Etakosarai (ECB)

Geographical Information

Geographical Coordinate System
Longitude :  149° 37' 0.24" E
Latitude    :  1° 33' 19.55" S
Height Above Sea Level  :  1.1 – 2m meters (Kirch 2001a: Figure 4.49)
Map Datum: WGS84
Country Papua New Guinea
Region
Far Western Lapita Province, Bismarck Archipelago, New Ireland Islands, Saint Matthias Group
Brief Description

The site of Etakosarai (ECB) is located on the upraised limestone Island of Eloaua, within the Mussau Islands of the Saint Matthias Group. The site is situated in the western portion of the island and lies slightly to the west of a track that transects the narrowest point of the island (Kirch 2001a: 135-136; Kirch & Catterall 2001: Table 2.1).

The landform upon which ECB sits is a low mound, ranging from 1.1 – 2 meters high (above sea level) that which gently slopes downwards to the north, south and east. To the west the ground slopes steeply upwards (due to an upraised limestone block) to an elevation of 51 meters (Kirch 2001a: 136, Figure 4.49).

Vegetation cover, at the time of excavation (1985-86), largely consisted of gardens, primarily manioc, upon the low mound and secondary forest consisting of a mixture of Pandanus, Casuarina, Morinda, Macaranga and Calophyllum, upon the high ground to the west (Kirch 2001a: 135-136, Figure 4.49).

The site of Etakosarai was excavated in two phases: the first phase consisted of a small-scale excavation under the direction of B.J. Egloff in May 1974 (Egloff 1975: 15), while the second phase consisted of two larger excavations under the direction of P.V. Kirch in 1985, and P.V. Kirch and T.L. Hunt in 1986 (Kirch 2001a: 134-135).

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Floor Plan

 


Stratigraphy


Site Information

Distribution of Remain(s)

Discussion of the distribution of remains at the site will be made with reference to the excavations conducted by P.V. Kirch and T.L. Hunt in 1985-86 (Kirch 2001a: 134-135; Hunt 1989:102-106). 1

    Four transects, composed of multiple 1 x 1 meter test pits were excavated at the site. One transect, spanning 90 meters, ran from east to west, whilst three cross-transects (spanning approximately 21 meters, 38 meters and 40 meters, respectively) ran from north to south. The excavations demonstrated that cultural material was concentrated on the higher ground of the low mound (Kirch 2001a: 136-137, Figure 4.49; Hunt 1989: 103).

    The stratigraphy present at the site is composed of four layers that are fairly consistent across all of the areas excavated (Hunt 1989: 104; Kirch 2001a: 137). Cultural material is present in the first three layers, whilst layer 4 is sterile (Kirch 2001a: 137).

    Layer 1 consists of a 10-15 cm thick dark brown sandy loam that has been heavily reworked due to gardening activity. Pottery is present in the deposit but it is typically small, worn or eroded (Kirch 2001a: 137).

    Layer 2 is a 5-15 cm thick reddish-yellow sandy loam containing considerable shell midden but only a minimal number of artifacts. The boundary with the layer above is diffuse, whereas it is sharply defined with the layer below (Hunt 1989: 104; Kirch 2001a: 137; Kirch et al. 1991: 148).

    Layer 3 is a light-grey sand of variable thickness (typically 30-60 cm in the central portion of the site) that is partially cemented with CaCO3 concretions. It contains abundant shell midden and artifacts (Hunt 1989: 104; Kirch 2001a: 137).

    Finally, layer 4 is a sterile basal deposit composed of white calcareous sand (Hunt 1989: 104; Kirch 2001a: 137; Kirch et al. 1991: 148).

    In sum, cultural material is primarily concentrated in layers 2 and 3 (Hunt 1989: 104; Kirch 2001a: 137; Kirch et al. 1991: 148).

    Approximate Size 3000 m2 (Kirch 2001a: 136)
    Preservation Condition

    Information pertaining to preservation conditions at the site is extremely limited making a detailed discussion impossible. However, two points can be still be made:

    Firstly, preservation conditions in layer 1 are relatively poor, as evidenced by the presence of small, worn or eroded sherds, due to disturbance caused by gardening activities (Kirch 2001a: 137).

    Secondly, preservation conditions in layer 3 appear to be good, as evidenced by the presence of large decorated sherds, and by a lack of mixing with the layer above (Kirch 2001a: 148; Kirch et al. 1991: 148; Hunt 1989: 104).

    Culture Type(s) Lapita
    C14Date(s)

    Conventional (uncalibrated) radiocarbon dates and sample provenance information:

    3120±80 BP (ANU-5086), 1985 transect Unit 1, Level 1 – Shell (Hyotissa hyotis) (Kirch 2001b: 231).

    3150±80 BP (ANU-5087), 1985 transect Unit 1, Level 2 – Shell (Hyotissa hyotis) (Kirch 2001b: 231).

    3200±70 BP (Beta-20453), 1986 transect Unit 9, Level 5 (71 cm) – Charcoal (Kirch 2001b: 231).

    Summary of calibrated radiocarbon dates:

    The oldest calibrated date2 for ECB is Beta-20453 dating to 1680 (0.97) 1380, 1350 (0.03) 1310 cal BC3 at two standard deviations (95.4% probability). The second oldest date is that of ANU-5087 dating to 1580 (1.00) 1180 cal BC, followed by ANU-5086 dating to 1530 (1.00) 1130 cal BC at two standard deviations (Kirch 2001b: 231). It is important to note that whilst Beta-20453 is the oldest calibrated date, Kirch (2001b: 231) has noted that the date potentially has an inbuilt age due to the old wood effect but that, if present, is unlikely to have been more than 100 years (also see Kirch 2001:b 214).

    When viewed together the three dates above provide a broad summed calibrated age for the sites occupation of between 1630-1170 cal BC at two standard deviations (Kirch 2001b: 214). However, Kirch (2001b: 214) argues that based upon the pottery assemblage from the site (which contains a large amount of fine dentate-stamped pottery) that the site should be similar in age to the Zone C1 phase of Area B in the nearby Lapita site of Talepakemalai (ECA) and therefore proposes a narrower age range of between 1520-1300 cal BC.

    Artifact Type(s)

    Pottery, shell artifacts (shell rings, scrapers and peelers, shell fish hooks, shell adze, shell disks), human teeth, lithics (flakes, adze, hammerstone) and faunal remains (Kirch 2001a: 139; Kirch et al. 1991: 148; Hunt 1989: 105-106; Kirch et al. 1989: 65).

    Ceramic Type(s)

    Cultural information

    Significance

    The site of Etakosarai (ECB) is significant for a number of reasons:

    Firstly, Etakosarai belongs to a suite of sites designated as “Early/ Far-Western Lapita” and thus is one of a small number of sites with the potential to expand our knowledge with regards to the formative period of the Lapita Cultural Complex (Summerhayes 2007: 145).

    Secondly, the location of the Etakosarai Lapita settlement was unique. During the occupation of the site, the Island of Eloaua was not yet in its modern form, instead being composed of two islands, separated by a shallow reef. The Etakosarai settlement was located on one of the Islands whilst the large settlement of Talepakemalai (ECA) was located directly opposite Etakosarai on the other island (Kirch 2001a: 136). Furthermore, Kirch (2001a: 134, 139, Figure 4.47, Figure 10.16) argues that not only did the above two settlements have overlapping periods of occupation but so too did a third settlement, Etapakengaroasa (EHB), located on the nearby island of Emananus, in the Mussau Islands.  

    Thirdly, Etakosarai is one of a series of Early/Far-Western Lapita sites that have been identified in the area. Sites in close vicinity to ECB include two sites within the Mussau Islands, the aforementioned sites of Talepakemalai and Etapakengaroasa and the site of Tamuarawai (EQS), located on the Island of Emirau to the east (Kirch 2001a: Figure 3.1; Summerhayes et al. 2010).  

    Brief Research History

    1974– Site surveyed and excavated by B.J. Egloff in May 1974. Excavations consisted of two 1 x 2 meter test pits (Egloff 1975: 15; Kirch 2001a: 134).

    1985– Site relocated by P.V. Kirch with the help of Ave Male. First of two field seasons at the site under the leadership of P.V. Kirch. Excavations consisted of six 1 x 1 meter test pits orientated on an East – West transect (Kirch 2001a: 134, 136-137).

    1986– Second field season at the site under the leadership of P.V. Kirch. Excavations conducted by T.L. Hunt consisted of 13 1 x 1 meter test pits, positioned at ten-meter intervals, distributed amongst three North – South cross-transects (Hunt 1989: 103; Kirch 2001a: 137).

    Notes

    1 – Information from the 1974 excavations was excluded from this discussion as the report written by B.J. Egloff (1975) combines data from both Etakosarai (ECB) and Talepakemalai (ECA), thus making it impossible to determine how artifacts were distributed at each individual site.

    2 – The calibrated dates being quoted here are the OXCAL Calibrated Ages. See Kirch (2001b: 204) for a discussion regarding the differences between the OXCAL Calibrated Age and the CALIB Calibrated Age.

    3 – Respective probabilities in parentheses.

    Reference(s)

    Butler, V.L. 1994. Fish feeding behaviour and fish capture: the case for variation in Lapita fishing strategies. Archaeology in Oceania 29(2): 81-90.

    Egloff, B.J. 1975. Archaeological Investigations in the coastal Madang area and on Eloaue Island of the St. Matthias Group. Records of the Papua New Guinea Museum and Art Gallery 5: 15-31.

    Hunt, T.L. 1989. Lapita Ceramic Exchange in the Mussau Islands, Papua New Guinea. Unpublished PhD thesis. Seattle; Washington; U.S.A: University of Washington.

    Kirch, P.V. 1986. Archaeological Fieldwork on Eloaua and Emananus Islands, St. Matthias Group, New Ireland Province. In J. Allen (ed.) Lapita Homeland Project: Report of the 1985 Field Season, pp. 14-19. Melbourne; Australia: La Trobe University.

    Kirch, P.V. 1987. Lapita and Oceanic Cultural Origins: Excavations in the Mussau Islands, Bismarck Archipelago, 1985. Journal of Field Archaeology 14(2): 163-180.

    Kirch, P.V. 1990. Specialization and Exchange in the Lapita Complex of Oceania (1600-500 B.C.). Asian Perspectives 29(2): 117-133.

    Kirch, P.V. 1997. The Lapita Peoples: Ancestors of the Oceanic World. Cambridge; U.S.A: Blackwell Publishers Inc.

    Kirch, P.V. 2001a. Three Lapita Villages: Excavations at Talepakemalai (ECA), Etakosarai (ECB), and Etapakengaroasa (EHB), Eloaua and Emananus Islands. In P.V. Kirch (ed.), Lapita and its Transformations in Near Oceania: Archaeological Investigations in the Mussau Islands, Papua New Guinea, 1985-88, volume 1. Introduction, Excavations, Chronology, pp. 68-145. Contribution 59. Berkeley; U.S.A: Archaeological Research Facility, University of California at Berkeley.

    Kirch, P.V. 2001b. A Radiocarbon Chronology for the Mussau Islands. In P.V. Kirch (ed.), Lapita and its Transformations in Near Oceania: Archaeological Investigations in the Mussau Islands, Papua New Guinea, 1985-88, volume 1. Introduction, Excavations, Chronology, pp. 196-236. Contribution 59. Berkeley; U.S.A: Archaeological Research Facility, University of California at Berkeley.

    Kirch P.V. and T. Hunt. 1988. Radiocarbon Dates from the Mussau Islands and the Lapita Colonization of the Southwestern Pacific. Radiocarbon 30(2): 161-169.

    Kirch, P.V., Swindler, D.R. and C.G. Turner II, 1989. Human skeletal and dental remains from the Lapita sites (1600-500 B.C.) in the Mussau Islands, Melanesia. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 79: 63-76.

    Kirch, P. V., Hunt, T.L., Weisler, M., Butler, V. and M.S. Allen. 1991. Mussau Islands prehistory: results of the 1985-86 excavations. In J. Allen and C. Gosden (eds.), Report of the Lapita Homeland Project, pp. 144-163. Occasional Papers in Prehistory 20. Canberra; Australia: Department of Prehistory, Australian National University.

    Kirch, P.V. and C. Catterall. 2001. The Mussau Islands: Natural and Cultural Environments. In P.V. Kirch (ed.), Lapita and its Transformations in Near Oceania: Archaeological Investigations in the Mussau Islands, Papua New Guinea, 1985-88, volume 1. Introduction, Excavations, Chronology, pp. 28-56. Contribution 59. Berkeley; U.S.A: Archaeological Research Facility, University of California at Berkeley.

    Lepofsky, D. 1992. Arboriculture in the Mussau Islands, Bismarck Archipelago. Economic Botany 46: 192-211.

    Steadman, D.W. and P. V. Kirch. 1998. Biogeography and prehistoric exploitation of birds in the Mussau Islands, Bismarck Archipelago, Papua New Guinea. Emu 98:13-22.

    Summerhayes, G.R. 2007. The rise and transformations of Lapita in the Bismarck Archipelago. In S. Chiu, and C. Sand (eds.), From Southeast Asia to the Pacific: Archaeological perspectives on the Austronesian expansion and the Lapita cultural complex, pp. 141 – 184. Taipei; Taiwan: Center for Archaeological Studies, Research Center for Humanities and Social Sciences, Academica Sinica.

    Summerhayes, G.R., Matisoo-Smith, E., Mandui, H., Allen, J., Specht, J., Hogg, N. and S. McPherson. 2010. Tamuarawai (EQS): An Early Lapita Site on Emirau, New Ireland, PNG. Journal of Pacific Archaeology 1(1): 62-75.