Star Mounds in Lalomanu

On our last day in Aleipata we checked out an upland area surveyed by archaeologist Janet Davidson in the 1960s. Janet found heaps of structural remains, walls, platforms and tia se lupe or ceremonial pigeon snaring mounds.

Archaeologists Janet Davidson (left) and David Addison at the Mulifanua site during the 2011 Lapita Archaeology conference in Apia.

Archaeologists Janet Davidson (left) and David Addison at the Mulifanua site during the 2011 Lapita Archaeology conference in Apia.

We located one of Janet’s mounds, number 16 from this map, and Janet’s sketch matches what we saw on the ground through an absolute haze of mozzies.

Janet Davidson's map of Lalomanu from Green and Davidson's (1974) second volume on the archaeology of Samoa.

Janet Davidson’s map of Lalomanu from Green and Davidson’s (1974) second volume on the archaeology of Samoa.

These mounds surround former calderas, Lua o Tane and Lua o Fafine. According to at least one oral history, after a war with Tonga, the Tongan invaders threw all the men in one pit and the women in the other.

Figure from Janet's chapter on Lalomanu in the 1974 Green and Davidson volume. We relocated Lal-16 on the right.

Figure from Janet’s chapter on Lalomanu in the 1974 Green and Davidson volume. We relocated Lal-16 on the right.

Petelu and Matiu Matavai Tautunu of the National University of Samoa on a mound, Lal-16, in Lalomanu.

Petelu and Matiu Matavai Tautunu of the National University of Samoa on a mound, Lal-16, in Lalomanu.

There’s plenty of archaeology here and a future project might involve mapping and excavation to date construction events. Also, a classification based analysis of platforms (of tia and all “ethnohistoric types”) is needed to explain variation within this feature class. I’m not convinced by current interpretations of “mounds” in Sāmoa. Something, perhaps, for a BA Honours or Master’s student to figure out…