Stone and earthen architecture is nearly ubiquitous in the archaeological record of Pacific islands. The construction of this architecture is tied to a range of socio-political processes, and the temporal patterning of these features is useful for understanding the rate at which populations grew, innovation occurred, and social inequality emerged. Unfortunately, this temporal patterning is poorly understood for many areas of the region, including the Samoan archipelago. Here, we describe a project directed toward establishing a robust chronology for the construction of these earthen and stone terraces and linear mounds on Ta'u Island. Using recent methodological improvements, we highlight the tempo at which different architectural types were constructed on the island and the implications for understanding demographic expansion and changing land tenure practices in the last 1500 years. This research suggests the construction of architecture was largely confined to the 2nd millennium AD with a small number of terraces plausibly built in the 1st millennium AD. This temporal patterning suggests that a reconfiguration of settlement patterns occurred within West Polynesia as people there moved into other regions of Oceania.
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We thank the people of Fitiuta, especially Eseta Kese and Pastor Fred Scanlan, for hosting us during our research. We thank Logoleo Feagai Logoleo for permission to work in Luatele. We wish also to recognize the contributions of Malone Ieti, Princecharles Faleagafulu, Christina Fu‘afu‘a, Tafa Fuafua, Paulo Paulo, Oceana Te‘i, Arthur Sega, Fafeta‘i Lauofo, Joshua Fu‘afu‘a, Falani Masunu, Visa Vaivai Tiapusua, Brian Vivao, Fa‘afutai Lauofo, Fauato Aukuso, Taumakai Atautia, Jonathon Mauga, Leonard Vivao, Lawrence Fautua, Robert Mauga, J.J. Tanielu, and Achilles Tevasea to the success of this research. We appreciate the helpful comments of David Addison, Tom Dye, Tim Rieth, Robert DiNapoli, and two anonymous reviewers on a previous draft of this manuscript. Finally, we thank the American Samoa Historic Preservation Office, specifically Letitia Peau-Folau, Teleai Christian Ausage, and Lancelot Leutu‘utuofiti Te‘i, for archaeological and logistical support. Logistical assistance was provided by the National Park of American Samoa under permit NPSA-2019-SCI-0001. This research is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. NSF BCS-1732360.
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- Bayesian modeling
- landscape engineering
- settlement change