Location: Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia
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).
Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: Negotiable
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.
Academic CreditNumber of credits offered: none
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.