Surveying and Excavating Ancient Samoan Agriculture

We’ve been back in Samoa for a few weeks now surveying in rock walls, mounds and other likely agricultural features, some of which are identified on lidar map by Dr Seth Quintus, as part of our Marsden funded project investigating agricultural variation and socio-political complexity in the past.

Survey involves transects across the landscape, recording characteristics of features to add to the lidar and GPS based GIS that we are building. We use these data to detect and explain patterns of agricultural infrastructure over time.

Alex Queenin recording a stone wall. Many of these features, like this one, have had the ancient stones removed to make new walls.

We have also begun excavating features recorded last year. Our primary goal is to recover datable material, so we can begin to build a chronology of construction in the Falefa Valley. We will add more features and different types of features as we continue this year and next.

A rough 3D model of a walled walkway stretching across several hundred metres of the Falefa Valley.

3D model of the walled walkway after excavation of layer 1, feature rocks and associated sediment.

3D model after excavation of layer 2, a deposit associated with feature construction with some feature rocks embedded within it.

3D model of the base of excavation showing continuation of layer 3, a more orange sediment that had charcoal flecking at the top, predating wall construction and with abundant natural eroding basalt boulders and cobbles.

We’re getting great dating material from these excavations, so I’m confident are analyses and results will have much to contribute to Samoan archaeology and studies of agriculture and social complexity.

Hiding out from the rain under a banana leaf.