Goro (SGO015)

Geographical Information

Geographical Coordinate System
Longitude : 166° 59' 27.80" E
Latitude : 22° 20' 28.17" S
Height Above Sea Level:
Map Datum: WGS84
Country   New Caledonia
Region
Southern Lapita Province, South Province, Grande Terre – South
Brief Description

The site SGO015 of Goro is located in Yaté, an area encompassing the southeast coast of New Caledonia’s Grande Terre and the location of the tribal lands of Ounia, Waho, Touaourou and Goro (Sand et al. 2001: 93). The landform of Yaté consists of narrow coastal plains, varying between 100 and 1000 meters wide, with a shoreline that is primarily composed of a fringing reef and in some areas upraised coral platforms (Sand et al. 2001: 93-94).

SGO015 is located on the coastal plain of Kokweiméé, situated approximately 1 km north of the main area of the Goro Tribe and in the vicinity of Taré Bay, a lagoon located on the boundary of the Touaourou and Goro (Sand et al. 2001: 93-94). A cross-section of the plains, from the coast to the southwest, published by Sand et al. (2002: Fig. 2) indicates that, after an area of relative flat ground spanning around 150 meters, the land slopes steeply upwards until meeting the feet of the hills behind the plains. The site itself is situated around the channel of a former creek that ran roughly north-south across the plain (Sand et al. 2002: 94-95).

Research by Sand et al. (2002: 94) indicates that the Kokweiméé plains are being employed for traditional yam plantations and are, therefore, covered in low raised cultivation mounds. The plains also have a number of shell mounds placed around the yam plantations. Finally, modern habitation areas are located on the back of the plain (Sand et al. 2002: 94).

SGO015 was first discovered in 1999 by Jean-Yves Vama of the Goro Tribe and was subsequently inspected by the New Caledonia Department of Archaeology in 2000. Two field seasons were subsequently undertaken at the site in December 2000 and March 2001 (Sand et al. 2002: 94).

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Floor Plan



Stratigraphy


Site Information

Distribution of Remain(s)

To discuss the distribution of remains at SGO015 it is first necessary to briefly discuss the test pits excavated and their distribution across the site.

Eight 1×1 meter test pits were excavated. Squares A, B, D, E and F are situated on the northwestern bank of the former creek, Squares C and G on the southeastern bank and finally, SGO012A is situated approximately 300 meters to the southeast of the main site. However due to water infilling test pits, only Squares A, B, C and F were excavated to the underlying sterile layers (Sand et al. 2002: 95).

The distribution of pottery, worked shell artifacts, lithic material and faunal remains are discussed below. Unfortunately precise information as to the distribution of the latter three categories has yet to be published and will only be discussed on a broad scale. Comparison will be made between the “Lapita Layers” (Layer 4) and the “horticultural layers” (Layers 1 and 2 in Squares A, B and C, Layer 2 in Square F and Layer 1 in SGO012A).

Lapita pottery is largely restricted to Layer 4 in Squares A, B and F, and as surface finds in the bank of the creek (Sand et al. 2002: 96-97, 101). Pottery from the Néra, and to a limited degree from the Puen tradition, is restricted to the horticultural horizons and upon the sites surface (Sand et al. 2002: 96-97, 101). Finally, Plum Tradition pottery is present in Square B, Layer 2, whilst pottery from the Podtanean Tradition is present in Square C, Layer 3, and in association with Lapita pottery, in Square A (Sand et al. 2002: 96-97, 105).

Four worked shell artifacts were excavated from the site. Three of the artifacts, a Conus shell ring and two polished shell beads, were found in association with Lapita material. The remaining shell artifact, another Conus shell ring, was found in a horticultural layer (Sand et al. 2002: 102).

Regarding lithic material, only two flakes were discovered in association with Lapita material (one of which may be an adze fragment), whereas an “abundant” amount of flaked material was found in the horticultural layers (Sand et al. 2002: 102).

Finally, a discussion of the distribution of faunal materials across the site is difficult due to the disturbance of the horticultural layers. However, it is possible to make some basic interpretations. Firstly, a comparison between shellfish species present in the horticultural layers and those in the Lapita layers show a clear pattern of size reduction occurring over time, with species such as Anadara sp. decreasing from 9 cm to 6 cm and Trochus sp. decreasing from 11 cm to 5 cm, a reduction of over 50% in mean size (Sand et al. 2002: 103). Secondly, the analysis of the bone recovered from the Lapita layer revealed that the majority of this material is turtle, with only a small amount of fish bone being present. The turtle bone was found in abundance in Squares A, B and F (Sand et al. 2002: 102).

Approximate Size 2000-3000 m2 (Sand et al. 2001: 103).
Preservation Condition

Preservation conditions are relatively uniform across the site and will be broadly discussed with reference to the Lapita Layers and the Horticultural Layers.

Preservation conditions in the Lapita Layers are favorable with little evidence of disturbance. The presence of large pieces of well-preserved Lapita pottery highlights the good preservation conditions in this layer (Sand et al. 2002: 96, 98).

Preservation conditions in the horticultural layers are fairly poor with evidence of regular reworking as a result of horticultural practices (Sand et al. 2002: 96, 102). The presence of small Post-Lapita pottery and broken and eroded fishbone and bird bone highlights the poor preservation conditions present in these layers (Sand et al. 2002: 101-102).

Culture Type(s) Lapita, post-Lapita
C14Date(s)

Conventional (uncalibrated) radiocarbon dates and sample provenance information:

2920±40 BP (Beta-154626), Square F, Layer 4 (70 cm) – Charcoal (Sand et al. 2002: 97).

2850±40 BP (Beta-154625), Square A, Layer 4 (100-110 cm) – Charcoal (Sand et al. 2002: 97).

2760±40 BP (Beta-154623), Square A, Layer 4 (88 cm) – Charcoal (Sand et al. 2002: 97).

1510±40 BP (Beta-154627), Square B, Layer 2 (50-60 cm) – Charcoal (Sand et al. 2002: 97).

Summary of calibrated radiocarbon dates:

The oldest calibrated date for the site is Beta-154626 dating to 1260 (1110) 1000 cal BC. However the date appears to be too early, perhaps due to the old wood effect (Sand et al. 2002: 97; Sand et al. 2011: 57). Following this the next oldest calibrated dates are Beta-154625 dating to 1120 (1000) 910 cal BC and Beta-154623 dating to 1000 (900) 820 cal BC (Sand et al. 2002: 97). Finally, the youngest calibrated date is Beta-154627 dating to 440 (560) 640 cal AD (Sand et al. 2002: 97).

Sand et al. (2002: 103) argues that, based upon the dates above, the Lapita occupation of the site spanned between 1000 and 900 BC (Sand et al. 2002: 103).

Finally, one calibrated date was provided for the Post-Lapita occupation of the site (Beta-154627) indicating that a group, associated with Plum Tradition pottery, was occupying the site in around 440 (560) 640 cal AD (Sand et al. 2002: 97).

Artifact Type(s)

Pottery, lithics (flakes, possible adze fragment), worked shell artifacts (shell rings, shell beads) and faunal remains (Sand et al. 2002: 98-103).

Ceramic Type(s)

Cultural information

Significance

SGO015 of Goro is significant as it represents the first Lapita site ever discovered on the east coast of New Caledonia’s Grande Terre and thus filled an “archaeological blank spot” with regards to the settlement of New Caledonia. Additionally the site provided information with regards to the characteristics of human settlement in this area of Grande Terre (Sand et al. 2002: 104).

Brief Research History

1999 – SGO015 of Goro was first discovered in 1999 by Jean-Yves Vama of the Goro Tribe, who discovered dentate stamped Lapita sherds in the bank of a former creek he had recently cleared with a bulldozer (sand et al. 2002: 94).

2000 – The site was inspected in early 2000 by the New Caledonia Department of Archaeology; Decorated sherds and turtle bones were collected during the site inspection. The first field season at the site occurred in December 2000 (sand et al. 2002: 94).

2001– The second and final field season at the site occurred in March 2001. Eight test pits totaling 8m2 were excavated (Sand et al. 2002: 94).

Notes


Reference(s)

Sand, C., Ouetcho, A., Bole, J. and D. Baret. 2001. Evaluating the “Lapita Smoke Screen” Site SGO015 of Goro, an Early Austronesian Settlement on the South-East Coast of New Caledonia’s Grande Terre. New Zealand Journal of Archaeology 22: 91-111.

Sand, C., Bole, J. and A. Ouetcho. 2011. A revision of New Caledonia’s Ceramic Sequence. Journal of Pacific Archaeology 2(1): 56-68.