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Marquesas Islands Field School (French Polynesia)

Location: United States

June 28, 2014 to August 9, 2014

Application Deadline: 
Thursday, May 15, 2014

Deadline Type: 

Program Type

Field school



Andover Foundation for Archaeological Research

Project Director:

Prof. Barry Rolett, University of Hawaii, 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 900 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 offers basic training in archaeological field techniques, especially excavation.  Artifacts from the excavation are exhibited in the Tahuata Museum, and in 2014 we will add new exhibits to showcase our most recent finds.

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 1300–1880)

Our 2013 field team uncovered a dazzling array of pearl shell fishhooks and other treasures in a 3 m buried Archaic deposit, among the oldest in the Marquesas. More in 2014!!

Project size: 
1-24 participants

Minimum age: 

Experience required: 
None, but French language ability helpful

Room and Board Arrangements

Our headquarters are in the picturesque village of Vaitahu. There are two small stores, including one that bakes French baguettes daily. The field school is small and intellectually engaging. We both live and work closely with our host community. The field team lives in a house with a Marquesan family, eating the same fresh fruit and fish that they do. Our house has a 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.

US$7,000 project fee plus airfare to Marquesas. Project fee covers all expenses, including accommodation and food.

Academic Credit

Number of credits offered Contact Prof. Rolett


Contact Information
Prof. Barry Rolett 

University 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.