Talepakemalai (ECA)

Geographical Information

Geographical Coordinate System
Longitude :  149° 37' 49.180" E
Latitude    :  1° 34' 17.550" S
Height Above Sea Level  :  1 – 2.36 meters (Kirch 2001a: 69)
Map Datum: WGS84
Country Papua New Guinea
Region
Far Western Lapita Province, Bismarck Archipelago, New Ireland Islands, Saint Matthias Group
Brief Description

ECA is located upon the Island of Eloaua, part of the Mussau Islands within the Saint Matthias Group. The site is located inland from the coast; its boundary stretches in an roughly ovoid shape along an East-West orientation and is transected by a small airstrip which runs across the breadth of the island. The western and eastern edges of the site are approximately 400 meters and 350 meters, respectively, from the coast (Kirch 2001a:70-71).

The central portion of the site is situated on a former beach terrace that is 0.8 – 1 meters higher than the surrounding land on the North, East and West, and has an undulating surface which varies between 1.8-2.35 meters above sea level (asl) (Kirch 2001a: 69). To the north the site drops down to 1-1.20 meters asl (Kirch 2001a: 78,133).

Vegetation cover primarily consisted of secondary regrowth resulting from cut and burn gardening practices of local villagers and dense forest coverage over the excavated areas in the far northern portion of the site (Kirch 2001a: 69).

During the initial settlement phase, approximately 3,500 BP, the island of Eloaua was composed of two upraised limestone blocks separated by a shallow lagoon (Kirch 2001a: 135). This initial settlement saw the construction of stilt-houses over the shallow lagoon and use of the plaeobeach terrace for cultural activities (Kirch 2001a: 132). Interestingly, Kirch (2001b: 213) argues that the usage of the paleobeach may have predated the construction of the stilt houses by as much as 100-150 years . The settlement configuration remained very similar during the later occupational phase from approximately 2,800-2,500 BP. However, due to coastal progradation the area of stilt housing occupied in the previous period was abandoned and a number of new stilt-houses were constructed further north (Kirch 2001a: 132). Finally, post ca. 2,500 BP, due to coastal progradation, the two limestone blocks were linked via a sand-spit, and the stilt-houses were abandoned (Kirch 2001a: 132).

ECA was first discovered in 1973 when the construction of a small runway by the S.D.A Mission led to archaeological materials being unearthed (Kirch 2001a: 71). The site was excavated in two phases, the first earlier phase consisted of two field seasons in 1973 and 1978 under the direction of B. Egloff, the second later phase consisted of three field seasons in 1985, 1986 and 1988 under the direction of P.V. Kirch (Kirch 2001a: 71-81).  

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Floor Plan

 


Stratigraphy


Site Information

Distribution of Remain(s)

It was determined that cultural materials were distributed over the vast majority of the ECA site, an area of approximately 72,500 m2 (Kirch 2001a: 74). However the cultural deposits excavated in the central, raised portion of the site are thin and highly disturbed (Kirch 2001a: 74-75).

    Deposits in Area A have a much larger number of cultural material than those found on the central raised portion of the site. Some disturbance is present in the upper portion of the deposit (Kirch 2001a: 85).

    Area's B and C, located to the north of Area A, have the highest density of cultural material and largest number of features within the site (Kirch 2001a: 92,103,118).

    Area B has the highest artefact density of any area within the site and also has a large number of recorded features (Kirch 2001a: 92, 103).

    Approximate Size 82,000 m2 (Kirch 2001a: 81)
    Preservation Condition

    Artifact preservation conditions are discussed with reference to the original transect units as described in Kirch (2001a:73-81). The transect units were established with reference to the main site datum and the coordinate grid system established from this point (see Kirch 2001a: Figure 4.1 for a diagrammatical representation of the site and its associated transect units) (Kirch 2001a: 74). Cultural deposits excavated along the East-West transect of the N0 line (encompassing the central section of the site) were noted as being “extensively reworked though intensive gardening” and contained pottery that was “highly fragmented and worn” (Kirch 2001a: 74). Cultural deposits excavated along perpendicular North-South transect lines at W100, W200 and W400 prior to Unit W200N100 match those excavated from the East-West transect (Kirch 2001a: 74). The excavation of Units W200N100 (originally TP13) and W200N150 (originally TP14) with their undisturbed rich cultural deposits and unweathered ceramic sherds, where the first indication that more undisturbed, well preserved, deposits may lie within the unexcavated northern portion of the site (Kirch 2001a: 74).

    The excavation of Area B (which incorporated the previously discussed Unit W200N150) is of particular importance due to its unique preservation conditions. The excavation of this area resulted in the discovery of a “completely undisturbed cultural deposit” containing material in an “excellent state of preservation” (Kirch 2001a:75). The presence of a large number of anaerobically preserved wooden posts and stakes indicates that incredibly favorable preservation conditions are present within Area B (Kirch 2001a: 77,92).

    Unique preservation conditions were also identified between Area B and Unit W200N100 known as the “muck zone” which contained a large amount of anaerobically preserved organic materials including wood fragments, coconut husks, seeds and nut shells amongst other materials (Kirch 2001a: 78).

    The excavation of Area C to the north of Area B, identified a large number of anaerobically preserved posts and stakes in addition to a wide array of well preserved cultural materials, such as plant remains, ceramics, faunal remains, obsidian flakes etc (Kirch 2001a: 81,118).

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

    Conventional (uncalibrated) radiocarbon dates and sample provenance information:

    Due to the immense number of radiocarbon dates for ECA a summary of the dates will be provided here, for a full listing of the ECA dates (including conventional Radiocarbon ages and calibrated ages) see Kirch (2001b: 223-231). For detailed information regarding sample calibration refer to Kirch (2001b: 198-204).

    Summary of calibrated radiocarbon dates:

    ECA was occupied no later than 1350 cal BC, with a possibility of occupation being even earlier at 1500 cal BC (Kirch 2001b: 213).

    The paleobeach terrace may represent first area of of the site to be utilized, possibly pre-dating the stilt house occupation in Area B by as much as 100-150 years (Kirch 2001b: 213).

    The earliest phase of stilt-house occupation, associated with the use of dentate-stamped ceramics, is dated to 1300-1100 cal BC. The later period of stilt-house occupation, associated in the beginning of the period with course-stamped dentate ceramics and later with incised ceramics, is dated to 1100-900/800 cal BC (Kirch 2001b: 213).

    Talepakemalai is argued to have been continuously occupied for at least 400-500 years, with a possibility of the occupation lasting as long as 600 years. No evidence for occupation of the site extending past 800 cal BC has been found (Kirch 2001b: 213). 

    Artifact Type(s)

    Pottery, worked shell artefacts (shell rings, beads, pendants, disks and rectangular units, scrapers and peelers, shell fish hooks), lithics (flakes, cores,adzes, oven stones), human bone fragments and teeth, worked bone (sculptures, perforated teeth), coral oven stones, worked wood (posts and stakes) and faunal remains (Kirch 1987: 172-176; Kirch 2001a: 92, 102-103, 113).

    Ceramic Type(s)

    Cultural information

    Significance

    The site of Talepakemalai (ECA) has great significance for research into the Lapita Culture and can be considered one of the most important Early / Far-Western Lapita sites in the Bismarck Archipelago. The importance of the is due to several key factors.

    Talepakemalai represents one of the earliest known Lapita sites in the Bismarck Archipelago, designated as being an the early/far-western Lapita settlement, and thus belongs to a select few sites that have the ability to provide data on the beginnings of the Lapita cultural complex in Near Oceania (Kirch 2001a: 69; Anderson et al.2001: 6). In addition to the Early-Lapita occupation at the site (~1300 – 1100 cal BC) a later phase of occupation (~1100-900/800 cal BC) was also identified suggesting continuous occupation in the area for approximately 400 – 500 years (Kirch 2001b: 213). The continuous occupation of Talepakemalai provides an important opportunity to study changes to the Lapita culture in a single settlement.

      The size of the site (82,000 m2) and the huge scale of the excavations in combination with the presence of highly favorable preservation conditions (including rare anaerobic conditions see “preservation condition” above) produced a very large culturally rich assemblage in a very good state of preservation. The assemblage consists of 44,089 ceramic sherds, 94,749 faunal remains, 1.43 metric tons of shell midden and hundreds of other artefacts, including rare anaerobically preserved wooden and organic materials (Kirch 2001a: 77-78,81,92). 

      Brief Research History

      1973– Construction of a small airstrip by SDA Mission on the Island of Eloaua leads to the discovery of “broken pots and some bones” Egloff 1975: 15). Trial excavations are undertaken by B.J. Egloff consisting of six 1 x 2 meter units being excavated (Egloff 1975: 15).

      1978– Second excavation of the site conducted by B.J. Egloff, F. Bafmatuk and R. Kaiku was conducted to the north of the airstrip in garden land, an area of 9 x 2 meters was excavated (Kirch 2001a: 73).

      1985– First of three field seasons lead by P.V. Kirch. A total of 33 m2 was excavated consisting of a series of transects totaling 15 m2 and the excavation of Area 's A and B totaling 6 m2 and 12 m2, respectively (Kirch 2001a: 83).

      1986– Second field season lead by P.V. Kirch, T. Hunt and M. Weisler acting as excavation supervisors. A total of 25 m2 was excavated consisting of a series of transects totaling 13 m2 and the expansion of Area B totaling 12 m2 (Kirch 2001a: 83).

      1988– Final field season lead by P.V. Kirch, D. Lepofsky and J. Tyler acting as site supervisors. A total of 26 m2 was excavated consisting of a transect totaling 14 m2, a further extension to Area B totaling 4 m2 and finally the excavation of Area C, totaling 8 m2. The three field seasons excavated a total of 84 m2 (Kirch 2001a: 83).

      Note
      Reference(s)

      Anson, D. 1983. Lapita Pottery of the Bismarck Archipelago and its Affinities. Unpublished PhD Thesis. Sydney; Australia: University of Sydney.

      Anson, D. 1986. Lapita pottery of the Bismarck Archipelago and its affinities. Archaeology in Oceania 21(3): 157-165.

      Bafmatuk, R., Egloff, B. and R. Kaiku.1980. Islanders: past and present: Hemisphere 25: 77-81.

      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.

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      Kirch, P.V. 1988b. Long-distance Exchange and Island Colonization: The Lapita Case. Norwegian Archaeological Review 21(2): 103-117.

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      Kirch, P.V. 1995. The Lapita Culture of Western Melanesia in the Context of Austronesian Origins and Dispersal. In P. Li, C. Tsang, Y. Huang,D. Ho and C. Tseng (eds.), Austronesian Studies Relating to Taiwan,pp. 255-294. Taipei; Taiwan: Academia Sinica.

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

      Kirch, P.V. 2000. On the Road of the Winds: An Archaeological History of the Pacific Islands before European Contact. Berkeley; U.S.A: University of California Press.

      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., Allen, M., Butler, V. and T. L. Hunt. 1987. Is there an early Far Western Lapita province? Sample size effects and new evidence from Eloaua Island. Archaeology in Oceania 22:123-127.

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

      Kirch, P.V. and T. Hunt. 1988b.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.

      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 M.I. Weisler. 1994. Archaeology in the Pacific Islands: An Appraisal of Recent Research. Journal of Archaeological Research 2 (4): 285-328.

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

      Lepofsky, D., Kirch, P.V. and K. Lertzman. 1998. Metric analyses of prehistoric morphological change in cultivated fruits and nuts: An example from Island Melanesia. Journal of Archaeological Science 25:1001-1014.

      Ross-Sheppard, C. 2011. Obsidian exchange and human interaction in the Bismarck Archipelago. Unpublished BA (Hons) Thesis. Auckland: New Zealand: University of Auckland.

      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.