Kurin (LPO023)

Geographical Information

Geographical Coordinate System
Longitude : 168° 6' 26.33" E
Latitude : 21° 35' 44.89" S
Height Above Sea Level: 5 meters (Sand et al. 2002: 132)
Map Datum: WGS84
Country   New Caledonia
Region
Southern Lapita Province, Loyalty Islands Province, Maré Island.
Brief Description

The site of LPO023 of Kurin is located on the upraised reef limestone island of Maré within the Loyalty Islands, New Caledonia (Sand et al. 2002: 130). The site is one of a number of archaeological sites located on an 8 KM long dune region that stretches down the east coast of the island at the base of the upraised reef. Lapita and Post-Lapita sites have been identified upon dune systems between the areas of Padewa, Patho and Kurin (Sand et al. 2002: 130, 132). The site of LPO023 is located 40-50 meters from the current shoreline on top of the northern section of the Kurin Dune system; at this point the dune is approximately 5 meters high and 120 meters wide and is located adjacent to a 200-meter wide fringing reef and in some areas various shallow lagoons (Sand et al. 2002: 132).

The site of LPO023 was first located by C. Sand and F. Wadra from the Provincial Yéwéné Cultural center in October 1997 and was subsequently excavated in December of the same year (Sand et al. 2002: 131-132).

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Floor Plan



Stratigraphy


Site Information

Distribution of Remain(s)

Due to disturbance at the site, resulting from the clearance of an area measuring approximately 100m2 with a bulldozer, the distribution of archaeological remains will only be discussed with reference to the areas excavated at the site (Sand et al. 2002: 132).

The excavations at the site were placed with reference to the bulldozed area as some undisturbed, in-situ layers were revealed in the upper part of the area. A 6 x 8 meter grid was laid perpendicular to the main road, orientated northwest – southeast and two 2 x 2 meter squares were excavated (Squares B and F) (Sand et al. 2002: 132-133).

Five layers were revealed in the two squares:

Layer 1, which was only present in the western part of Square B, is the remnant of a carbonized sand horizon and has a maximum depth of 15 cm. The layer contains ceramic sherds of the Néra tradition (Sand et al. 2002: 133).

Layer 2 is a sandy dark-brown layer containing very few archaeological remains; it is approximately 20 cm thick and believed to be naturally formed. A few small-eroded sherds were found in this layer (Sand et al. 2002: 134).

Layer 3 consists of light-brown sand that is approximately 20 cm thick and contains orange-colored pumice and urchin spines. Ceramic sherds and shell material increases dramatically in this layer (Sand et al. 2002: 134).

Layer 4 consists of gray sand that is approximately 20 – 25 cm thick in Square B but nearly absent in Square F. Features identified in Square B include a post-hole in the north-eastern wall and an oven constructed out of coral blocks, measuring approximately 35 cm in depth and 60 cm in diameter (with a further 50 cm extension consisting of burnt coral), at the base of the layer. Artifacts identified include; ceramic sherds and burnt ceramics sherds and long bones excavated from the oven feature (Sand et al. 2002: 134).

Layer 5 consists of sterile white sand containing yellow/orange pumice and small coral blocks (Sand et al. 2002: 134).

Archaeological remains are primarily concentrated in layers 3 and 4 with a small amount of material present in layers 1 and 2 (Sand et al. 2002: 133-134).

Approximate Size  
Preservation Condition

As noted in “Distribution of Remains” above, approximately 100 m2 was cleared during road construction, leading to the destruction of the archaeological deposits in the northern portion of the cleared area and the complete removal of layer 1 in Square F and the partial removal of Layer 1 in Square B (Sand et al. 2002: 132-133).

The preservation conditions in layer 1 and 2 of Squares B and F are poor, likely resulting from low-scale redepositional processes, whereas those in layer 4 are relatively good, indicating that little post depositional disturbance has occurred in this layer. This is evidenced by the presence of small weathered / eroded ceramic sherds in both layers 1 and 2 and the presence of well preserved conjoinable and fragile burnt sherds in Layer 4 (Sand et al. 2002: 133-134). Unfortunately, little information is provided with regards to artifact preservation conditions in layer 3.

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

Conventional (uncalibrated) radiocarbon dates and sample provenance information:

400±90 BP (Beta-118336), Square B, Layer 1 – Unknown material (Sand et al. 2002: 135).

2670±60 BP (Beta-125141), Square B, Layer 3 – Unknown material (Sand et al. 2002: 135).

2890±60 BP (Beta-125142), Square B, Layer 4 (Upper) – Unknown material (Sand et al. 2002: 135).

2920±110 BP (Beta-118334), Square B, Layer 4 (Lower) – Unknown material (Sand et al. 2002: 135).

2900±60 BP (Beta-118335), Square B, Stone Oven (Base of Layer 4) – Unknown material (Sand et al. 2002: 135).

Summary of calibrated radiocarbon dates:

The oldest calibrated dates for the site of LPO023 are Beta-118335 dated to 1265 (1045) 910 cal BC and Beta-125142 dated to 1260 (1030) 905 cal BC, at two standard deviations (95.4% probability). These two dates provided a very similar calibrated age and were collected from the stone oven at the base of Layer 4 and from Layer 4 (Upper portion), respectively (Sand et al. 2002: 135). It is important to note that while Beta-118334 dated to 1410 (1110) 825 cal BC, collected from the lower portion of Layer 4, technically provided an older calibrated age than the two dates above, it also had a much larger associated probability range, and therefore cannot be reliability said to be the oldest date from the site (Sand et al. 2002: 135). Following the dates above the next oldest is Beta-125141, collected from Layer 3, dated to 915 (815) 780 cal BC and finally Beta-118336, collected from Layer 1, dated to 1400 (1470) cal AD 1665, at two standard deviations (95.4% probability) (Sand et al. 2002: 135).

The dates above indicate that the site has two distinct periods of occupation. The first period was the Lapita occupation, represented by layers 4 and 3, which spanned between c. 1050-1000 BC and 850-800 BC. The second period, represented by Néra Tradition pottery in Layer 1, was much later, occurring in the mid-second millennium AD (Sand et al. 2002: 135).

Artifact Type(s)

Pottery, worked shell (polishing tool, Tridacna adze preform, shell bead, Tridacna disc), lithics (flakes, adze fragment, polishing stone) and faunal remains (Sand et al. 2002: 136-140).

Ceramic Type(s)

Cultural information

Significance

The site of LPO023 of Kurin is significant for two primary reasons:

Firstly, the excavated areas of the site have simple, largely undisturbed stratigraphy and thus provided a perfect opportunity to build a solid chronology for the site based upon carefully selected radiocarbon dates (Sand et al. 2002: 144). The radiocarbon chronology generated for the site of LPO023 is important as it indicates that the occupation of the Loyalty Islands by the Lapita peoples occurred at roughly the same time as that of Grande Terre. Additionally, it also casts doubts upon the later dates attained for the nearby Lapita site of LPO020 of Patho by Sémah and Galipaud (1992) (Sand et al. 2002: 144).

Secondly, the site is a perfect candidate for a large-scale aerial excavation due to the wide array of well dated material culture and features, the relatively simple well-dated stratigraphy, and finally, aside from the disturbance caused by the construction of the roadway, is believed to be relatively undisturbed (Sand et al. 2002: 144). A large-scale aerial excavation of the site could potentially provide much needed information with regards to structures, the spatial organization of the site and activity areas and overall settlement patterns.

Brief Research History

1997 – LPO023 was first located by C. Sand and F. Wadra from the Provincial Yéwéné Cultural center during a fieldtrip to the Patho – Kurin dune region in October 1997 after Lapita sherds were collected from the banks and surface of a road cut perpendicular to the dune system in an area called Lanijo (Sand et al. 2002: 131). In December 1997 a rescue excavation was conducted at the site, a total of two 2 x 2 meter squares was excavated, totaling 8 m2 (Sand et al. 2002: 133).

Notes


Reference(s)

Frimigacci, D. 1981. La poterie imprimée au battoir en Nouvelle-Calédonie. Journal de la Société des océanistes 70-71 (37): 111-118.

Sand, C. 2001. Evolutions in the Lapita Cultural Complex: a view from the Southern Lapita Province. Archaeology in Oceania 36: 65–76.

Sand, C. 2007. Looking at the big motifs: a typology of the central band decorations of the Lapita ceramic tradition of New Caledonia (Southern Melanesia) and preliminary regional comparisons. In S. Bedford, C. Sand, and P. Connaughton (eds.), Oceanic Explorations: Lapita and Western Pacific Settlement, pp.265-288. Terra Australis 26. ANU E Press, Australian National University.

Sand, C., Bolé, J. and A. Ouetcho. 2002. Site LPO023 of Kurin: Characteristics of a Lapita Settlement in the Loyalty Islands (New Caledonia). Asian Perspectives 41(1): 129-147.

Sémah, A.M., and Galipaud, J.C. 1992. La fouille du site LAPITA de Patho (Île de Maré, Nouvelle-Calédonie). Rapport d’Activité, Sciences Sociales, Archéologie, no. 5. Nouméa: ORSTOM.