a stratified chiefdom c. AD 1650, exemplified by the large coastal marae structures at Manunu and Anini. However, there are several aspects of the early development of Huahine social organization that may support alternative trajectories. The marae seems instrumental in the latter stages of development into a stratified chiefdom, that is, it is tied to the development of the chiefly role and social hierarchy. Consequently, we should analyze more closely the type of social and spatial organization of communities prior to the architectural development or transformation of the marae. Secondly, the definition of the level of 'traditional chiefdom' is based upon linguistic and ethno-historical data. It might be that the small settlements first colonizing East Polynesia, as represented by the Vaito'otia/Fa'ahia settlement, could have had a greater variation in social organization than that contained within the classic definition of 'chiefdoms'.
[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]
Marae were places of worship (Wallin 1998), but they also functioned as legal claims to land through being endowed with 'marae-names' that entitled individuals to use-rights to the land belonging to the marae. It could also be argued that temples served as symbols for the family, lineage, community, or political alliances that created the structure (Solsvik in press). Marae thus served to intertwine the political, economic, and religious aspects of society into one symbol. In his discussion of the ideological basis for chiefdoms Earle (2002:65) writes: "Symbols, deeply rooted in the culture's conception of reality, served to naturalize the political leaderships". Such symbols function to justify the creation or maintenance of the chiefdom and display the status of the social unit. In the Leeward Society Islands, the marae was a symbol manifesting the political and social ambition of the family, lineage, or chiefdom owning it. Genealogical superiority is then developed via genealogical depth. This also indicates an importance of the reproduction of the marae as a vertical evolutionary dispersal process. The marae was the vehicle for this process and serves as the indicator of the origin of the lineage (cf. Emory n.d.).
Goldman's category of an 'open chiefdom' and his suggestion that all Polynesian societies passed through such a phase on their way from a traditional to a stratified chiefdom is both supported and contradicted by the archaeological evidence of Huahine. During a survey of the island of Huahine Eddowes (2003) discovered numerous sites that probably functioned as forts and lookouts on ridges between neighbouring valleys. This certainly supports the notion of economic and political rivalry between regional polities of the island or between competing chiefly lineages. However, this survey revealed that not many valleys on Huahine had marae structures as part of their settlement pattern. Only a few were found and several were of a diminutive size. This indicates that the conflict evident in the political and economical spheres of the society did not influence the symbolical sphere to the same degree. This suggests a complex interplay between economical, political, and symbolical factors in the development of a stratified chiefdom on Huahine. At present there is not enough temporal control of the data to suggest the details of this kind of socio-political development, but future excavations of both forts/lookouts and of chiefly platforms should aid in defining this trajectory on Huahine.
[FIGURE 3 OMITTED]
The 'stratified chiefdoms'. The megalithic marae and auxiliary structures--AD 1650-1820
Dating megalithic and auxiliary marae structures
During our excavations we dated four large structures including marae Manunu (Figure 3), Anini and Ohiti Mataroa on Huahine, and Marae Ta'ata on Tahiti. We recalibrated the old shell date from marae Taputapuatea. All these dates indicate a development of these structures around AD 1650 (Table 2). We also excavated three small marae of which two could be dated and which yielded equally late ages (Table 3). For more detailed descriptions of sample contexts, calibration methods used, and so forth see (Wallin and Solsvik 2005, 2006, 2010 and In press). The results can be summarized in the following manner: At c. AD 1650 two distinct developments are evidenced in the material: Firstly, small marae structures are built mainly as auxiliary structures to larger lineage marae complexes. They would have either functioned as specialized marae or as structures dedicated to particular individuals (Cf. Henry 1928:145-148) (Figure 4). Secondly, very large megalithic scale marae of the Leeward type, that is marae with large coral slab ahu filled with coral heads, were constructed on certain locations along the coast. These structures are well documented in the oral record and historical documents, and are the results of the development of large scale inter-island religious and/or political networks, and as such indicating the shift in ideological control in the development of the stratified chiefdoms of the Society Islands.
[FIGURE 4 OMITTED]
Discussion on the change to a stratified chiefdom
Based on ethno-historic data, the Society Islands have been interpreted as stratified chiefdoms, with competition among the chiefly segments (Goldman 1970). Since there are variations among the marae it is likely that genealogically based rivalry was expressed in the ceremonial sites. Previous researchers have explained variations in temples as chronological and functional changes (Sinoto 2001). However, different structures were tied to different gods and chiefs (Henry 1928; Wallin 1993, 1998). Small structures are interpreted to have functioned as specialist marae, while large structures were used at district/island level gatherings of great significance (Wallin and Solsvik 2010). The early historic accounts associated with the introduction of the war god 'Oro, who had its main seat at Opoa on the South East point of Raiatea, offers an interesting case of marae changes observed in the outline and building of marae. The highest chiefs and the god 'Oro were tied to the regional ritual centre marae Taputapuatea (Henry 1928:95). The influences of Opoa are important to study, to see how the acceptance of the god may be reflected in changes in the material remains, especially in the marae in the Leeward and the Windward Society Islands. According to local stories and early observations it is possible to follow some of the political actions and alliances that were created between these islands, indicating an evolutionary process that can be seen in the horizontal dispersal of the material expressions visible in the marae structures.
Introduction of the war god 'Oro and the arioi society
'Oro was foremost seen as the god of war (Ellis 1831:Vol I: 276), but also fertility, since the seasonal rites of first fruits also were offered to him (Moerenhout 1837:Vol. I:487-9). 'Oro was the son of Ta 'aroa and therefore he genealogically succeeded his father. Furthermore, pigs and red feathers were the symbols of a new society that was created to the honour of 'Oro, namely the arioi society (Danielsson 1956:166-7). The first human representative of the arioi 'missionaries' was (not surprisingly) the chief Tamatoa of Raiatea. Members of the society were forbidden to have children or to be married, but rather focused on carrying out singing, dancing, and religious rites. 'Oro himself was the ruler of all the arioi (Ellis 1831:Vol I: 231). This cult had a ranked organization and included both men and women (Danielsson 1956:170). Historic sources record that when an arioi group came to visit, ordinary work was abandoned and people prepared themselves for feasting and dancing. The ceremonies that followed were initiated with recitations of creation myths, genealogies and important legends. During these prayers generous offerings to 'Oro were made. General meetings could assemble hundreds to a thousand persons (Forster 1777), and resulted in strong ties between people of different islands. The genealogy of the Raiatean high chiefs was highly respected throughout the Society Islands (Emory n.d.; Henry 1928:130).
The material expressions of 'Oro
Marae structures dedicated to 'Oro can be found in all the main Society Islands. In Tahiti and Mo'orea some also were called Taputapuatea after the original marae at Opoa (Henry 1928:129-30). In the Leeward Islands, structures dedicated to gods such as Ta'aroa and Tane were built of coral and basalt slabs in the way that the ahu made up a rectangular enclosure, but the general size was with one or two exceptions not of real megalithic style. Structures dedicated to 'Oro, were built in the same style but indicated huge investments of labour, since the ahu stones used were of megalithic proportions. These structures were also located at highly visible points at the coast, such as marae Taputapuatea at Opoa, marae Anini on the S point of Huahine Iti, and marae Manunu neighbouring Maeva on the N coast of Huahine Nui (Wallin and Solsvik 2010). On the Windward Islands the ahu of the traditional marae types were generally built as low solid platforms of natural basalt stones. The marae associated to 'Oro were elaborated within a 'Windward Island platform tradition' by adding platforms on top of each other, resulting in stepped structures. In addition, these structures were faced with worked round-ended stones, described as turtle heads (Henry 1928:132) that, according to Handy (1927:46, 129), can be seen as a substitute for human heads, indicating an ideological statement, a sign that human sacrifices were preferred. The size of these marae was huge and the labour invested massive. This type of marae was found, as in the Leeward Islands, at visible spots on the coast (Wallin 1993). Here they also exist in a few examples at certain important locations in inland contexts, but then in medium sized dimensions (Green et al. 1967:156-157). The most visible material sign besides the stone structures was perhaps the feather girdle called maro ura. When used in the rites the chief was elevated to the rank of the gods (Ellis 183 l:vol. III: 108-111). The new ritual practice to the new war/fertility god included human sacrifices, which may be seen as the ultimate sacrifice and a powerful tool used by the high chiefs to control the people.
Comparisons and suggestions
Since Marshall Sahlins published Social Stratification in Polynesia (1958), some Polynesian communities have been referred to as stratified chiefdoms, and furthermore all Polynesian societies are considered to have chiefdom sociopolitical organizations in one way or another (Kirch and Green 2001). In Ancient Polynesian Society Irving Goldman (1970) discusses the historical development of Polynesian social organizations and the development of various types of chiefdoms in a functional framework. He defined three social organization types based on status rivalry in the following way: Group 1 or 'traditional chiefdoms' were defined by a general division of the society into two strata; chiefs and commoners. The chiefly power was mainly expressed in the religious/ritual arena. This group included islands such as Tikopia and New Zealand. Group 2 'open chiefdoms', were characterised by rivalry and the development of specialists, with different chiefs/priests controlling the political and ritual arenas. This group included islands such as Samoa, Marquesas, and Rapa Nui. Group 3, 'stratified chiefdoms' were described as highly ranked societies with chiefs and different classes of subchiefs, priests, and specialists. In this group Goldman counted islands like Tahiti, Hawai'i and Tonga. Goldman's model is a static and generalized description based on synchronic ethno-historical accounts of various social systems at the time of contact. These island societies had experienced major social changes due to European colonisation, yet for example, Samoa can be considered a functioning chiefdom, but within the realm of a modern state (Martinsson-Wallin 2007). In Evolution of the Polynesian Chiefdoms (1984) Kirch utilized a large range of data, including environmental, paleo-climatic, linguistic, ethno-historical, and archaeological, to identify some general trends in these developments as well as discussing several case studies. More recently, demographic changes have been considered when discussing various types of chiefdoms (Kirch 1984; Kirch and Rallu 2007). For a further review of recent developments in Polynesian archaeology see Kirch and Kahn (2007).
A somewhat new view can be discussed if one considers culture to be an inheritance system. Then stability, variations, and changes within the marae can be seen as a selective process between and within chiefly genealogical lines. Following this, an evolutionary principle of selectivity can be developed, comparable to Darwinian principles (cf. Apel and Darmark 2009:14). This means that the ideas of strong chiefs, as the ones at Opoa in Raiatea, are the ideas that were spread and preferred in the late prehistoric phase indicated above. To identify these evolutionary processes, marae development should be studied on the basis of historical relationships, rather than on general chronological ideas of development from simple to complex types (cf. Shennan 2009). Utilizing this perspective in relation to social models developed for Polynesia may allow us to shift focus from a general chronological view of evolution to evolutionary histories based on [particular.sup.14]C estimations and specific traditional histories in later prehistory. Cultural traits are generally transmitted (inherited) vertically from one generation to the other and may therefore be seen in the genealogical importance of the marae. Transformations may also take place in a horizontal way between different districts and islands from one genealogical line to another via intermarriages, which may bring about changes in the material culture. This means that new, complex culturally defined ideas may be transferred vertically (within lineages), and that only parts of new ideas may spread in the horizontal way (between lineages) (cf. Apel and Darmark 2009:16). These views do not differ in principle from thoughts of inheritance formulated by Kirch and Green (1987) and described as a 'Phylogenetic model'. However, whereas Kirch and Green focus on long-term evolutionary processes, we would like to also take into account short-term historical effects on the evolutionary record.
Summary of the archaeological evidence on the evolution of a stratified chiefdom on Huahine
The earliest ritual space on Huahine is possibly represented by an upright stone placed on the early Vaito'otia/Fa'ahia site, dated to around AD 1300. However, our [sup.14]C dates clearly shows that the first transformation period--when marae structures with ahu were first built on Huahine-began around AD 1450. On closer inspection all these dates are associated with medium-sized marae structures, which probably represent family or lineage marae classes, of Wallin's type 4.1 (Wallin 1993:66), possibly expressing an 'open chiefdom'. The large megalithic marae of Wallin's type 4.2 date between AD 1650 and 1750. These latter structures, closely connected to the war god 'Oro, were also associated with the development of a complex social stratification on island to inter-island levels. Small marae also dated late and were tied to specified functions, probably the development of differentiation among the specialists in the society, or a rise in status for certain groups of priests, tahua's. This may indicate that craft specialisation became more visible and controlled during this time, which can be seen as another sign of the development of a stratified society.
We are, first of all, grateful to Dr. Yosi Sinoto for his great help, interest and friendship during our work in Huahine. Thanks also to Eric Komori, Elaine Rougers-Jourdane, Toru Hayashi and Mark Eddowes for much help during our fieldwork at Maeva. Thanks to the people of Maeva for their help and patience and making this work possible. Thanks also to the Service de la Culture et du Patrimoine, Norwegian Research Council, Kon-Tiki Museum, Bishop Museum and Gotland University. Finally, thanks to Jenny Kahn for copy editing the paper and Melinda Allen and Jenny for inviting us to write in this publication.
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Table 1. Dated medium sized marae on Huahine. Lab. No. Site/Location Marae phase Age BP Wk-14604 ScH-2-19/Maeva Pre/construct 387 [+ or -] 38 Wk-13174 ScH-2-62-1/Maeva Pre/construct 439 [+ or -] 60 Wk-13175 ScH-2-62-1/Maeva Pre/construct 409 [+ or -] 39 Wk-13178 ScH-2-66-1/Maeva Pre/construct 552 [+ or -] 100 Wk-17064 Haupoto Pre/construct 387 [+ or -] 40 Wk-17065 Haupoto Pre/construct 406 [+ or -] 32 Wk-17062 Tuituirorohiti Pre/construct 441 [+ or -] 31 Wk-17063 Tuituirorohiti Pre/construct 438 [+ or -] 32 Wk-14606 ScH-2-19/Maeva Re-dedication 301 [+ or -] 38 Wk-14605 ScH-2-19/Maeva Use 225 [+ or -] 38 Wk-16789 ScH-2-19/Maeva Use 190 [+ or -] 39 Wk-16471 Haupoto Use 636 [+ or -] 38 Wk-16788 Water Tank/Maeva Use 536 [+ or -] 35 Wk-17066 ScH-2-66-1/Maeva Use 116.7 [+ or -] 0.5%M Wk-16470 Tuituirorohiti Use 2429 [+ or -] 36 Lab. No. Age AD (2 sigma) Material Wk-14604 1459-1629 Unsourced charcoal Wk-13174 1426-1830 Unsourced charcoal Wk-13175 1450-1626 Unsourced charcoal Wk-13178 1284-1625 Unsourced charcoal Wk-17064 1460-1627 Sourced charcoal Wk-17065 1452-1625 Sourced charcoal Wk-17062 1436-1621 Sourced charcoal Wk-17063 1437-1622 Sourced charcoal Wk-14606 1669-1951 Human bone Wk-14605 1641-1951 Pig tooth Wk-16789 1678-1954 Pig tooth Wk-16471 1589-1842 Coral Wk-16788 1711-1951 Coral Wk-17066 --- Sourced charcoal Wk-16470 192 BC-AD 42 Coral (erroneous) Table 2. Dated large sized marae on Huahine, Tahiti and Raiatea. Lab. No. Site/Location Marae phase Wk-14603 ScH-2-18/Maeva Pre/construction Wk-16790 ScH-2-18/Maeva Pre/construction Wk-16786 Anini Constr/use/Ahu fill Wk-16786 Ohiti Mataroa Constr/use/Ahu fill GaK-299 Taputapuatea/Raiatea Construction Wk-17522 Marae Ta'ata/Tahiti Uncertain Lab. No. Age BP Age AD (2 sigma) Material Wk-14603 306 [+ or -] 42 1649-1951 Pig tooth Wk-16790 296 [+ or -] 34 1672-1951 Pig bone Wk-16786 639 [+ or -] 35 1591-1830 Coral Wk-16786 637 [+ or -] 34 1596-1833 Coral GaK-299 700 [+ or -] 100 1503-1799 Shell Wk-17522 194 [+ or -] 41 1653-1951 Unsourced charcoal Table 3. Dated small sized marae on Huahine. Lab. No. Site/Location Marae phase Age BP Beta-177606 ScH-2-65-2/Maeva Uncertain 170 [+ or -] 40 Beta-177605 ScH-2-62-3/Maeva Pre-construction 500 [+ or -] 60 Wk-13176 ScH-2-62-3/Maeva Construction 244 [+ or -] 38 Lab. No. Age AD (2 sigma) Material Beta-177606 1674-1953 Unsourced charcoal Beta-177605 1398-1625 Unsourced charcoal Wk-13176 1628-1951 Unsourced charcoal
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|Author:||Wallin, Paul; Solsvik, Reidar|
|Publication:||Archaeology in Oceania|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2010|
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