St Maurice-Vatcha (KVO003)

Geographical Information

Geographical Coordinate System
Longitude : 167° 29' 40.920" E
Latitude : 22° 41' 37.120" S
Height Above Sea Level: 3 meters (Sand 1999a: 309).
Map Datum: WGS84
Country   New Caledonia
Region
Southern Lapita Province, South Province, Île des Pins.
Brief Description

KVO003 is located in the settlement of Vao, situated on the southern point of Île des Pins (The Isle of Pines) located 50 Km to the southeast of the New Caledonian mainland (Grande Terre), in the Southern Province (Sand 1999a: 308). The site lies upon a dune system, which runs on a NE-SW axis parallel with the coast and is approximately 350 meters long and 180 meters wide at the thickest point. The central portion of the dune is a raised, slightly rounded, summit measuring 180 x 90 meters in size (Sand 1999a: 308). The dune drops off into a marshy plain to the Northeast and the sea to the southwest (Sand 1999a: 308).

Vegetation cover at the site consists of a mixture of pepper tree, leadtree and coconut over the dune surface closest to the ocean, which gives way to coastal forest, including beach hibiscus and banyan trees, in the central portion of the dune. The plains behind the dune are covered in savanna species and gardens (Sand 1999a: 309).

The site of St Maurice-Vatcha has a long history of research, beginning with early publications by Lenormand (1948) and Avias (1950) and an excavation by J. Golson between 1959-60 (Golson 1962). In 1995-96 the site was re-excavated by C. Sand for the Department of Archaeology of New Caledonia (Sand 1999a: 311).

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Floor Plan



Stratigraphy


Site Information

Distribution of Remain(s)

The dune upon which KVO003 lies can be divided into two areas or “parcels” of land, St Maurice located in the southwestern area of the dune and Vatcha located in the northeast (Sand 1999a: 311). To discuss the distribution of remains upon these parcels of land, it is necessary to refer to the information published with regards to the 1995-96 excavations lead by C. Sand (Sand 1999a). Three locations were excavated in total amongst the two parcels of land, two in St Maurice, located in the southwest and center of the area, and one in Vatcha, located in the southeast of the area. Additionally three test pits (test pits A, B and C) were excavated in the St Maurice parcel running inland, aligned along a northwest axis (Sand 1999a: 309, 311-12).

Material culture densities are highest in those excavated areas situated close to the beachfront and decrease when moving inland from the beach (Sand 1999a: 312). For example, a large amount of material culture was excavated in location one which is located in close proximity to the beachfront but a smaller amount of material culture was present in test-pit C, located inland near the forest edge (Sand 1999a: 311-312).

Regarding specific artifact densities, it was found that Podtanéan ceramics were present in minimal quantities in the excavated areas by the ocean but composed a large portion of the decorated ceramic component in test-pits B and C (Sand 1999a: 315). Additionally, incised pottery (arguably a precursor to pottery of the Puen tradition) was restricted to the upper part of the Lapita layer (Sand 1999a: 315, 321). Finally, shell material was found in larger quantities in location 2 than in Location 1 (Sand 1999a: 319).

Approximate Size 10,000 m2 (Anderson et al. 2001: 7).
Preservation Condition  
Culture Type(s) Lapita, post-Lapita
C14Date(s)

Conventional (uncalibrated) radiocarbon dates and sample provenance information:

1690±90 BP (Beta-92754), St Maurice 1-B1, layer 2 – Charcoal (Sand 1999a: 314).

2030±50 BP (Beta-119175), Vatcha 3-B1, layer 5 – Charcoal (Sand 1999a: 314).

2070±50 BP (Beta-119174), Vatcha 3-B1, layer 10 – Charcoal (Sand 1999a: 314).

2080±50 BP (Beta-100291), Vatcha 3-B1, layer 7 – Charcoal (Sand 1999a: 314).

2380±80 BP (Beta-92758), Vatcha 3-B1, layer 5 – Charcoal (Sand 1999a: 314).

2410±50 BP (Beta-119176), St Maurice 2-B1, layer 3 – Charcoal (Sand 1999a: 314).

2520±60 BP (Beta-119182), Vatcha 3-F1, layer 1 – Charcoal (Sand 1999a: 314).

2520±60 BP (Beta-119179), St Maurice 1-B1, layer 3 – Charcoal (Sand 1999a: 314).

2730±50 BP (Beta-119180), Vatcha 3-F1, layer 1 – Charocal (Sand 1999a: 314).

2750±60 BP (Beta-100292), St Maurice B, layer 3 – Charocal (Sand 1999a: 314).

2800±40 BP (Beta-92760), Vatcha 3-F1, layer 4 – Charocal (Sand 1999a: 314).

2800±50 BP (Beta-92757), St Maurice 2-A2, layer 4 – Charocal (Sand 1999a: 314).

2820±50 BP (Beta-92756), St Maurice 1-A3, layer 3 – Charocal (Sand 1999a: 314).

2790±50 BP (Beta-119177), St Maurice 2-A2, layer 4 – Charocal (Sand 1999a: 314).

2800±60 BP (Beta-119178), St Maurice 2-A1, layer 4 – Charocal (Sand 1999a: 314).

2810±70 BP (Beta-92759), Vatcha 3-F1, layer 2 – Charocal (Sand 1999a: 314).

3050±80 BP (Beta-92755), St Maurice A, layer 3 – Charcoal (Sand 1999a: 314).

3500±60 BP (Beta-119181), Vatcha 3-F1, layer 1 – Shell (Placostylus) (Sand 1999a: 314).

2855±165 BP (ANU262), material taken from the oldest level identified during the 1959-60 excavation – charcoal (Sand 1999a: 310; Kirch and Hunt 1988: 21; Golson 1962).

4010±130 BP (GAK), Level IV – Shell (Placostylus) (Sand 1999a: 311; Frimigacci 1970).

Summary of calibrated radiocarbon dates:

The earliest calibrated dates for the site of KVO003 are 1955 (1860,1845,1775) 1670 cal. BC (Beta-119181) and 1425 (1260) 1000 cal BC (Beta-92755), at two standard deviations (95.4% probability) (Sand 1999a: 314). It should be noted that the extremely early date (4010±130 BP – GAK) reported by Frimigacci (1970) was not included due to concerns over its validity (see Sand 1999a: 313).

Sand (1999: 313) argues that earliest period of occupation of KVO003 is represented by five radiocarbon dates that range between 1040-810 BC with a cumulative intercept date of 910 cal BC. The end of this period is represented by a single date that ranges between 805-410 BC, with an intercept date of 777 cal BC (Sand 1999a: 313). 

Finally, the youngest calibrated dates from the site are 220 (415) 615 AD (Beta-92754) and BC 165 (20) AD 85 (Beta-119175) at two standard deviations (95.4% probability) (Sand 1999a: 314).

Artifact Type(s)

Pottery, worked shell (shell rings, flat beads, pendants, Tridacna shell flakes), lithics (flakes, scrapers, awls, adzes and adze fragments, polishing stones), faunal remains (Sand 1999a: 315-319).

Ceramic Type(s)

Cultural information

Significance

KVO003 is significant for a number of reasons. Firstly, data collected at the site was extremely important as it allowed the further refinement of the “Southern Lapita Province” chronology. The material dated from VKO003 indicated that the site was first occupied in approximately 950 cal BC, which placed its occupation just a few decades after sites located on the West Coast of Grande Terre (the mainland) and on the Loyalty Islands (Sand 1999a: 320). Sand (1999: 320) argued that the occupation of the site soon after those on the mainland and loyalty islands indicated that Lapita populations were moving from the north and east of the mainland to the south, around the end of the 2nd and beginning of the first millennium BC (Sand 1999a:320). The end of the Lapita occupation in VKO003, around 800 cal BC, supported a regional framework which limited the duration of Lapita in New Caledonia to a few hundred years, thus opposing the then accepted chronology, which argued for a 1500 year duration [see Sand (1999: 320) for further details](Sand 1999a: 320).

Secondly, the presence of incised pottery, which Sand (1999:321) argued to be a precursor to the later Puen pottery tradition, in association with Lapita pottery in the upper portion of the Lapita layer, indicates that the former was in use before the latter dropped out of usage. This association between the two pottery styles is important as it demonstrates cultural continuity between the Lapita tradition in southern New Caledonia and the later incised tradition (Sand 1999a: 321). 

Brief Research History

1948 – KVO003 first reported by Lenormand (1948) who briefly described decorated dentate-stamped pottery found on the beach (Sand 1999a: 310).

1950 – Material from KVO003 was included in the research of Avias (1950) who utilized the serration of archaeological materials to study the prehistoric chronology of New Caledonia (Sand 1999a: 310).

1959-60 – First excavation (designated PIN-1) of St-Maurice-Vatcha undertaken by J. Golson between December 1959 and February 1960, a total of 38 m2 was excavated (Golson 1962; Sand 1999a: 310). Unfortunately, aside from a short report by C. Smart (1969) one of Golson’s students, the majority of the results from this excavation were never published.

1970-71 – Second excavation of KVO003 undertaken by D. Frimigacci (Frimigacci 1970, 1975; Sand 1999a: 310-311).

1995-96 – Third excavation undertaken by the Department of Archaeology of New Caledonia and lead by C. Sand. Two locations and three test-pits were excavated in St Maurice during December 1995, totaling 8m2, and 3m2, respectively (Sand 1999a: 311-312). Further excavations occurred in Vatcha during March 1996 (Sand 1999a: 312).

Notes
 
Reference(s)

Anderson, A., Bedford, S., Clark, G., Lilley, I., Sand, C., Summerhayes, G., and Torrence, R. 2001. An Inventory of Lapita Sites containing dentate-stamped pottery. In G.R. Clark, A.J. Anderson and T. Vunidilo (eds.), The Archaeology of Lapita Dispersal in Oceania. Papers from the Fourth Lapita Conference, June 2000, Canberra, Australia, pp. 1-14. Terra Australis 17. Canberra; Australia: Pandanus Books, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University.

Avias, J. 1950. Poteries canaques et poteries préhistoriques en Nouvelle-Calédonie. Contribution à l’archéologie et à la préhistoire océanienne. Journal de la Société des Océanistes 6: 111-139.

Frimigacci, D. 1970. Une datation par la méthode du C.14 du site Lapita de Vatcha (Ile des Pins). Etudes Mélanésiennes 21-25:43-44.

Frimigacci, D. 1974. Les deux niveaux à poterie du site de Vatcha (Ile des Pins). Journal de la Société des Océanistes 42-43: 25-70.

Frimigacci, D. 1975. La préhistoire néo-calédonienne. Unpublished Thèse de 3e cycle. Université Paris I.

Galipaud, J. 1996. New Caledonia: Some recent archaeological perspectives. In J.M. Davidson, G. Irwin, B.F. Leach, A. Pawley and D. Brown (eds.), Oceanic Culture History: Essays in Honour of Roger Green, pp. 297-305. Dunedin; New Zealand: New Zealand Journal of Archaeology.

Golson, J.1961. Report on New Zealand, Western Polynesia, New Caledonia, and Fiji. Asian Perspectives 5: 166-180.

Golson, J. 1962. Rapport sur les fouilles effectuées à l’Ile des Pins (Nouvelle-Calédonie), de décembre 1959 à février 1960. Etudes Mélanésiennes 14-17: 11-23.

Kirch, P.V. and T. Hunt. 1988.The spatial and temporal boundaries of Lapita In P.V. Kirch and T.L. Hunt (eds.), Archaeology of the Lapita Cultural Complex: A Critical Review, pp. 9-31. Thomas Burke Memorial Washington State Museum Research Report 5. Seattle; U.S.A: Burke Museum.

Leach, F., Davidson, J.M., Fraser, K., and G. Burnside. 1997. Analysis of Faunal Remains from the Vatcha Archaeological Site on Ile des Pins, New Caledonia. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa Technical Report 23. Wellington; New Zealand: Museum of New Zealand.

Lenormand, M. 1948. Découverte d’un gisement de poteries indigenes à I’Ile des Pins. Etudes Mélanésiennes 3:54-58.

Sand, C. 1996. Le site Lapita KVO003 de St Maurice-Vatcha (Île des Pins). Données de la campagne archéologique 1995-96. Nouméa; New Caledonia: Département Archéologie du Service des Musées et du Patrimoine de Nouvelle-Calédonie.

Sand, C. 1999a. The Beginning of Southern Melanesian Prehistory: The St-Maurice-Vatcha Lapita Site, New Caledonia. Journal of Field Archaeology 26(3): 307-323.

Sand, C. 1999b. Lapita and Non-Lapita Ware during New Caledonia's First Millennium of Austronesian Settlement. In J.C. Galipaud and I. Lilley (eds.), Le Pacifique de 5000 à 2000 avant le présent: Suppléments à l'histoire d'une Colonisation [The Pacific from 5000 to 2000 BP: Colonisation and Transformations], pp. 139-159. Paris; France: Institut de Recherche pour le Développement Editions.

Sand, C. 2000. The Specificities of the Southern Lapita Province: the New Caledonian Case. Archaeology in Oceania 35: 20-33.

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.

Green, R.C. 1979. Lapita. In J. Jennings (ed.), The Prehistory of Polynesia,pp.27-60. Cambridge; U.K: Harvard University Press.

Sand, C. and P.J. Sheppard. 2000. Long Distance prehistoric obsidian imports in New Caledonia: characteristics and meaning. Sciences-Series 11A-Earth and Planetary Science 331(3): 235-243.

Sheppard, P. 2010. Lapita Stone Tool Technology. In C. Sand and S. Bedford (eds.), LAPITA: ANCÊTRES OCÉANIENS, OCEANIC ANCESTORS, pp. 241-251.Paris; France: Somogy Éditions d’Art & Musée du Quai Branly.

Smart, C.D. 1969. Notes on the pottery sequence obtained from southern New Caledonia. Manuscript. Canberra; Australia: Department of Prehistory, Research School of Pacific Studies, The Australian National University.

Szabó, K. 2010a. Lapita Shell-Working and Shell Artefacts. In C. Sand and S. Bedford (eds.), LAPITA: ANCÊTRES OCÉANIENS, OCEANIC ANCESTORS, pp. 227-239.Paris; France: Somogy Éditions d’Art & Musée du Quai Branly.

Szabó, K. 2010b. Shell Artefacts and Shell-Working within the Lapita Cultural Complex. Journal of Pacific Archaeology 1(2): 115-127.