Natunuku (VL1/1)

 

Geographical Information

Geographical Coordinate System
Longitude : 177° 44' 19.870" E
Latitude : 17° 27' 2.010" S
Height Above Sea Level:
Map Datum: WGS84
Country   Republic of the Fiji Islands.
Region
Eastern Lapita Province, Viti Levu.
Brief Description

The site of Natunuku (VL1/1) is located on the northern coast of Viti Levu on a small beach situated between the Vatia headland to the east and the Ba River Delta to the west1 (Davidson et al. 1990: 122). The present day village of Natunuku, from which the site derived its name, is located 500 meters inland to the southwest. In the past the village had been located, at least in part, in the same area as the archaeological site, as evidenced by the presence of house mounds and a modern graveyard extending for a total of 400 meters along the beachfront (Davidson et al. 1990: 122; Davidson & Leach 1993: 99).

The site was first discovered in the mid-1960’s by P. Bean and was first excavated in 1967 by E. Hinds with assistance from M. Qalo of the Fiji Museum (Davidson et al. 1990: 121). Further excavations at the site occurred in 1996 under the direction of A. Anderson and G. Clark (Anderson & Clark 2009: 1).

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Floor Plan


Stratigraphy


Site Information

Distribution of Remain(s)

The distribution of remains for VL1/1 is discussed with reference to published reports from both the 1967 and 1996 excavations.

The 1967 excavations targeted three separate locations; Location A, situated on the eastern end of the beach and within the area defined, as the “Old Natunuku Village,” and Locations B and C situated approximately 170 meters and 250 meters to the west of location A, respectively (Clark & Anderson 2009a: 126). The later 1996 excavations consisted of three areas (“excavations trenches” or ET) situated in close proximity to the original location C. ET1 and 2 lay side by side and were located approximately 40 meters to the south of location C, whereas ET3 was located approximately 40 meters to the southeast of location C (Clark & Anderson 2009a: Fig, 62).2

When comparing the three locations (the 1996 excavations are included within “location C”) a few points can be made:

Firstly, whilst pottery is present in all three locations, Lapita pottery (represented primarily by dentate stamped sherds) is only present in location C3 (Davidson et al. 1990: 124; Clark & Anderson 2009a: 129-131). The pottery present in locations A and B is represented by carved-paddle impressed and incised decoration and is possibly related to the post-Lapita occupation of the “old Natunuku Village” mentioned above (Davidson et al. 1990: 125). Pottery present in location C includes dentate stamped sherds as well as other forms of decoration such as carved-paddle and incised, as found in locations A and B (Davidson et al. 1990: 135-136; Clark 2009a: 301).

Secondly, structural features were identified in all three locations. Features in locations A and B primarily consisted of post-holes, whereas those identified in location C consisted of numerous post-holes, fire-pits and a stratigraphically pre-modern burial (Davidson et al. 1990: 123,130; Clark & Anderson 2009a: 133).

Specifically focusing on location C and the excavation trenches excavated by Clark & Anderson (2009), a number of points can be made:

Firstly, structural remains were present in the 1967 location C and ET3 but were absent in ET 1 and 2 (Davidson et al. 1990: 130; Clark & Anderson 2009a: 129-131).

Secondly, worked shell ornaments were present in the 1967 location C and in ET2 (Davidson et al. 1990: 132; Clark & Anderson 2009a: 130). The ornaments present in location C included Conus shell ring pieces, a shell disk and a perforated shell unit, those in ET2 included shell armband pieces, drilled shell pieces, drilled shell plates, notched shell and other worked shell forms (Clark & Anderson 2009a: 130; Davidson et al. 1990: 132).

Approximate Size 

Due to erosion site size cannot be determined (see Clark & Anderson 2009c: 423).

Preservation Condition

Due to a lack of information relating directly to artifact preservation conditions, a discussion is made of the stratigraphic integrity of site VL1/1.

Davidson et al. (1990: 123) noted that, with regards to the 1967 excavations, it was likely that locations A and B had been considerably disturbed by the digging and infilling of pits associated with structures built upon the site and that material had probably been re-deposited in location B by repeated grave digging in the burial ground adjacent to the area (Davidson et al. 1990: 123). Additionally, it was considered likely that some disturbance had occurred in location C due to the presence of a “succession of structures” in this part of the site (Davidson et al. 1990: 130). This point is supported by the presence of dentate stamped Lapita pottery in association with post-Lapita carved-paddle impressed pottery being present in every layer of location C (Davidson et al. 1990: 152).

Clark & Anderson (2009a: 129-130) noted that with regards to trenches 1 and 2 that disturbance was “extensive” and that re-deposition of archaeological material had occurred, likely due to natural processes and grave digging. Similar comments were made for trench 3 where it was noted that the stratigraphy in this part of the site had been “substantially disturbed” by ovens, post-holes and burrowing crabs (Clark & Anderson 2009a: 133). Disturbance in trench 3 is supported by the presence of carved paddle impressed pottery and dentate stamped pottery present throughout the entire sequence, including in the lower levels (Clark 2009a: 301, 303).

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

Conventional (uncalibrated) radiocarbon dates and sample provenance information:

3240±100 BP (GAK-1218), Location C, rectangle E, layer 6, sample obtained by collecting flecks of charcoal – Charcoal (Davidson et al. 1990: 131).

1896±86 BP (NZA2512), Location C, rectangle C, layer 5 – Human bone (Davidson & Leach 1993: 102).

2640±34 BP (NZ7863), Location C, rectangle D, layer 5 – Marine shell (Tridacna maxima) (Davidson & Leach 1993: 102).

2676±57 BP (NZA2117), Location C, rectangle D, layer 5 – Marine shell (Gafrarium tumidum) (Davidson & Leach 1993: 102).

2622±30 BP (NZ7865), Location C, rectangle D, layer 5b – Marine shell (Gafrarium tumidum) (Davidson & Leach 1993: 102).

2750±30 BP (NZ7864), Location C, rectangle D, layer 5b – Marine shell (Tridacna maxima) (Davidson & Leach 1993: 102).

98.4±1.0%M (ANU-10382), Trench 3, square 6 (25-40 cm) – Charcoal (Clark & Anderson 2009b: 156).

1160±70 BP (ANU-10699), Trench 3, square A5 (30-40 cm) – Marine shell (Tridacna sp.) (Clark & Anderson 2009b: 156).

99.7±0.8%M (ANU-10381), Trench 3, square A5 (10-20 cm) – Charcoal (Clark & Anderson 2009b: 156).

380±70 BP (ANU-10700), Trench 3, square A5 (10-20 cm) – Marine shell (Trochus sp.) (Clark & Anderson 2009b: 156).

2780±90 BP (ANU-10698), Trench 3, square A5 (20-30) – Marine shell (Tridacna sp.) (Clark & Anderson 2009b: 156).

2600±60 BP(ANU-11307), Trench 3, no context – Marine Shell (unknown species) (Clark & Anderson 2009b: 156).

1170±50 BP (ANU-11306), Trench 3, no context – Marine Shell (unknown species) (Clark & Anderson 2009b: 156).

2900±50 BP (ANU-11305), Trench 3, no context – Marine Shell (unknown species) (Clark & Anderson 2009b: 156).

Summary of calibrated radiocarbon dates:

The radiocarbon catalogue for VL1/1 displayed above was generated in two distinct phases, the first relates to dates collected during or from material excavated from the first excavations (Davidson et al. 1990:131; Davidson & Leach 1993) whereas the second relates to material collected during the second excavations (Clark & Anderson (2009b: 156). The two sets of radiocarbon dates will be discussed in turn.

The first set of radiocarbon dates were published by (Davidson et al. 1990: 131) and Davidson & Leach (1993: 103). Two calibrated dates GAK-1218, dating to 1623-1404 cal BC at one standard deviation (68.2% probability) and 1736-1266 cal BC at two standard deviations (95.4% probability) and NZA2512, dating to 29-243 cal AD (68.2% probability) and BC 62 – 372 cal AD (95.4% probability) are considered unreliable (see Spriggs 1990: 16; Petchey et al. 2011) and will not be discussed further here (Davidson et al. 1990: 131; Davidson & Leach 1993: 103).

The oldest of the first set of dates is NZ7864 dating to 509-393 cal BC (68.2% probability) and 624-367 cal BC (95.4% probability) and NZA2117 dating to 489-290 cal BC (65% probability) and 612-177 cal BC (95.4% probability) (Davidson & Leach 1993: 103). The youngest date is NZ7865 dating to 370-267 cal BC (68.2% probability) and 388-203 cal BC (95.4% probability) (Davidson & Leach 1993: 103).

The second set of radiocarbon dates were published by Clark & Anderson (2009b: 156,170). Two calibrated dates (ANU-10382, ANU-10381) returned a “modern” calibrated age and three (ANU-11307, ANU-11306, ANU-11305) had both species information and contextual information missing (see Clark & Anderson 2009b: 170).

The oldest dates are ANU-11305, ANU-10698 and ANU-11307 dating to 2490-2770 cal BP, 2310-2720 cal BP and 2110-2440 cal BP, at two standard deviations (95.4% probability), respectively (Clark & Anderson 2009b: 156, 170). The three youngest dates are ANU-10699, ANU-10700 and ANU-11306 which date to 600-890 cal BP, 160-230 cal BP and 630-840 cal BP at two standard deviations (95.4% probability), respectively (Clark & Anderson 2009b: 156, 170).

Artifact Type(s)

Lithics (one flake – chert), Worked Shell (shell ring / armband pieces, shell disk, perforated shell unit, notched shell, drilled shell pieces/plates) (Clark & Anderson 2009a: 130; Davidson & Leach 1993: 99; Davidson et al. 1990: 132).

Ceramic Type(s)

Cultural information

Significance

VL1/1 is argued to be one of the oldest Lapita sites in Fiji. Whilst the radiocarbon chronology for the site is problematic, analyses upon the Lapita ceramic material from the site support this argument. Research undertaken by Clark & Anderson (2009c: 420-423) which compared Lapita vessel forms and the presence / absence of Lapita decorative motifs, identified Natunuku as being one of the oldest Lapita sites in Fiji (see Clark & Anderson 2009c: 421-422), arguably second only to that of Yanuca (see Clark & Anderson 2009c: 422). The results of the research above is largely supported by Best (2002) and Nunn et al. (2007: Table 3), although the former argued that Natunuku was the oldest Lapita site in Fiji and the latter that it was the second oldest site after Naigani.

Brief Research History

Mid 1960’s – 1966 – Site first discovered by P. Bean who collected sherds from the beach and took them to the late B. Palmer, then director of the Fiji Museum, for identification. Palmer recognized the unique Lapita decoration present on a number of the sherds and visited the site in 1966 where he noted that the site was in serious threat of destruction by erosion (Davidson et al. 1990: 121).

1967 – First excavation of Natunuku by E. Hinds, with assistance from Moce Qalo of the Fiji Museum, in August and September 1967. The excavation was administered as part of a larger overall research program by the Bishop Museum and funded by the National Science Foundation Davidson et al. 1990:121). The excavation consisted of three areas or localities (A, B and C) being excavated, including two 2 x 1 meter pits at locality A and four pits of the same dimensions at locality B. Finally, six 1 x 2 meter pits and one 1 x 1 meter pit was excavated at area C (Davidson et al. 1990: 122, 124).

1978 – T. Hunt collected surface material from the eroding foreshore and excavated a 1 x 1 meter test pit at the site. Two complete pots were excavated from the site but no Lapita pottery was recovered (Davidson et al. 1990: 122).

1996 – Second excavation undertaken by A. Anderson and G. Clark under “The Early Prehistory of Fiji Project” (EPF) orchestrated by the ANU and the Fiji Museum, during 1996 (Anderson & Clark 2009: 1; Clark & Anderson 2009a: 129). Three excavations trenches were excavated in the vicinity of the 1967 “location C”. Excavation trench 3 was 8 m2 in size (Clark & Anderson 2009a: 129, 131).

Notes

1 – Davidson et al. (1990: 122) note that the location of VL1/1 has been incorrectly reported in previous research (see Frost 1979: Fig 3.1 and Pietrusewsky 1989).

2 – The locations of location’s B and C as described by Davidson et al. (1990: Fig. 3) were challenged by the later work of Clark & Anderson (2009:124-127) who employed an original plan provided by the late Dr. E. Hinds. The locations provided here are therefore based upon this later work. Note: the distances noted in this paragraph are estimates and were provided as a explanatory aid only, please refer to the original work for more information (See Clark & Anderson 2009: Fig. 62).

3 – Minimal information has been published about locations A and B. Due to difficulties in identifying the natural stratigraphic sequences in these two locations (possibly due to site disturbance), Hinds employed arbitrary 10 CM levels and, as such, the integrity of the artifact provenance information is in doubt (see Davidson et al. 1990: 122-124).

Reference(s)

Anderson, A., and Clark, G. 1999. The age of Lapita settlement in Fiji. Archaeology in Oceania 34: 31-39.

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.

Anderson, A. and G. Clark. 2009. Research on the early prehistory of Fiji. In G. Clark and A. Anderson (eds.), The Early Prehistory of Fiji, pp. 1-18. Terra Australis 31. ANU E Press, Australian National University.

Clarkson, C. and L. Schmidt. 2009. Stone artefact manufacture at Natunuku, Votua, Kulu and Ugaga, Fiji. In G. Clark and A. Anderson (eds.), The Early Prehistory of Fiji, pp. 345-372. Terra Australis 31. ANU E Press, Australian National University.

Clark, G. 2009a. Ceramic assemblages from excavations on Viti Levu, Beqa-Ugaga and Mago Island. In G. Clark and A. Anderson (eds.), The Early Prehistory of Fiji, pp. 259-306. Terra Australis 31. ANU E Press, Australian National University.

Clark, G. 2009b. Post-Lapita ceramic change in Fiji. In G. Clark and A. Anderson (eds.), The Early Prehistory of Fiji, pp. 307-320. Terra Australis 31. ANU E Press, Australian National University.

Clark, G. and A. Anderson. 2001. The pattern of Lapita settlement in Fiji. Archaeology in Oceania 36: 77–88.

Clark, G. and A. Anderson. 2009a. Fieldwork in northern Viti Levu and Mago Island. In G. Clark and A. Anderson (eds.), The Early Prehistory of Fiji, pp. 121-152. Terra Australis 31. ANU E Press, Australian National University.

Clark, G. and A. Anderson 2009b. Site chronology and a review of radiocarbon dates from Fiji. In G. Clark and A. Anderson (eds.), The Early Prehistory of Fiji, pp. 153-182. Terra Australis 31. ANU E Press, Australian National University.

Clark, G., and A. Anderson 2009c. Colonisation and culture change in the early prehistory of Fiji. In G. Clark and A. Anderson (eds.), The Early Prehistory of Fiji, pp. 407-437. Terra Australis 31. ANU E Press, Australian National University.

Clark, G., and D. Kennett. 2009. Compositional analysis of Fijian ceramics. In G. Clark and A. Anderson (eds.), The Early Prehistory of Fiji, pp. 321-344. Terra Australis 31. ANU E Press, Australian National University.

Clark, G., and K. Szabó. 2009. The fish bone remains. In G. Clark and A. Anderson (eds.), The Early Prehistory of Fiji, pp. 213-230. Terra Australis 31. ANU E Press, Australian National University.

Davidson, J., Hinds, E., Holdaway, S., and F. Leach. 1990. The Lapita Site of Natunuku, Fiji. New Zealand Journal of Archaeology 12: 121-155.

Davidson, J. and F. Leach. 1993. The Chronology of the Natunuku Site, Fiji. New Zealand Journal of Archaeology 15: 99-105.

Fankhauser, B., Clark, G. and A. Anderson. 2009. Characterisation and sourcing of archaeological adzes and flakes from Fiji. In G. Clark and A. Anderson (eds.), The Early Prehistory of Fiji, pp. 373-406. Terra Australis 31. ANU E Press, Australian National University.

Frost, E.L. 1979. Fiji. In J.D. Jennings (ed.), The prehistory of Polynesia, pp61-81. Canberra; Australia: Harvard University Press.

Mead, S.M. 1973. The relationships of the decorative systems of Fiji. In S.M. Mead, L. Birks, H. Birks and E. Shaw (eds), The Lapita Pottery Style of Fiji and its Associations, pp. 56-68. The Polynesian Society Memoir No. 38. Wellington; New Zealand: The Polynesian Society.

Nunn, P.D. 2005. Reconstructing Tropical Paleoshorelines Using Archaeological Data: Examples from the Fiji Archipelago, Southwest Pacific. Journal of Coastal Research 42: 15-25.

Palmer, B. 1966. Lapita style potsherds from Fiji. The Journal of the Polynesian Society 75(3): 373-377.

Petchey, F., Spriggs, M., Leach, F., Seed, M., Sand, C., Pietrusewsky, M. and K. Anderson. 2011. Testing the human factor: radiocarbon dating the first peoples of the South Pacific. Journal of Archaeological Science 38: 29-44.

Pietrusewsky, M. 1985. The earliest Lapita Skeleton from the Pacific: A Multivariate Analysis of a Mandible Fragment from Natunuku, Fiji. The Journal of the Polynesian Society 94(4): 389-414.

Pietrusewsky, M. 1989. A Lapita-associated skeleton from Natunuku, Fiji. Records of the Australian Museum 41(3): 297-325.

Shaw, E., 1973. The decorative system of Natunuku, Fiji. In S.M. Mead, L. Birks, H. Birks and E. Shaw (eds), The Lapita Pottery Style of Fiji and its Associations, pp. 44-55. The Polynesian Society Memoir No. 38. Wellington; New Zealand: The Polynesian Society.

Spriggs, M. 1990. Dating Lapita: another view. In M. Spriggs (ed.), Lapita Design Form and Composition: Proceedings of the Lapita Design Workshop, Canberra, December 1988, pp. 6-27. Occasional Papers in Prehistory 19. Canberra; Australia: Department of Prehistory, RSPacS, ANU.

Szabó, K. 2001. The reef, the beach and the rocks: An environmental analysis of mollusc remains from Natunuku, Viti Levu, Fiji. In G.R. Clark, A.J. Anderson and T. Vunidilo (eds), The Archaeology of Lapita Dispersal in Oceania, pp. 159–166. Canberra; Australia: Pandanus Books.

Szabó, K. 2009. Molluscan remains from Fiji. In G. Clark and A. Anderson (eds.), The Early Prehistory of Fiji, pp. 183-212. Terra Australis 31. ANU E Press, Australian National University.