Marquesas Islands Field School (French Polynesia)

Location: Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia

June 23, 2018 to August 4, 2018

Session dates: 
June 23, 2018 - August 4, 2018

Application Deadline: 
Sunday, April 15, 2018

Deadline Type: 

Program Type

Field school

RPA certified



Andover Foundation for Archaeological Research

Project Director:

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

Project Description

Discover an ancient South Pacific culture! The Marquesas project is 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, the Hanamiai dune, lies on the coast of a sheltered, pristine bay. The Hanamiai archaeological deposits reveal a continuous record from the time of initial Polynesian discovery, around 750 years ago, through the European contact period. Current work focuses on a particularly rich part of the site discovered in 2013. Our discoveries illuminate the earliest settlement of East Polynesia, a period marked by extraordinary long-distance voyaging and the emergence of Marquesan culture. The project is collaborative and community-based. It offers training in archaeological field techniques, especially excavation. There are also opportunities to get involved with Te Ana Peua (The Tahuata Museum), which conserves and exhibits artifacts from the excavation.

The Hanamiai site is located near Vaitahu Village on Tahuata. It is an easy 20 minute walk from the village to the site. Tahuata is accessible only by a one-hour boat ride from the nearby island of Hiva Oa. We fly to Hiva Oa from Tahiti on Air Tahiti.

Period(s) of Occupation: East Polynesian Archaic through European contact period (ca. AD 1250–1880).

Our 2013 and 2014 field teams uncovered a dazzling array of pearl shell fishhooks and other treasures in a 3 m buried Archaic deposit, among the oldest in French Polynesia. The 2018 excavations will expand work in the same area.

Project size: 
1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: Negotiable

Minimum age: 

Experience required: 
None, but French language ability is helpful.

Room and Board Arrangements

Our headquarters are in the picturesque village of Vaitahu. There is only one local store but it is well stocked with cold drinks, as well as the basic necessities. The field school is small and intellectually engaging. We work closely with our host community. The field team lives in a house just a short walk to the beach, in a rented house with modern kitchen and toilet facilities (no hot water). Marquesan Islanders will also participate in the dig itself, providing additional links to the community. As the only outsiders in the village, participants are immersed in the local lifestyle.

$6,500 project fee plus airfare to Marquesas

Academic Credit

Number of credits offered: none


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