Marquesas Islands Field School (French Polynesia)

This listing expired on June 29, 2013. Please contact for any updated information.

Vaitahu Bay

Location: Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia

Season Dates: June 29, 2013 - August 10, 2013
Application Deadline: April 15, 2013


Program Type
Field school

Affiliation: Andover Foundation for Archaeological Research

Project Director: Barry Rolett, University of Hawaii and Andover Foundation for Archaeological Research

Project Description

Verdant forest, rugged peaks, and turqoise seas.  The Marquesas are one of the best known yet least visited archipelagoes in the South Pacific.  The Polynesian discovery and settlement of these stunningly beautiful islands some 1,000 years ago represents one of humanity’s momentous achievements.  By the time Captain Cook reached these shores, Marquesan chiefdoms were distinguished by their monumental architecture, elaborate art, and a religious system in which important ceremonies demanded human sacrifices.  Our project charts the efflorescence of this unique culture.  Now in its ninth year, the project focuses on Tahuata, one of the most traditional islands in the group.  Here, in the neighboring valleys of Vaitahu and Hanamiai, beuatifully intact remains of residential and ceremonial centers lie amidst coconut plantations and forests of breadfruit, banana, and mango.  Join the excitement of rediscovering this ancient Polynesian chiefdom.

The Marquesas project offers a six week archaeological field school experience on Tahuata, a remote island with a rich history. Participants are fully immersed in a small community while working with Marquesans and living as the only foreigners on an island with no airport, no hotels, and no restaurants.

Our field site is the Hanamiai dune, which lies on the coast of one of the best ports in the Marquesas.  Capt. James Cook was here in 1774.  His accurate maps and glowing description attracted a steady stream of whaling ships and sandalwood traders.  Archaeological deposits of the Hanamiai dune record a continuous record from the initial human settlement of Tahuata by Polynesians around one thousand years ago through the European contact period.  Current work focuses on part of the site with rich layers for the Classic through early historic contact periods.  Our discoveries are exhibited in the Tahuata Museum, which features artifacts from our excavations.

Period(s) of Occupation: Classic through early historic contact periods

Project Size: 1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: Negotiable

Minimum Age: 18

Experience Required: None, but French language ability helpful

Room and Board Arrangements

Our field team lives with a host family in their house in Vaitahu Village.  Full kitchen; indoor plumbing with toilets.

Cost: $7,300 project fee plus airfare to Marquesas

Academic Credit
Number of credits offered: none

Contact Information
Barry Rolett
Dept. of Anthropology, Univ. of Hawaii
Honolulu, Hawaii 96822

Recommended Bibliography

Kjellgren, Eric. 2005. Adorning the World: Art of the Marquesas Islands. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Rolett, Barry V. 1998. Hanamiai: Prehistoric Colonization and Cultural Change in the Marquesas Islands (East Polynesia).  Yale University Publications in Anthropology No. 81.  New Haven: Department of Anthropology and the Peabody Museum, Yale University.

Thomas, Nicholas. 1990. Marquesan Societies: Inequality and Political Transformation in Eastern Polynesia.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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