Volume 85 1976 > volume 85, No. 1 > Ethno-archaeological investigations in Futuna and Uvea (Western Polynesia), by Patrick Vinton Kirch, p 27-70
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Differential adaptation of initial proto-Polynesian culture into a range of cultural variants has long been a topic of anthropological investigation. Burrows' 1 classic study of Western Polynesia is perhaps the best example of the comparative ethnographic approach. In the late 1950s, stratigraphic archaeology in Samoa and Tonga established a time depth for cultural adaptation and change in Western Polynesia of two or more millennia; recent linguistic studies have elaborated this archaeological picture. More than a decade of archaeological research in Samoa and Tonga has taken us some way towards an understanding of the processes of development and elaboration of Western Polynesian cultures, particularly with regard to patterns of settlement, exploitation, and modification of the environment.

It was with the aim of expanding such research that a programme of combined ethnographic and archaeological investigation of indigenous settlement patterns and agricultural systems was undertaken by the author in the geographically, ecologically, and culturally important Horne and Wallis Islands (Futuna, Alofi, and Uvea). 2 Geographically, the islands lie between Samoa to the east and Fiji to the south-west, a key position as regards the movements of populations into and out of Western Polynesia. Ecologically, Futuna, Alofi, and Uvea offer an environmental spectrum - 28 difficult to match in such microcosmic form elsewhere in Polynesia. Culturally, the elaboration of indigenous agricultural systems, particularly the agronomic variability of water-control technology, presented an untouched subject for archaeological research. Direct archaeological testing of ethnobotanical hypotheses is a recent development in Oceanic research; its full potential is yet to be realised.

The programme of research, of which only the first phase has been completed, is designed to investigate several related problems: (1) the nature of early Western Polynesian agricultural systems and their relationships to those of Eastern Melanesia; (2) the direction of agricultural development in Western Polynesia, and the internal mechanisms producing certain intensive irrigation and drainage systems attested ethnographically; (3) the role of diverse island microenvironments in differential adaptation; (4) the applicability of extant ethnographic descriptions of settlement patterns throughout Western Polynesia, and the extent to which they have changed through time; (5) the patterned relationships between settlements, social groups and agricultural systems; and (6) the use of change in settlement pattern to infer concomitant change in social grouping.


The present investigation derives its theoretical orientation from the concept of adaptation: the on-going process by which an organism (or population) establishes and maintains a viable relationship with its environment. Polynesia has often been proposed as a model situation for the study of cultural adaptation, given the historical status of the Polynesian populations as isolates differentiating over three millennia. 3 The present investigation of pattern and process in cultural differentiation, specifically the ecological relations between population and environment, is designed to capitalise on this Polynesian situation. Futuna and Uvea are seen as representing two social microcosms descended from common ancestral roots.

Adaptation eludes direct study; thus there is confusion in the use of the concept to include both process and the synchronic relationship between a population and its specific environment. 4 The present research design uses a concept of “adaptive strategy”, defined as the particular behavioural patterns used by a population at a specific time in a specific ecosystem. Applying this theoretical orientation in Futuna and Uvea involved two approaches: (1) ethnographic investigation of contemporary adaptive strategies in the two populations in relation to variation and contrast in the two ecosystems; and (2) archaeological investigation of past adaptive strategies for the two populations as these could be reconstructed at successive points through the two cultural sequences. The research strategy employs a co-ordinated ethno-archaeological approach in order to characterise successive changes in adaptive strategies of the - 29 two Western Polynesian populations, thereby providing a basis for formulating a model of adaptation as process.

Field investigations were conducted in the Territoire des îles Wallis et Futuna from March to August 1974. Intensive study was centred on Futuna; reconnaissance or extensive surveys were conducted on Alofi and Uvea. Archaeological research tactics followed those developed elsewhere in Polynesia and the Americas. 5 Ethnographic investigations focussed on contemporary agricultural systems and settlement patterns, following methods outlined by Conklin 6 and Brookfield. 7 A detailed study was made of the agricultural system of Nuku Village and the Sausau Valley (Futuna).


The Horne and Wallis Islands are three main “high” or volcanic islands; their indigenous Polynesian names are Futuna, Alofi, and Uvea (Fig. 1). Futuna and Uvea are 180 kilometres apart and lie about midway between the larger and better known Fijian and Samoan archipelagos. The three islands are an autonomous French overseas territory, whose administrative seat is at Matautu, Uvea. Alofi has not been permanently inhabited since the late prehistoric period.

These islands were selected as a research locus for three principal reasons: (1) they are relatively small, which simplifies a number of methodological problems and provides a theoretically ideal context in which to examine the consequences of population growth in a circumscribed environment; (2) the three islands have a striking range of ecological diversity which has important implications for adaptation; and (3) the indigenous agricultural systems of Futuna and Uvea 8 have been largely unaffected by European contact. Furthermore, they exemplify Yen's “Melanesia-Polynesia border area”, 9 a region of marked agricultural systems diversity, in cultigen inventory, agronomic variability, and food preservation-preparation methods.

Ethnographic investigations of Futuna and Uvea were conducted by E. G. Burrows in 1932 for the B. P. Bishop Museum. The resulting monographs 10 provide a baseline for further ethnographic inquiry. Linguistic materials 11 are also available for Futunan and Uvean. 12

The ecosystemic contexts of Futuna, Alofi, and Uvea are important variables. Much of the environmental contrast between the three islands is derived from their respective geology. Futuna and Alofi, to the west of the andesite line, are composed of Tertiary andesites, breccias, and dolerites. 13 A complex subsidence-emergence sequence capped all of

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Map of the south-western Pacific, showing the location of Futuna and Uvea in relation to other major island groups
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Alofi and the eastern portion of Futuna with Miocene limestones, marls, conglomerates and other sediments. Uvea, to the east of the andesite line, has had a simpler geological history. It consists primarily of Oceanic olivine basalts extruded from 19 separate vents. 14 Futuna and Alofi are mountainous, although Alofi's capping of karstic Miocene sediments has prevented the development of stream valleys (Table 1). Uvea is low and undulating and, though lacking permanent streams, has several large crater lakes. Uvea is covered with a deep oxidized soil of weathered basalt, which, however, is heavily laterised in some areas. 15

Geological evidence suggests that Futuna and Alofi are still in a cycle of uplift, represented by perhaps as much as 2-3 metres during the period of prehistoric occupation. This uplift creates significant consequences for first-millennium B.C. prehistoric sites (see below). Similar geological events (uplift or submergence) are now known to have affected prehistoric sites in both Samoa and Niuatoputapu. 16

Futuna and Uvea lie within the zone of southern trade winds, which blow regularly during the dry season (May to October). During the wet season, November to April, the wind is more irregular, the air humid, and heavy rains frequent (quantitative data in Table 1). Tropical cyclones, although they do not occur every year, can be disastrous. They may have had an important effect on prehistoric adaptive strategies, especially in the development of preserved food technology (particularly anaerobically fermented and ensiled breadfruit paste (masi)), providing a reserve food supply.

St. John and Smith 17 reported on the vascular flora of the Horne and Wallis Islands based on limited collections available to them. They noted that the indigenous flora is representative of the Fijian region, which is the eastern attenuation of the great Indo-Malayan rain forest formation. 18 The lower altitudes of Futuna, and much of Uvea, are covered in second growth or domestic cultigens reflecting several millennia of human use; Alofi retains significant stands of climax forest. One of the more interesting floral associations of the islands is the toafa, a sparse fern “desert” dominated by Dicranopteris linearis (Burm.) Underw., with Spathoglottis orchids and Pandanus trees. There are strong reasons for postulating that the toafa may be at least partially due to human interference and degradation of original forest cover.

Table 1 summarises some of the major ecological contrasts between Futuna, Alofi, and Uvea. Principal land biotopes are: uplifted coral reef (especially Alofi), swampy littoral margins (Uvea), forested mountains, toafa, windward and leeward valleys (Futuna), coastal plains. The marine biotopes are: littoral, fringing reef, lagoon and barrier reef (Uvea) and open sea.

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Summary of Ecological Contrasts Between Futuna, Alofi, and Uvea
Character Futuna Alofi Uvea
Area (hectares) 6,211 2,906 5,912
Population Density (per hectare) 0.301 19 1.006
Average Yearly Rainfall (mm) 3,000 20 2,599.6
Average Temperature 26.0** 27.0
Average % Relative Humidity 83%** 83%
Highest Point (metres) 760 365 150
Degree of Relief Highly dissected Elevated; not dissected Gently undulating
Permanent Streams 20+ none none
Geology Tertiary volcanics with some calcareous sediments Tertiary volcanics capped with calcareous sediments Pleistocene oceanic basalts
Fernland (toafa) Prominent Slight Prominent
Marine Resources Restricted Restricted Diverse

Ethnographic investigation focussed on agricultural systems, using ethnobotanical methodology. Settlement patterns, social organisation, and economics were also studied. The following pages briefly summarise salient aspects of contemporary Futunan and Uvean adaptive strategies, emphasising variation and contrast between the two societies.

The societal context in which agricultural activity is embedded centres on the household, or extended family (EFU kaiŋa; EUV api). 21 Descent and residence determine affiliation to these social groups as they do in other cognatic Polynesian systems. The terms kaiŋa and api apply equally to the group of persons, or to the land which they cultivate and on which they reside. Major property—houses, gardens, canoes, pigs—is controlled by the household as a corporate unit. Thus, the household constitutes the primary production and consumption unit in Futunan and Uvean society. To a large degree, the cookhouse and its earth oven (umu) are a focal point of the household, and the solidarity of kaiŋa or api is confirmed by the daily production, preparation, and consumption of food.

Households are grouped into villages, defined less by kinship relations than by residential propinquity and membership in the more inclusive political structure. One or more hereditary chiefs (aliki), along with the council (fono) of male elders, govern Futunan and Uvean villages. Chiefs control or direct economic organisation above the level of domestic production, including communal fishing, maintenance of irrigation networks or drainage channels, preparation of communal gardens, and contribution of food for feasts (katoaŋa). The importance of chiefly control and resource allocation in times of stress (EFU oŋe; EUV hoŋe), - 33 e.g. following a cyclone, seems to have diminished under the influence of the French administration.

Settlement patterns on Futuna and Uvea are radial; territories occupied by the basic social groups run from the islands' central points outwards to the reef, thus cross-cutting the concentric zonation of biotopes (interior, lowlands, coast, reef) and maximising access to resources. The residential zone is a narrow shore strip heavily interplanted with tree crops; shifting cultivations occupy the interiors of Futuna and Uvea. This settlement pattern would be equitable if all areas on the islands were evenly endowed with natural resources, particularly a constant supply of water. They are not, however, and the constraints of a “patchy” environment were apparently significant in the development of Futunan and Uvean adaptive strategies.

The cultigen inventories of the Futunan and Uvean cultivators—a set of 30-odd adventive species largely of tropical east or south-east Asian origin—are virtually identical, although there are some significant differences of dominance in the two systems. These cultigens are represented by one or more clones, and vegetative reproduction is the primary means of propagation. These clones are linguistically labelled (there being as many as 40 named clones of some important species) and subject to as detailed a folk taxonomy as is known for any group of tropical agricultursts. 22 Four groups of starch-staple producing cultigens (maŋiti) dominate the agricultural systems: aroids, yams, bananas, and breadfruit. The aroids include taro (Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott), kape (Alocasia macrorrhiza (L.) Schott), swamp taro (Cyrtosperma chamissonis (Schott) Merr.), and an American aroid, talo fiti (Xanthosoma sagittifolium (L.) Schott). Dominant yam species are ufi (Dioscorea alata L.) and ufi lei (D. esculenta (Lour.) Burkill), with lesser emphasis on D. nummularia Lam. (various clones: palai, tuakuku, etc.). Also present in a feral state are D. bulbifera L. and D. pentaphylla L., and their extensive distribution in second growth, along with the kudzu (Pueraria lobata (Willd.) Ohwi), suggests a possible former use of these plants in regular cultivation. They presently are regarded as famine foods. Numerous banana clones are cultivated, largely Eumusa triploid hybrids of Simmonds 23 types AAB and ABB. A form of Australimusa banana is also present. Arboriculture in Futunan and Uvean agriculture focusses on the breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis (Park ex Z) Fosb.), both seeded and seedless forms being present.

Several other crops, while not important producers of maŋiti, are of interest. Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) is the principal emollient for Futuna-Uvea cuisine, in addition to being an important pig-fodder. A species of sago palm (Metroxylon vitiense (H. Wendl.) Hook. f.) is cultivated on both islands, although it may be a relatively recent introduction from Rotuma. Piper methysticum Forst. is cultivated, and the ritual consumption of kava is still particularly important in Futunan culture. Other cultigens of note include paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrife a (L.) Vent.), sugar cane (Saccharum officinarum L.), ti (Cordyline fruttcosa (L.) - 34 A. Chevalier), Polynesian arrowroot (Tacca leontopetaloides (L.) Ok.), and several fruit- or nut-bearing trees (e.g. Inocarpus fagiferus (Park ex Z) Fosb., Terminalia cattappa L., Barringtonia edulis Seemann).

Futunan and Uvean agricultural tools are simple and effective. The planting pole or dibble (EFU koso; EUV huo) serves in ground preparation and harvesting; heavy and light varieties are used. Steel axes and machetes have replaced stone adzes as the principal implements used in shifting cultivation. Firing is still an important technique.

Agronomic variability in tropical Polynesian cultivation is nowhere more apparent than in the modification of hydrologic and edaphic conditions to favour the ecological templates of particular cultigens. Barrau 24 rightly pointed to “the wet and the dry” as perhaps the single most important key to Oceanic agricultural variation, following the preferred microenvironments of the hydrophytic taro and the tropophytic yam. In Futuna and Uvea, yams largely determine the scheduling of shifting cultivation—the dry half of the dichotomy. Intensive cultivation, requiring creation and maintenance of relatively sophisticated water control facilities, 25 centres on taro. As we shall see following a consideration of shifting cultivation, water control in Futuna and Uvea has developed in two rather contrastive agronomic ways, constrained by local ecology.

Shifting cultivation, in the characteristic Malayo-Oceanic pattern, 26 constitutes the extensive agricultural subsystem of Futuna and Uvea. In general, shifting cultivation in both societies follows similar sequences of clearing, planting and harvesting with a bush-fallow rotation of 10-20 years. However, in folk terminology, crop composition, clearing patterns, and other specifics, significant variations exist. In both Futuna and Uvea, the dominant crop, in composition and in terms of scheduling, is the yam (D. alata and D. esculenta). Swiddens are generally interplanted with aroids, particularly Colocasia and Alocasia; however, in Uvea Alocasia assumes a major role and Colocasia a strictly secondary. This contrasts with Futuna, where one category of swidden ('umaŋa) comprises a Colocasia monocrop.

A mixed yam-aroid swidden forms the dominant pattern in both islands. These fields (EFU mouku; EUV ŋaue), which are cleared during the dry season, are planted first in yams and inter-planted immediately after in aroids. Yams are harvested first (7-9 months), followed by aroids (Colocasia one year, Alocasia 1.5 years). Planting of bananas usually extends the productive life of the swidden to 3-4 years (other possible variations include cropping with manioc).

Shifting cultivation is more intensive in the Alo district of Futuna than in Sigave district (Sigave having major irrigation systems which are lacking in Alo), and more intensive in Uvea than in Futuna. This to some extent reflects population densities (see Table 1). This contrast is perhaps best displayed in folk terminology and in directed-graph representations of land use categories. In etic terminology, the sub-system of shifting cultiva- - 35 tion involves four primary land use states: (1) swidden; (2) second growth; (3) primary or climax forest; and (4) the fern-desert association noted earlier. These etic categories are closely matched in indigenous linguistic categories, for which the following dyads provide defining criteria:

  • arable:non-arable A:Ā
  • cultivated:fallow C:
  • herbaceous vegetation:
  • woody vegetation H:

The Futunan and Uvean terminological sets, with componential definitions, are:

  • FUTUNA (1) faiŋasaŋa : AC
  • (2) lusa : AH
  • (3) vao matu'a : A
  • (4) toafa : Ā
  • UVEA (1) ŋaue : AC
  • (2) vao mui : AH(1)
  • (3) vao lelei : AH(2)
  • (4) vao matu'a : A
  • (5) toafa : Ā

These linguistic domains differ principally in the definition of second growth, Uvean making a finer distinction in largely weedy-grassy second growth (vao mui) and older herbaceous to woody growth (vao lelei). This second category is the preferred vegetative association in which to clear a new swidden (lelei = “good”). Such a finer distinction might be supposed to reflect a more intensive system, in which a maximum long fallow, which is culturally desirable, may not always be possible.

Such intensiveness in the Uvean case was, in fact, the observed phenomenon, and was supported in lengthy informant discussions. The sequences of land use in Futuna and Uvea may also be represented in directed graphs, using indigenous folk taxa as nodes, solid arrows to indicate normal sequences, and broken arrows to indicate possible, but culturally undesirable, sequences:


The broken line in the Uvean graph emphasises that replanting of a swidden is a culturally recognised alternative (it is not usually so considered in Futuna), although one that is exercised only when the other choices are not available. As implied in the graph, toafa is a terminal state, induced through over-use. Informants concurred with this interpretation, pointing out toafa patches which had a few years previously been second growth but which had become degraded through exposure and erosion in swiddening. (This is not to suggest, however, that swiddening must necessarily result in toafa, or that all toafa is due to shifting cultivation.)

Intensive agriculture in Futuna and Uvea involves the control of local - 36 hydrology in order to create a suitable microecology for taro cultivation. However, the particular Futunan and Uvean agronomic adaptations differ considerably, reflecting ecological constraint. In the well-watered stream valleys of Sigave and Tu'a on Futuna, streamflow is diverted and redirected by a series of irrigation networks into pondfield systems (EFU teleŋa), complexes of artificially levelled, bunded, and flooded fields (Plate 1). On Uvea, the primary source of water is seepage from springs issuing from the Ghyben-Herzberg aquifer; low-lying swampy margins of the island have been drained with channels, leaving raised “garden-island” areas (EUV to'oŋa) upon which taro is planted. This drainage should not be construed as creating a xeromorphic environment, for the objective is control of water rather than its elimination. The taro plants are thus allowed to tap a freely flowing water-level only ± 0.5 metre below the taro-corm level.

These water control systems are intensive in several respects. Spatially, they occupy a defined area, unlike shifting cultivation which requires a supporting region of fallow second growth. Temporally, irrigation-drainage systems are re-cropped successively over considerable periods (although fallow is still necessary), reducing the cropping-to-fallow ratio. Furthermore, these systems are intensive because they require construction and maintenance of relatively elaborate and sophisticated facilities (ditches, diversion structures, bunds, drainage channels, etc.).

The shifting cultivation and intensive systems described above involve a set of largely herbaceous, annually-bearing crops. The third agricultural component, arboriculture, is centred on perennial tree-crops, especially breadfruit, but also coconut, sago palm, and several nut- or fruit-bearing trees. Breadfruit is a major source of starch staple when it is fruiting. More significant for indigenous adaptive strategies was the ensilage and semi-anaerobic fermentation of breadfruit paste (EFU masi, EUV mahi). Supplies of fermented breadfruit paste provided a food reserve in times of stress, e.g. during periods of food shortage following a cyclone. Masi is preservable for up to a decade. With the “insurance” provided by Western starch foods (flour, rice) and an assumed governmental posture of relief in times of famine, masi production has all but disappeared, and forms one aspect of the disintensification of indigenous agriculture. 27

Animal husbandry forms an integral part of Uvean, and especially Futunan, adaptive strategies. Though barred from fields by walls or other barriers, pigs need to consume sizeable quantities of vegetable foods. They are fed daily on coconut and food scraps; taro or bananas are often cooked for them. Pigs provide an important ecological function as scavengers, particularly in consuming human faeces along the strand. All important social functions, especially food distributions (EFU, EUV katoaŋa), are marked by presentation or exchange of cooked pigs.

Traditional agricultural calendars based on lunar or other astronomical phenomena (e.g. Pleides rising) provided the regulatory basis of the Futunan and Uvean agricultural systems. These are not fully described in missionary accounts 28 and have in any case been supplanted by the

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Irrigated pondfields at Nuku, Futuna. Note the elevated mounds of mud and weeds (fā kele), planted with taro, in the foreground. Tree crops of banana, breadfruit, coconut and a stand of Metroxylon palms are visible along the edge of the pondfield system. (Neg. No. FU(a,2)4-20)

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Gregorian calendar. Another indigenous method of time reckoning, that of yam-planting periods, has been retained. These periods (EFU, EUV ta'u) begin early in the dry season and continue until its end. Linguistic data suggest that the ta'u paradigm may be of some antiquity in the central Pacific. 29

Ethnographic investigation in Futuna and Uvea produced data for the descriptions of contemporary agricultural systems and settlement patterns summarised above. The present situation is the result of a lengthy process of cultural adaptation and differentiation. The analysis of present-day systems and of the variations and contrasts between islands suggests certain hypotheses about this adaptive process; the diachronic evidence of archaeology provides a means of testing these hypotheses.

Futuna and Alofi: Survey

In an archaeological terra incognita such as Futuna and Alofi, the first task was reconnaissance survey. Burrows' monograph 30 hinted at the range of prehistoric sites, and the discovery of surface potsherds at Vele by Bruce Biggs indicated that ceramic-bearing deposits would be encountered. However, the actual range of archaeological features, their distributions and frequencies, were unknown when field work began.

Archaeological features on Futuna and Uvea are categorised in Table 2

Typology and Distribution of Archaeological Features on Futuna, Alofi, and Uvea Islands.
Site Category Futuna Alofi Uvea Total
Ceramic Sites 3 1 6 10
Earthen Habitation Terraces 6 6
Stone-Outlined House Foundations A 31 A
Raised Stone Habitation Platforms A
Shelter Cave 1 1
Earthen Mounds        
Rectangular, non-faced 1 4 5
Rectangular, stone-faced 3 3
Circular, with ramp, non-faced 2 2
Circular, with ramp, stone faced 1 1
Coral-slab Tombs 3 2 5
Cobble-outlined Burials A
Backrest Stones or Alignments 3 1 4
Malae Plazas 2 1 1 4
Roadways (sunken/elevated) 1 A
Stone-walled Enclosures 3 3
Wall-and-ditch Enclosures 2 2
Fortified Ridgetops 2 2
Wells (stone-lined) 1 1 2
Sharpening Stones (boulder type) 1 1 2
Fermentation Pits (lua masi) 2 2
Agricultural Sites (pondfield/dry field) A A
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Map of Futuna and Alofi islands; dots represent locations of major archaeological sites; triangles represent mountain peaks
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according to a preliminary classification using both formal and functional criteria. Archaeological features may or may not be coterminous with sites, which may be groups of apparently associated features (a complete list of sites, by number, is provided in Appendix 1).

During the survey, it became apparent that Futunan settlements have always been concentrated along the narrow coastal plain. Geological uplift, referred to earlier, has seemingly resulted in an aggradation of the shoreline some ± 100 metres along the western end of the island; thus several ceramic-bearing deposits (representing approximately the first third of Futunan prehistory) are located a few metres inland of the modern villages. Nevertheless, the greater part of the Futunan sequence seems to be represented in the large amorphous habitation mounds upon which most contemporary villages are situated. Excavation in these mounds could not be undertaken in 1974 owing to time and funding limitations, but are a necessary part of continued research.

The region surrounding Nuku Village in Sigave District (Fig. 2), including the Sausau Valley, was surveyed in detail and confirmed the impression of dominant coastal settlement. Inland sites were restricted to ridge-top fortifications (FU-1, -2), a cluster of fortified habitation terraces (FU-21, dated to late prehistoric-early historic times by a C14 age determination, I-8356, < 180 B.P.), and agricultural features. The two fortifications, which were mapped, made use of steep natural ridges in conjunction with artificial fosses, terraces and walls to provide defence. They are similar in form to ridge fortifications in Samoa. 32

Two sites (FU-17, -18) apparently representing small nucleated villages, which were traditionally associated with several paramount chiefs of the late prehistoric period, were surveyed in the Asoa area, about 20 minutes' walk from the coast. These are situated on a fertile, semi-karstic plateau suitable for shifting cultivation. Several abandoned masi pits were noted in this area. On the coast at Vele are the cut coral-slab tombs (FU-16) of the paramount chiefs of Asoa, especially those of Niuliki and Veliteki.

On Alofi, the gently sloping interior plateau has not been a barrier to permanent inland settlement as the mountainous interior of Futuna has been. Low stone-outlined foundations were noted throughout the Alofian bush, and a ceramic site (AL-9) was discovered on the central ridge in an environment suitable to shifting cultivation. The best-preserved example of a late-prehistoric Futunan village—it is one of the clearest village patterns in Western Polynesia—is site AL-1 at Loka, near the eastern tip of Alofi. This site, covering several acres, includes a malae or ceremonial plaza with coral backrest stones, stone-outlined house foundations (some of them identified by informants as chiefs' houses, other as bachelors' quarters), and tombs of chiefs as well as commoners. The site was mapped with plane table and alidade and excavations are planned as part of a continuing field programme.

Excavations on Futuna

Because of limited resources, extensive excavation could not be under- - 40 taken in 1974; therefore excavation work was directed towards two major problems: (1) the nature of the ceramic-bearing sites on Futuna, and (2) the developmental history of pondfield irrigation in the Sausau Valley. The first is important in order to determine Futuna's position in Western Polynesian prehistory and to establish the economic basis of the island's founding population; the second is essential for determining the developmental pattern of agricultural intensification in Western Polynesia. In addition, test excavations of habitation and fortification sites were undertaken, but detailed investigation of these sites awaits further field work.

Excavation was undertaken at FU-11, a ceramic site located at Tavai (Fig. 2), where numerous potsherds and other portable artefacts were eroding out of an exposed cultural stratum cut by the narrow Vailala streamlet. The depth of the deposit capping this stratum (2.40 metres) restricted the excavation locus to 6 square metres (Plate 2); the depth of the completed cut was 4.20 metres. The relatively complex stratigraphy consisted of 10 major layers: Layers I-VI were largely fluvially deposited sterile overburden; Layer VII comprised a probable agricultural soil horizon; Layer VIII was sterile clay overburden, Layer IX the cultural stratum (2.40-3.50 metres below surface), and Layer X, clay subsoil. Features in Layer IX were limited to two badly decomposed secondary burials.

As noted earlier, the western half of Futuna appears to be undergoing an active period of geological uplift. The deep burial of the FU-11 deposit, and its location a few hundred metres inland, suggests that the coastline has slowly aggraded. An older buried reef platform, now 1-2 metres above sea level, is exposed in the Vailala streamlet seaward of the FU-11 site; this may have been the actual reef at the time of the site's occupation.

Excavations at FU-11 yielded 7,305 ceramic sherds of which 6,841 are plain (non-decorated) body fragments (see below for summary description). Other portable artefacts from the site were stone adzes, hammer-stones with pecked finger grips, stone flakes, chert core and flake tools, a grindstone, and numerous stone manuports (see Figs. 3 and 4). Non-artefactual materials include a dog pre-molar, fish vertebrae, coral, fragments of coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) endocarp, candlenut (Aleurites moluccana (L.) Willd.) endocarp, and a Pandanus key.

Charcoal from the lower 20-cm level of Layer IX was submitted to Teledyne Isotopes for radiocarbon age determination, which gave a result (I-8355) of 2120 ± 80 B.P. (1950, T½ = 5568 years). This result corrected by the methods of Ralph et al., 33 gives a “true” age of 200 ± 90 B.C., or 110-290 B.C. at one standard deviation (68.27 per cent probability). 34 Sherd samples have been submitted to the Applied Science Center for Archaeology at the University Museum, University of Pennsylvania, for thermoluminescence dating; results are pending.

Test excavations were also conducted at site FU-19, a ceramic site adjacent to Fugu'utulei hill at Nuku. The site, now situated directly inland

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Test excavation at Site FU-11, Tavai, Futuna, indicating depth of deposit. The lowest 1-metre thick layer contains pottery attributable to a Late Eastern Lapita horizon. (Neg. No. FU(a,2)18-10A)

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Chert artefacts from Site FU-11, Tavai, Futuna: (a) bifacially worked chopper on a stream-worn cobble; (b) core tool; (c) retouched flake; (d) core retaining cortex on one side; (e) non-retouched flake; (f) non-retouched flake retaining cortex along one edge
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Hammerstones with pecked finger grips from Site FU-11, Tavai, Futuna
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of the cookhouse zone, may at the time of its occupation have been located near the shoreline, which appears to have aggraded some ± 100 metres during the past 2,000 years. This site has been greatly disturbed by the encroachment of pondfields and dryland agricultural activity. Originally, the area of sherd distribution covered approximately 7,000 square metres. Surface collection and test excavation yielded 718 artefacts, of which 613 are potsherds. The ceramic assemblage is virtually identical to that from FU-11.

The ceramic site first discovered by Biggs at Vele (FU-13) was tested; however, no intact cultural deposits were found. The site appears to have been thoroughly disturbed by construction of a small airfield. Surface collections were made at this site and at site AL-9 on Alofi.

Futunan Ceramics

The most significant ceramic assemblage is that from site FU-11; the FU-19 materials are virtually identical. The smaller FU-13 and AL-9 collections are significantly different.

All of the FU-11 ceramic materials were made from a relatively uniform reddish clay paste, producing surface colours ranging from 2.5 YR 4/4 through 5 YR 5/8 to 10 R 4/4 (Munsell designations). Many sherds have blackened interiors. The paste was tempered with fine, sand-sized particles (see Appendix 2 for petrographic analyses by W.R. Dickinson). Most sherds range in thickness from 5-8 mm, although there are a considerable number with thickness averaging 3 mm, and thicknesses as small as 2.5 mm have been noted.

Manufacture appears to have been by means of a coiling or ring method, with paddle-and-anvil finishing. Some base sherds have been thickened by applying an additional slab. Exterior surfaces were usually wiped and sometimes burnished. A red slip (0.5-1 mm thick, colour 10 R 4/6) was used on some vessels. Almost all vessels were well-fired, which is shown by their thoroughly oxidised cores.

Rim form in the FU-11 assemblage (302 examples) is relatively simple, dominantly vertical rims with flat lips and thickened rim course. 35 Everted rims are also present, as are rounded lips and non-thickened rim courses. Throughout the period represented by Layer IX, a gradual shift from thickened to non-thickened rim courses is evident. All 89 excavated base sherds indicate that the vessels had rounded, thickened (15-20 mm) bases. Most sherds of sufficient size to determine vessel shape appear to have been from one or more variations of a pot or jar with restricted orifice (Fig. 5). The absence of obvious bowls is unusual; some of the smaller rims may be from bowls, but their small size makes vessel-shape determination speculative. Another major vessel type at FU-11 and FU-19 is a globular, handled-jar (Fig.5, a).

There are no examples of incising, applique, or dentate stamping decoration in the FU-11, FU-19, or AL-9 material. However, 62 sherds from FU-11, and several from FU-19, have been paddle impressed in a

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Ceramics from Site FU-11, Tavai, Futuna: (a) handled, globular jar; (b-d) restricted orifice vessels; (e) selection of representative rim profiles from Square C2 (all levels)
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Ceramic objects from Site FU-11, Tavai, Futuna: (a) ‘disk’, with artificially rounded edges; (b) miniature pot-like object of unknown function; (c, d) impressed sherds; (e) side view and plan of handle fragment; (f) handle fragment attachment to body sherd; (g) possible leg, or handle fragment
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style similar to that from Samoa illustrated by Green and Davidson. 36

In manufacture and vessel form, the Tavai and Nuku ceramic assemblages resemble the Sigatoka materials excavated by Birks 37 in Fiji. There also appear to be parallels with the earlier Falefa Valley materials in Samoa 38 and with the pottery from Niuatoputapu. 39 Tentatively, the FU-11 and FU-19 ceramic assemblages may be assigned to Green's Late Eastern Lapita, 40 the assemblages which lack Lapita decoration but retain characteristic vessel forms (and presumably functions); the handled, globular jar is a case in point. 41 The Futunan materials, then, may be viewed as intermediate between an earlier Lapita horizon and the later Samoan Plain Ware horizon.

The ceramics of site FU-13 differ considerably from those of FU-11 or FU-19. Unfortunately, the small collection (195 body sherds, 9 rims, and 3 bases) remains undated and without stratigraphic association. Sherds range in thickness from 4-8 mm; surface colour is red to dark red (10 R 3-4/6). Considerable use was made of calcareous sand temper (see Appendix 2). Many sherds have black, inoxidised interiors, a result of incomplete firing. The paddle-and-anvil method was used in vessel finishing.

FU-13 rims are illustrated in Figure 7. All seem to have been from pots with restricted orifices. The base sherds indicate round-bottomed, globular pots. Two sherds from the site are of particular importance: (1) a

Rim profiles of ceramic sherds from Site FU-13, Vele, Futuna

rim, apparently from a simple bowl, which has equally spaced indentations along the lip; and (2) a carinated shoulder sherd which has a horizontal incised line about 5 mm above and parallel to the carination. The carinated sherd is virtually identical to similar specimens excavated on Anuta Island. 42 Indeed, the entire FU-13 collection is the closest parallel to the Anuta ceramic assemblage that this author has examined.

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The small collection of sherds from site AL-9 on the Alofi plateau is similar in form and manufacture to those of FU-11 and FU-19. The temper, however, differs significantly (see Appendix 2).

Agricultural Excavations

The other major excavation work was undertaken in the irrigated pondfields of the Sausau Valley and Nuku area. Ethnographic inquiry and 1:1000 mapping of the contemporary irrigation system provided an initial set of hypotheses regarding the probable developmental history of this system, which is the largest and most complex on Futuna. Excavations were designed to identify stratigraphic or structural modifications of the local microenvironment which might indicate past agricultural activities. Field methods closely followed those developed in the Hawaiian and Solomon Islands 43—methods that use such pedological indicators as oxidation-reduction (illuviation-eluvation) soil regimes, limonite concretions, or charcoal flecking to indicate past agricultural technique.

Fourteen trenches were dug in selected localities of the Nuku area in order to test a broad microenvironmental range. In Trench T-1 near the Sausau Stream, good stratigraphic evidence was obtained of two separate pondfield irrigation phases, separated in places by fluvially deposited gravel which probably represents localised flooding of the Sausau Stream. This sequence was indicated by two oxidation-reduction horizons formed under aqueous or subaqueous conditions. Two other cuts, made in low-lying areas with original intermittent streamflow, had thick deposits of carbon-rich clay-silt in a reducing environment, which suggests lengthy use under a pondfield regime.

Other excavations in higher, more peripheral fields exhibited simple, poorly developed oxidation-reduction regimes, which indicate construction later in the developmental sequence of the Nuku pondfield system. Unfortunately, sufficient amounts of carbon in pondfield soils were not obtained so as to permit C14 age determination. The combination of stratigraphic evidence and an ecological model are only indications of possible date, subject to excavation combined with absolute dating. Nevertheless, it is possible to postulate a sequence of pondfield expansion, or intensification, beginning in localised areas of low-lying hydromorphic soils, with easy access to irrigation water. Gradual expansion of field area may then have led to the incorporation of more peripheral areas, and to the use of less reliable water sources. Interestingly, disintensification of agriculture in the past few decades, under the pressures of an intruding Western economy, 44 has led to the abandonment of these peripheral fields and smaller field systems. This “contraction” of irrigation facilities can be seen in certain respects as the reverse of the process of intensification which led to their development.

Excavation was also conducted in a small, abandoned pondfield system lying on the border between Nuku and Leava villages. The system had

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Map of Uvea; dots represent locations of major archaeological sites; triangles represent mountain peaks

formerly comprised a simple series of descending fields (averaging 100 m2 or less) whose main embankments were perpendicular to the adjacent stream which provided irrigation water. An earlier pondfield horizon, exposed in a trench cutting across two adjacent fields, provided a carbon sample yielding a C14 age determination (I-8354) of 185 ± 80 B.P. - 49 (1950, T½ = 5568 years). Correction for new half-life and for atmospheric variation in C14 45 gives an age of A.D. 1650 ± 90, or a range at one standard deviation (68.27 percent probability) 46 of A.D. 1560-1740. This result indicates that small, intermittent streamlets such as that at Lotuma were being used for irrigation by late prehistoric times.

Uvea Island: Survey

A reconnaissance survey over a five-week period resulted in the discovery of 19 separate sites in the south-east region of Uvea (Fig. 8); in addition, numerous other features, such as concentrations of stone habitation platforms, were noted but they could not be described individually and plotted. Uvean archaeological features are enumerated in Table 2.

Six ceramic-bearing sites were discovered, four immediately adjacent to the coast and two on the interior plateau. These sites consist of surface potsherd scatters; the sherds apparently were displaced vertically by agricultural activity. The area of sherd scatter ranges from c. 1000 m2 (UV-19) to c. 8,000 m2 (UV-15). Ceramic materials are described below.

A common feature of the Uvean archaeological landscape, which contrasts with that of Futuna, is the presence of raised stone habitation platforms. These are common throughout much of the interior of south-east Uvea; particularly heavy concentrations of them occur near several large stone-walled fortifications.

The lexeme kolo in Uvean has the referrent “fortification” and appears in such local place names as Kolonui (“large fort”). Five fortification sites are presently known to exist in Uvea: three large, stone-walled enclosures and two enclosures using a combination of wall-and-ditch for defence. The Makahu fortification (UV-8), inland of Tepa Village, is typical of the stone-walled enclosure type. It is a large rectangle (c. 100 metres long and 80 metres wide) whose walls of carefully positioned but otherwise unmodified basalt cobbles measure 1.5-2 metres wide at the base, about 1 metre wide at the top, and 2-3 metres thick. One entrance on the north, about 1 metre wide, was originally capped with two massive stone lintels.

Uvean fortifications, especially the wall-and-ditch type, are similar to those of Tonga. 47 There are good indications, particularly in the traditional history collected by Henquel, 48 that Uvean forts were associated with localised descent groups, such as the Ha'avakatolo or Ha'amea.

The presence of several varieties of rectangular and circular mounds on Uvea also indicates Tongan relationship. These include both stone-faced and unfaced rectangular earthen mounds, apparently used for burial, and circular mounds with symmetrical ramps. Three of these latter mounds were discovered in a cluster inland of Tepa Village (UV-12, UV-13). Site

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Plan of stone-faced symmetrical earthen mound, Site UV-13, Luo, Uvea

UV-12 contains two large unfaced earthen mounds, of similar form, about 80 metres apart. Site UV-13 is a single stone-faced mound about five minutes' walk to the west of UV-12; its plan is given in Figure 9. These sites are virtually identical to the “pigeon mounds” (sia heulupe) described by McKern 49 for Tonga, and strongly suggest Tongan influence in Uvea.

Uvean Ceramics

Surface collecting at the six ceramic sites yielded 641 sherds, of which 592 are plain body sherds. Ceramic material from all sites is similar in manufacture, temper, and form. The reddish clay paste (producing a

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Ceramic objects from Uvean sites: (a, b, c) handle fragments; (d) incised sherd from Malaetoli; (e) rim profiles from Site UV-18

surface colour of 10 R 4/4-6) was heavily tempered with multi-crystalline volcanic rock fragments of local origin (see Appendix 2). The pottery appears to have been well fired. Sherds range from 8-15 mm thick (generally thicker than the Futunan ceramics), although site UV-15 yielded a higher percentage of thinner sherds, from 5-7 mm thick.

The small size of the sherds makes it difficult and tenuous to determine techniques of manufacture and vessel forms. Rims are generally either straight and flat-lipped, or exteriorly thickened. Vessel form includes simple bowls, globular vessels with restricted orifices, and handled jars. One carinated body sherd was found at Site UV-18; it may have come from a carinated bowl. Uvean ceramics are illustrated in Figure 10.

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Classification and Distribution of Adzes from Futuna and Uvea
TYPOLOGY   Futuna     Uvea  
Defining Criteria Type Burrows 1932 Kirch 1974 Burrows 1932 Mission 1974 Kirch 1974
A. Quadrangular Section            
1. Back > Front            
a. Partially Ground            
1. Thin I       5 1  
2. Thick IX   1     3  
b. Fully Ground            
1. Thin III       2   1
2. Thick X         4  
2. Front > Back            
Thin IV   1 1   4  
B. Plano-Convex Section            
1. Thin Va     2     2
2. Thick Vb   1 1 1    
C. Triangular Section            
1. Apex Up VI       1 2  
2. Apex Down VIII            
D. Other            
1. Sub-Quadrangular Section, Fully Ground   2 1      
2. Cook Island Type       1    
3. Unclassifiable   1 2 1   2
Total   6 7 11 14 6
Futunan and Uvean Adzes

Seven Futunan and six Uvean adzes were collected in the field; in addition, I recorded 14 Uvean adzes in the collection of the Société de Marie on Wallis. Combined with 6 Futunan and 11 Uvean adzes collected by Burrows in 1932, which are now in the Bishop Museum, there is a total of 44 specimens. The adze assemblages of the two islands may be compared with each other, and compared with the assemblages of other Western Pacific islands. Table 3 presents a classification and distribution of adzes by island and collection. The classification of Green and Davidson, 50 devised for Samoan adzes and based on Buck's 51 original scheme, has been used. Nearly all of the Futunan and Uvean adzes could be accommodated in this classification, with the addition of a single new type, tentatively defined as well-ground, untanged adzes with a sub-quadrangular cross-section. The use of the Samoan classification, designed for adzes of that archipelago alone, could of course be questioned in the present context, and more comprehensive Futunan and Uvean collections may in the future require separate typologies. However, Green and Davidson's classification admirably suits the present collection; it has the advantage of allowing direct comparison among Futunan, Uvean, and Samoan assemblages.

Quadrangular sectioned adzes of varying types (I, III, IV, IX, X) are

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Basalt adzes from Uvean ceramic sites: (a) Type III, Site UV-3; (b) Type Va, Site UV-18; (c) Type Va, Site UV-16; (d) Type IX, Site UV-3
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Futunan adzes: (a) Type IV, surface collection, Tavai, 1974; (b) Type Vb, Burrows collection, locality not specified, 1932

well represented, especially in the larger Uvean sample. Examples are illustrated in Figures 11 and 12.

Of particular interest are the Type V adzes, of which there are six in the collection: three (Fig. 13) are from Site FU-11, where they are associated with the ceramic assemblage described earlier, two are Type Va (thin variety), and one is Vb (thick variety). One of the FU-11 specimens is of dark blue-black basalt (Fig. 13, c), one is of light gray basalt (Fig. 13, a), and the third is rhyolite (Fig. 13, b). A surface specimen

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Type V adzes from Site FU-11, Tavai, Futuna: (a) FU-11-A-500, Type Va; (b) FU-Surf.-1, Type Va; (c) FU-Surf.-2, Type Vb
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Adze of Cook Islands type (C. 5146), collected on Uvea by E. G. Burrows
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collected by Burrows (C. 5059) is Type Vb; it is identical in rock type to one collected in 1974 at FU-11 (Fig. 12, b). The association of Type V adzes with first millennium B.C. ceramic assemblages thus confirms the statement by Green 52 that in Samoa “. . . in the first and second centuries A.D., Type V adzes were one of two common forms.”

Two adzes collected by Burrows (Bishop Museum Nos. C. 5054, C. 5055) are of a type not represented in Green and Davidson's Samoan collection. These are untanged and ground all over except for the poll; grinding of the edges has produced a rounding effect, although the section is essentially quadrangular. The rounding is particularly evident towards the butt; adze width is reduced from bevel to poll. A butt section of an adze which appears to be of this type was found at Site FU-11 in association with pottery. This suggests that the form may be of some antiquity in Futuna. Also suggestive is the similarity between these Futunan adzes and four stone adzes from Rotuma Island in the Bishop Museum collection. Rotuma lies 560 kilometres west of Futuna and contacts between the islands are indicated, for example, in plant names (e.g. fala lotuma, a large species of Pandanus (P. dubius Sprengel) almost certainly imported from Rotuma).

One additional specimen in the Burrows collection (C. 5146) from Uvea deserves comment. The adze was illustrated by Burrows 53 and is shown here in Figure 14. This is a tanged, finely ground adze, with a reduced, rounded butt, and two lugs at the poll. It is not a normal Western Polynesian form, but is a typical Cook Islands type; 54 it appears to be of Duff's Type 1, Variety A. 55 The presence of this adze in Uvea is suggestive of contact from the Cook Islands to Uvea, perhaps due to drift voyaging. Levison et al. 56 have indicated a relatively high probability of drift contact between the Cook Islands and Western Polynesia, including Uvea.


The above pages have summarised (1) the major features of contemporary Futunan and Uvean adaptive strategies (especially the agricultural systems), and (2) the significant results of archaeological investigation, particularly as they relate to prehistoric adaptive patterns. In the archaeological section, some emphasis has been placed on evidence relating to chronology and cultural relationships in order to determine Futuna and Uvea's hitherto unknown positions in Western Polynesian prehistory. It must be stressed that the investigations reported here—ethnographic and archaeological—are both preliminary and tentative, confined only to the first phase of a projected programme. This discussion, therefore, attempts to integrate the ethnographic and archaeological results not in terms of conclusions, but as several major hypotheses which may form a perspective - 58 for continued field investigations. These hypotheses, and a prognostication for future work, are presented following a brief consideration of the position of Futuna and Uvea in Western Polynesian prehistory.

With the clarification of the Tongan sequence 57 and the discovery of Lapita pottery at Mulifanua, 58 the basic sequences for the Samoan and Tongan archipelagos have become clear. These can be related to those for Fiji 59 and the island groups of East Melanesia. 60 Of particular importance is the Lapita to Polynesian transition, marked in both Samoa and Tonga by the devolution of a sophisticated ceramic ware into a morphologically restricted plain ware, and eventual abandonment of pottery production.

Initial archaeological results from Futuna and Uvea indicate that the prehistoric sequences of these islands roughly parallel those of Tonga and Samoa. While no sites attributable to the Early Eastern Lapita horizon have yet been discovered, several sites on Futuna, Alofi, and Uvea contain ceramic assemblages whose range of vessel forms suggests that they should be considered part of the Late Eastern Lapita horizon. Site FU-11 at Tavai, Futuna, yielded a particularly good sample of such pottery and associated portable artefacts. The existence of dispersed hamlets of pottery-using populations over much of the Futunan and Uvean landscape by the second or third millennia B.C. would imply a sizeable population, and, by inference, the probability that initial colonisation was some centuries earlier. Therefore, I consider it very likely that sites of the Early Eastern Lapita horizon will be discovered on Futuna and Uvea in the future.

These hypothetical earlier settlements may be difficult to discover because of significant geological events over the past three millennia. The evidence for shoreline aggradation and consequent burial of ceramic deposits beneath taluvial accumulations has been noted in the Futunan case. Similar subsidence or emergence events have been documented for Samoa 61 and Niuatoputapu. 62 It is evident that we can no longer assume a static model of the Western Polynesian environment during the period of man's occupation.

The evidence of adze typology also reaffirms the conclusion that the Futunan and Uvean sequences roughly parallel those of Tonga and Samoa. Of particular importance is the association of plano-convex, thin-and thick-sectioned (Types Va and Vb) adzes with the Futunan and Uvean ceramic assemblages.

The chert flake and core-tool industry represented at the FU-11 site is especially interesting. There are local sources of chert on Futuna, so it seems possible that occasional chert flakes excavated in Samoa 63 and on Anuta Ialand 64 might have derived from Futuna. An x-ray fluorescence analysis of the Anutan and Futunan specimens is in progress. It may - 59 provide the necessary data to test this Futunan-source hypothesis.

Survey data from Futuna, Alofi, and Uvea allow us to document more completely the range of prehistoric site structural components and settlement patterns in Western Polynesia. The discovery on Uvea of symmetrical earthen mounds with ramps (“pigeon mounds”) and of stonewalled fortifications provides solid archaeological evidence for contacts between the prehistoric populations of Tonga and Uvea. Such contacts are also well documented in traditional history, social structure, language, and place names. 65 The range of field monuments on Futuna appears to have been more restricted, particularly as regards larger earthworks. Futunan fortifications are of the ridge-top variety found throughout much of high-island Polynesia. The absence in Futuna and Uvea of the Samoan “starmound” structural type should be noted.

Four general hypotheses arising from this research provide a focus for the integration of ethnographic and archaeological data from Futuna and Uvea:

Hypothesis 1. The Lapita colonisers of Western Polynesia were agriculturists who brought with them a horticultural complex including crop plants as well as associated technology and agronomic lore.

Groube's proposition 66 that Lapita economy was focussed on marine exploitation (the “Oceanic strandloopers” hypothesis) has fostered considerable discussion. 67 Archaeological data from Futuna and Uvea, as well as from other Western Pacific Lapita sites, combined with ethnobotanical and linguistic data, 68 are sufficient to challenge Groube's hypothesis. Direct archaeological evidence for agriculture of the Polynesian type (based on vegetatively reproducing tuberous crops) is difficult to obtain; however, a number of pieces of indirect data, taken together, strongly suggest an agricultural basis of Lapita economy. Significant in this regard is the siting of several of the Futunan and Uvean ceramic sites on interior plateaus some distance from the coast. These sites, essentially small hamlets of < 10,000 m2, are located in very favourable terrain for shifting cultivation. It would be difficult to imagine settlement of these interior sites by populations with a maritime subsistence base. This is not to imply that Lapita economy was totally dependent upon agriculture; rather, the presence of a dual economy, involving both cultivation systems and exploitation of marine resources, would seem to best explain the available data.

Hypothesis 2. Diversity of island environments (and micro-environments) played a major role in the differential adaptation of Western Polynesian agriculture and settlement patterns; in particular, the constraints of environment are emphasised.

Environmental variation, in both space and time, has been a crucial factor in the developmental pathways of agronomic adaptation followed in Futuna and Uvea. Spatial variability, particularly in edaphic and - 60 hydrologic regimes, has affected both shifting cultivation and the particular techniques of water control practised on each island. This is especially evident in the variation of contemporary agriculture, where cultivation systems are closely constrained by local environment. Thus, in the well-watered district of Sigave, emphasis is on irrigation, with construction of permanent facilities for diverting and impounding water. Uvea, which lacks permanent watercourses, has improved intensive cultivation by modification of low-lying swampy areas in order to control and use the Ghyben-Herzberg aquifer. In most of Alo District (Futuna) and on Alofi water control of any sort is impossible; the emphasis in agriculture has been directed to shifting cultivation. This correlation of contemporary agricultural systems with environmental variation can to some extent be found in the prehistoric settlement patterns as well. The dominance of shifting cultivation on the semi-karstic Alofi plateau, for example, is evidenced in low stone field borders covering large tracts in the vicinity of Site AL-1. In Sigave, some time depth for complex irrigation is apparent on the basis of excavations in the Nuku pondfield system (see above).

Temporal variation in climate has also significantly influenced the development of adaptive strategies in Futuna and Uvea. Annual variation of wet and dry seasonality, correlating with the tropophytic nature of the dominant yam species, has in large part determined the scheduling of agricultural activity. Even in Nuku, where pondfield cultivation is spatially dominant, scheduling of agricultural activity is still dependent upon the dry planting season requirement of the yam crop. Longer-term climatic variation centres around the periodic cyclones and droughts, which on the average occur every decade or so. They are responsible for major destruction of crops and other property, resulting in periods of famine. The indigenous adaptive strategies of the two islands included technological measures to provide a starch-staple surplus which could render some degree of resiliance in times of food shortage. Chief among these was the anaerobic fermentation and pit-ensilage of breadfruit paste (EFU masi, EUV mahi) which could be stored for periods of several years. Alternative methods of producing a farinaceous surplus were the extraction (by filtration) of flour (mahoā) from the tubers of Polynesian arrowroot (Tacca leontopetaloides) or from the pith of the sago palm (Metroxylon vitiense). The abadonment of masi production in recent years is one aspect of agricultural disintensification. 69 This reflects the introduction of new kinds of staple food reserves (rice, flour) and the assumed responsibility of the French administration to provide emergency food supplies following natural disasters.

Hypothesis 3. Population pressure in a circumscribed environment was a major impetus to the development of adaptive strategies in Western Polynesia—in agriculture, settlement patterns, and socio-political organisation.

The issue of population as a factor in cultural adaptation, and particularly in agricultural intensification, has stimulated considerable - 61 debate. 70 Contemporary population densities in Futuna and Uvea suggest something of the importance of this factor in relation to agricultural intensity. As demonstrated above, the Uvean system of shifting cultivation is more intensive than the Futunan with respect to the cropping-fallow time ratio; this is clearly reflected in the indigenous terminology of land use classification. Relative population densities of 0.301 per hectare for Futuna and Alofi, compared with 1.006 per hectare for Uvea, indicate that population pressure on arable land resources is significant in determining intensity of land use.

It is apparent, however, that the role of population pressure in agricultural adaptation must be analysed not only in terms of standard demographic variables (population size, density, carrying capacity), 71 but also in the context of sociological constraints on population, and on allocation of resources. In Futuna and Uvea, transmission of land-use rights is through local descent groups with a strongly agnatic core. Thus, imbalance in male-female ratios of a descent group in successive generations may produce “pressure” on allocation of arable land, even though total population of the society may remain relatively constant. 72

Archaeological evidence suggests that fairly sizeable populations may have already become established in Futuna, Alofi and Uvea by the end of the first millennium B.C. Numerous dispersed hamlet-sized settlements imply the distribution of local social groups widely over the landscapes of these islands. During roughly the first third of the Futunan and Uvean sequences, when population was increasing but overall density still low, this dispersal of local social groups presumably was brought about by descent group fissioning and settlement of previously uninhabited areas. By later prehistoric times, expansion of local groups would create a situation of conflict and competition between groups occupying adjoining territories. An analysis of the Futunan oral traditions 73 suggests that this kind of competition between local, and politically autonomous, groups was a recurring phenomenon.

The correlates of such competition in prehistoric settlement patterns are attested in the fortification sites. In Uvea, these are traditionally associated with local social groups (e.g. the Ha'avakatolo and the Ha'amea) who inhabited adjoining land areas. Competition for garden areas is suggested in the Uvean oral traditions. 74

Hypothesis 4. While population pressure is posited to have been a major factor in determining the direction of cultural adaptation, other political and socio-economic pressures were also important.

The role of various social pressures, such as production for ritual and prestation, or chiefly control of certain economic resources, cannot be neglected in a model of cultural adaptation. Brookfield 75 has emphasised - 62 ritual production in relation to agricultural intensification; Sahlins 76 has pointed out the role of chiefly control in the evolution of Polynesian societies. For example, ethnographic data indicate that, following a natural disaster, starch-staple reserves were often allocated by chiefs, rather than on an individual household basis. 77

The distribution of archaeological settlement pattern components relating to social stratification or political rank is expecially interesting. These include chiefs' backrest slabs, complex coral-slab tombs (Futuna and Alofi), large earthen mounds (burials, Uvea), and the supposed “pigeon mounds”. In Futuna and Alofi, such structures are not found in Sigave District, but are concentrated in Asoa and on Alofi (at Loka). Viewed ecologically, the greatest structural manifestations of political development were in the regions “marginal” to irrigation, although eminently suitable to shifting cultivation. The oral traditions collected by Burrows 78 indicate that Asoa and Alofi were the areas of greatest intergroup conflict and development of an important chiefly class. Therefore, it is tempting to hypothesise that the constraints of this marginal environment, coupled with the effects of population growth in several adjoining local groups, produced a situation of intense intergroup conflict in which the rise of strong political leaders (particularly in warfare) was favoured. The evidence from Uvea would corroborate such an hypothesis. The Uvean environment also requires a dependence on shifting cultivation, and the evidence for distribution of local social groups, with associated fortification sites, has already been cited. Development of social stratification in Uvea was likewise considerably more intense than in Sigave, despite the presence in the latter area of complex irrigation facilities. These data, which imply political intensification in more marginal situations rather than in ecologically favourable localities, may prove to have significant theoretical implications for the evolution of Polynesian societies in general.

The results of the preliminary study summarised in this paper are unavoidably uneven. Much of the archaeological evidence so far relates to the establishment of a basic culture-historical framework for Futuna and Uvea. Nevertheless, the integration of archaeological and ethnographic data, which focusses on four hypotheses for the development of adaptive strategies in Western Polynesia, suggests that continuation of this research programme may yield significant results not only for Western Polynesian prehistory, but also for certain theoretical problems in general cultural evolution.

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  • Futuna
  • FU-1 Ridge-top fortification, Fitiatea, Nuku area
  • FU-2 Ridge-top fortification, A-fili, Nuku area
  • FU-3 Habitation terraces, Maugalalo, Nuku area
  • FU-4 Abandoned pondfield system, Lotuma, Nuku area
  • FU-5 Abandoned pondfield system, Falesiga, Nuku area
  • FU-6 Pondfield system, Nuku
  • FU-7 Abandoned pondfield system, Niutu'utasi, Nuku
  • FU-8 Pondfield system, Fenuagalo, Nuku
  • FU-9 Pondfield system, Malielua, Nuku
  • FU-10 Abandoned pondfield system, Alamanu, Nuku
  • FU-11 Ceramic site, Tavai
  • FU-12 Pebble paving, Peka
  • FU-13 Ceramic site, Vele
  • FU-14 Coral backrest slab, Tavai
  • FU-15 Abandoned pondfield system, Tavai
  • FU-16 Coral-slab lined tombs, Vele
  • FU-17 Interior village site, with malae, Lalolalo, Asoa
  • FU-18 Interior village site, with malae, Kelemea, Asoa
  • FU-19 Ceramic site, Fugu'utulei, Nuku
  • FU-20 Habitation mounds, Tavai
  • FU-21 Habitation terraces, fortified, Mauga, Nuku
  • Alofi
  • AL-1 Prehistoric village complex, with malae, Loka
  • AL-2 Stone-lined roadway, across interior plateau
  • AL-3 Earthen mound, Mamalua
  • AL-4 Slab-lined well, Asau, Sa'avaka
  • AL-5 Rock shelter, Ganiu
  • AL-6 Prehistoric cemetary site, Fale Tolu, Ganiu
  • AL-7 Elevated ramp on roadway, Loka
  • AL-8 Stone-lined habitation terrace, Tafao
  • AL-9 Ceramic site, Mamalua
  • Uvea
  • UV-1 Habitation site, platform, Havaiki
  • UV-2 Village complex, Lauliki
  • UV-3 Ceramic site, Atuvalu
  • UV-4 Earthen mound complex (burial), Niuvalu
  • UV-5 Burial mound, Tokatafa, Falaleu
  • UV-6 Earthen mound, Togatabu, Ha'atofo
  • UV-7 Fortification site, Lanutavake
  • UV-8 Walled fortification, Makahu
  • UV-9 Fortification site, Matautu
  • UV-10 Fortification site, Kolonui
  • UV-11 Fortification site, Malaetoli
  • UV-12 Symmetrical earthen mounds (2), Fuga-Uvea
  • UV-13 Symmetrical earthen mound, stone-faced, Luo
- 64
  • UV-14 Ceramic site, Tepa
  • UV-15 Ceramic site, Utufua
  • UV-16 Ceramic site, Malaetoli
  • UV-17 Walled fortification site, Tekofe, Ha'atofo
  • UV-18 Ceramic site, Pululu, Ha'atofo
  • UV-19 Ceramic site, Tufumahina, Ha'atofo

Two dozen thin sections made from Futuna (n=16), Alofi (n=2), and Uvea (n=6) sherds were sent to me by P. V. Kirch. The Futuna sherds contain three closely related varieties of temper sand that have different textures and contain different proportions of characteristic types of sand grains. The Alofi sherds contain a similar but distinctive type of temper sand. The Uvea sherds contain a wholly different kind of volcanic sand as temper. There are no present grounds to suppose that any of the temper sands are foreign, hence each is taken to be indigenous to the respective island upon which sherds containing it were collected.


The Futuna sherds contain various proportions of the following kinds of sand grains: (a) plagioclase feldspar grains; (b) ferromagnesian silicate grains (mainly the clinopyroxene augite, but also trace amounts of hornblende, olivine, and the orthopyroxene hypersthene); (c) opaque iron oxide grains; (d) polycrystalline lithic fragments of fine-grained rocks, mainly volcanics of intermediate andesite-dacite aspect but also granular hypabyssal dike rocks of similar composition; (e) volcanic quartz grains.

All the grain types were apparently derived from volcanic or volcaniclastic rocks presumably exposed on Futuna.

The most abundant temper type represented is feldspathic volcanic sand (see Table 1), which occurs in seven of the Futuna sherds. This sand

Approximate frequency percentages of sand grain types in Futuna feldspathic temper as estimated from traverse counts of 100 grains in each thin section.
Sherd No. Plagioclase Augite Opaques Lithics Quartz
FU-19A-1 56 30 2 9 3
FU-19A-2 49 31 7 11 2
FU-19A-3 59 24 5 10 2
FU-11A-915 60 24 3 10 3
FU-11A-917 52 29 4 13 2
FU-11A-918 50 25 7 15 3
FU-11A-920 56 27 8 9 1
Average 55 27 5 11 2
- 65
Approximate frequency percentages of sand grain types in Futuna lithic temper as estimated from traverse counts of 100 grains in each thin section.
Sherd No. Plagioclase Augite Opaques Lithics Quartz
FU-13A-1 26 26 9 38 1
FU-13A-2 35 27 2 35 1
FU-13A-3 38 26 12 23 1
FU-11A-916 27 46 7 18 2
FU-11A-919 39 35 6 19 1
Average 33 32 7 27 1
Approximate frequency percentages of sand grain types in Futuna ferromagnesian temper as estimated from traverse counts of 100 grains in each thin section.
Sherd No. Plagioclase Augite Opaques Lithics Quartz
FU-11A-921 16 30 40 11 3
FU-11A-922 12 32 44 9 3
FU-11A-923 26 29 34 8 3
FU-11A-924 14 41 31 11 3
Average 17 33 37 10 3

is only moderately well sorted and rounded, and may represent stream sand added manually to the clay body.

An even more poorly sorted and angular volcanic sand (see Table 2) occurs in five of the Futuna sherds. The high proportion and advanced weathering of the lithic fragments in this sand suggest that it may represent naturally occurring temper within a colluvial body.

A better sorted and rounded volcanic sand (see Table 3) rich in heavy ferromagnesian mineral grains occurs in the four other Futuna sherds. This placer sand probably represents beach sand, although other sites where winnowing is strong are not precluded.

The three types of Futuna temper thus represent different textural and compositional variants of materials evidently derived from the same bedrock sources. Futuna tempers likely form a textural-compositional spectrum with the three end members noted: lithic (colluvial), feldspathic (alluvial), and ferromagnesian (coastal) temper sands. Possible intermediaries between feldspathic and lithic types can be noted in Tables 1 and 2.


The two sherds from Alofi contain volcanic sands (Table 4) with a texture and overall composition similar to the colluvial lithic variant of Futuna temper. However, the freshness of all grains suggests that the temper sand was added manually to the clay body, and the lithic fragments in the Alofi temper are distinctly different from those in the Futuna tempers. In general, they represent more felsic rocks of dacitic to rhyodacitic composition rather than basaltic to andesitic rocks. Moreover, more - 66 than half are hypabyssal rocks, with granular to granophyric textures, probably derived from erosion of shallow intrusive bodies or large domes, rather than extrusive flows.


Approximate frequency percentages of sand grain types in Alofi temper as estimated from traverse counts of 100 grains in each thin section.

Sherd No. Plagioclase Augite Opaques Lithics Quartz
A1-9A-1 36 31 1 29 2
A1-9A-2 38 31 3 24 4
Average 37 31 2 27 3

Comparison of apparent mean compositions of Futuna, Alofi, and Uvea tempers

  Plagioclase Augite Opaques Lithics Quartz
Futuna feldspathic (Table 1) 55 27 5 11 2
Futuna lithic (Table 2) 33 32 7 27 1
Futuna ferromagnesian (Table 3) 17 33 37 10 3
Alofi temper (Table 4) 37 31 2 27 3
Uvea temper 0 0 0 ∽100 0

All six Uvea sherds contain a volcanic sand temper markedly different from the Futuna and Alofi tempers. Whereas discrete mineral grains of various kinds dominate both the latter, all the grains in the Uvea sherds are multi-crystalline volcanic rock fragments. Moreover, whereas populations of lithic fragments in individual Futuna and Alofi sherds are varied, the Uvea sherds contain homogeneous populations of rock fragments. Indeed, the lithic fragments in all the Uvea sherds are closely comparable. The dominant grain type is black glassy lava with crystals of transparent plagioclase embedded in opaque volcanic glass. Subordinate droplets of translucent brown glass are also present. The black glass grains are commonly microvesicular, and many have the curved, cuspate margins typical of pyroclastic ash. The temper sand was probably collected from the flank of vent-capping tephra cones or from shower-banded or slightly reworked blankets of airfall ash. The homogeneity and distinctive morphology of the Uvea temper sand would not be expected in other settings. The common occurrence of reddish (iddingsite-tinged) olivine microphenocrysts within the ash fragments suggests an overall basaltic composition. This is suitable for Uvea (Stearns, 1945), where the abundance of Quaternary vents marked by both lava-fountain and coastal-phreatomagmatic types of tephra cones is also compatible with the source of the temper sand suggested here.

- 67

Uvea tempers are readily distinguishable from Futuna and Alofi tempers (Table 5), as would be expected from the generally andesitic character of the latter islands (de la Rue, 1935). The subordinate but ubiquitous occurrence of quartz in the Futuna and Alofi tempers is a potentially diagnostic feature in comparison to many volcanic sand tempers, as even those from some andesitic arcs lack quartz in any abundance. Note that the Alofi temper is distinguishable from all the Futuna tempers on the basis of the type of rock fragments present, even though the bulk composition as given in Table 5 is essentially the same as that of the lithic variant of the Futuna temper. Gradations probably exist between the lithic (colluvial?) and the feldspathic (alluvial?) variants of the Futuna temper, but the ferromagnesian variant is a placer (beach?) concentrate and may have a more fixed composition.

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1   Burrows 1939.
2   Funds were provided by the National Science Foundation (GS-40294), and by Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society of North America. Officially under the auspices of the Department of Anthropology, Yale University, the research was aided by field equipment and laboratory facilities graciously made available by officials of the Bernice P. Bishop Museum (Honolulu). I should especially like to acknowledge the assistance of the following: at Yale, Prof. Kwang-Chih Chang; at the Bishop Museum, Douglas Yen, Y. H. Sinoto, and Harold St. John; in the Territoire des îles Wallis et Futuna, the numerous officials, missionaries, and other friends who showed me the greatest kindness.
3   Goodenough 1957; Sahlins 1958.
4   See Alland and McCay 1973.
5   Green and Davidson 1969:3-11; Streuver 1968:141-148.
6   Conklin 1954.
7   Brookfield 1968.
8   Barrau 1963; Yen 1974.
9   Yen 1971, 1973:82-83.
10   Burrows 1936, 1937, 1938, 1945.
11   Grezel 1877, 1878; Bataillon 1932.
12   O'Reilly 1963 presents an exhaustive bibliography of source materials for Wallis and Futuna.
13   de la Rue 1935, 1963.
14   Stearns 1945; MacDonald 1945.
15   Thevenot and Tkatchenko 1952.
16   Green and Davidson 1974; Rogers 1974.
17   St. John and Smith 1971.
18   Richards 1952:12.
19   Combined figure for Futuna and Alofi;
20   Estimated.
21   EFU = East Futunan language; EUV = East Uvean language; these are to be distinguished from West Futunan (WFU), a Polynesian Outlier language in the New Hebrides, and West Uvean (WUV), an outlier language in the Loyalty Islands.
22   See Berlin et al. 1973.
23   Simmonds 1959, 1962.
24   Barrau 1965.
25   Wagner 1960:92-94.
26   Spencer 1966.
27   Brookfield 1972.
28   Grezel 1877, 1878; Bataillon 1932.
29   Seemann 1865-73.
30   Burrows 1936.
31   A = Abundant, not quantified.
32   Green and Davidson 1969.
33   Ralph et al. 1973.
34   Polach and Golson 1966.
35   See Kirch and Rosendahl 1973, Fig. 11 for definition of terms.
36   Green and Davidson 1969, Plate 17.
37   Birks 1973.
38   Green and Davidson 1974.
39   Rogers 1974.
40   Green and Davidson 1974.
41   Compare, for example, the handled vessel illustrated in Figure 5a with that illustrated in Birks 1973, Fig. 32.
42   Kirch and Rosendahl 1973, Fig. 12, a, c; Fig. 13, b.
43   Yen et al. 1972; Yen, Kirch, and Rosendahl, unpublished field notes, Solomon Islands, 1971.
44   See Brookfield 1972.
45   Suess 1970; Ralph et al. 1973.
46   Polach and Golson 1966.
47   McKern 1929:80-89.
48   Henquel, n.d.
49   McKern 1929:19-27, Figs. 7-14.
50   Green and Davidson 1969.
51   Buck 1930.
52   Green 1974:257-8, Table 28.
53   Burrows 1937, Fig. 3, no. 2.
54   Buck 1944:143-157; Duff 1974:120-140.
55   Duff 1974, Figs. 59-60.
56   Levison et al. 1973, Fig. 27.
57   Groube 1971; Green 1972.
58   Green and Davidson 1974.
59   Green 1963.
60   Garanger 1972; Green (ed.), in press.
61   Green and Davidson 1974.
62   Rogers 1974.
63   Green and Davidson 1969, 1974.
64   Kirch and Rosendahl 1973:84.
65   Burrows 1937; Gifford 1929.
66   Groube 1971:310-312.
67   Howells 1973:254-5, 260; Shutler and Shutler 1975:82.
68   Barrau 1965; Yen 1971, 1973; Pawley and Green 1973.
69   Brookfield 1972.
70   Boserup 1965; Spooner 1972; Brookfield 1972; Zubrow 1972.
71   Zubrow 1972.
72   Kelly 1968.
73   Burrows 1936:26-56.
74   Henquel n.d.
75   Brookfield 1972.
76   Sahlins 1972.
77   Yen, in press.
78   Burrows 1936.