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Author Topic: Colonial Village House Sites  (Read 11179 times)

Chris Johnson

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Colonial Village House Sites
« on: May 17, 2014, 05:34:22 AM »


Of the house sites in the Village that TIGHAR have ever seen or excavated how many cooking fires were apparent?

Do the sites exhibit similar patterns of accumulated artefacts such as everyday items such as bottles and cans?

What does TIGHAR know about the practices of waste management of the islanders?

Joe Cerniglia

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Re: Colonial Village House Sites
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2014, 07:32:22 PM »

Hi Chris.

TIGHAR senior archaeologist Tom King has seen your question and asked me to send along his response with his compliments.


We've done detailed studies (surface clearing/mapping and limited excavation) on only two house sites (I'd like to do more).  We've done brief recordings and sketch-maps of several more.

Each house site we've studied appeared to have a single cooking area, which is consistent with ethnographic descriptions.  By "cooking area" I mean a repeatedly used fire-place (not necessarily a constructed facility -- simply a place where a fire has apparently been maintained repeatedly, producing a fairly thick bed of ash, charcoal, and thermally altered rocks).

In 2010 we made an effort to find the cooking areas on several specific house sites on whose residents we had some data, and couldn't do it.  I eventually concluded that the cooksites, being richer than the surrounding soil in nutrients, had probably been transformed into thick clusters of coconut palms, virtually impossible to interpret, let alone excavate.

As for accumulated artifacts, most of the house sites we've looked at contain such things as bottles and cans.  Some have enamel wash pots, other cooking and eating tools, kerosene lantern parts, wire, clothing parts, nails, etc.  Rarer items include a bicycle, school slates, a hand-made shovel blade, etc.  Pieces of aluminum -- sometimes clearly airplane skin, sometimes clearly not, sometimes uncertain -- are fairly common, usually cut into small pieces, probably en route to being used in handicrafts.  A few have been made into hair combs.

Waste management practices are something of a puzzle.  To judge from what we have seen, a lot of stuff was just discarded around the house site.  This is consistent with ethnographically observed practice, and traditionally makes sense; traditionally almost all tools, clothing, etc. was biodegradable, and very quickly returned to the soil if not consumed by household animals.  Of course, manufactured metal, glass, and pottery don't do that, so they persist on the house sites.  We've found no evidence of a centralized "dump" for waste material.  It may be that larger items no longer wanted or needed were discarded in the ocean or lagoon, but evidence for this sort of practice is limited; we do find things offshore of the village, but whether they're deliberate discards or accidental losses is unclear.

Besides the house sites, there are specialized facilities in the Government Station -- such as the dispensary, whose site is rich in medicine bottles, and the Carpenter's House, a residential facility with lots of machine parts, tools, etc.


Thomas F. King PhD, LLC
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