of Guam. All rights reserved.
Ethnographic and Archaeological Investigations in the Southwest
Islands of Palau
Rosalind L. Hunter-Anderson
and archaeological field work was conducted in 1992 at Tobi, Merir,
Pulo Anna, Sonsorol, and Fana. At Tobi, documentation included profiling
a wave-cut exposure of a ritual area mound near the landing on the
western side of the island and retrieving a soil sample from the
base of the mound for radiocarbon dating; locating and describing
seventeen earth-oven refuse mounds and excavating a shovel trench
into one of them, from which a charcoal sample was retrieved for
radiocarbon dating; photographing artifacts observed on the ground
surface and in private collections; recording information on traditional
resource use at Tobi and nearby Helen Reef; and interviewing older
Tobians living in Koror regarding traditional practices. A paleosediment
core was taken at an inland taro patch.
At Merir, the surface features on the large residential mound near
the landing on the west side of the island were sketched in plan
and information recorded about the mound's former uses; a shovel
trench was excavated into the south flank of the mound, and a paleosediment
core was taken at a small taro patch inland of the mound. Artifacts
from the surface at the beach were photographed. At Pulo Anna, a
shovel trench was excavated into a residential mound and charcoal
samples collected for radiocarbon dating and a paleosediment core
was taken at the margin of the large inland salt water pond. At
Sonsorol, a chiefly meeting house site was mapped and probed; charcoal
from the probe was collected for radiocarbon dating; Japanese
World War II defensive features were observed and photographed;
and historical information about Sonsorol and Fana was obtained.
At Fana, several shovel probes were excavated in a midden area at
the southern end of the island; soil from the base of one shovel
probe was retrieved for radiocarbon dating; a Palauan pottery sherd
was found at the base of this trench.
Information obtained in the field was compared with and interpreted
in light of German and Japanese ethnographic reports from the early
part of the 20th century. Our radiocarbon dating results indicate
that the Southwest Islands cultures were established at least three
hundred years ago and possibly as early as one thousand years before
the present; more excavations are needed to establish the occupational
sequence at each island.
A better understanding of coastal geomorphological processes and
their relation to weather and currents in the Southwest Islands
is also needed. Considering aged individuals' observations along
with historical records, geomorphological, and archaeological data,
can result in plausible reconstructions of the islands' past environmental
states. This information is crucial to sound planning for the management
of the natural and cultural resources of these small islands.
Micronesica 33(1/2): pp. 11-44, 2000.