Faleloa is the name of a village located on a protected bay on the leeward coast of the northern third of Foa Island. Survey of this village in 1990 led to the recovery of ceramic sherds from surface exposures in the rear yard of a house on the north village slope. Limited test excavations at the site in 1991, and more extensive excavation of 9 m2 in 1992 revealed an intact midden deposit extending to a depth of 1.2 m or more. Upper layers of this midden incorporated numerous plain ware sherds while an early Lapita ceramic assemblage was found associated with lower levels. As reconstructed by Dickinson (Dickinson et al. 1994), first occupation at the Faleloa site had been located on an emergent cuspate beach on the western lip of a narrow sandy tombolo separating Foa island into two smaller islets.
All but one of the 1991 and 1992 excavation units were concentrated in the northern half of the house yard (Figure 4). Expedient shovel tests and a single excavation unit to the south, however, provided a basis for estimating site size at 30 x 25 m. In 1992, all excavations were carried out by trowel, and nested sieves of 6.4 and 3.2 mm mesh were employed for screening cultural deposits deeper than 40 cm below surface. The recovered ceramic assemblage included 20,443 specimens of which 231 were decorated. Decorated rim sherds (n=75) account for 15% of the total rim assemblage. The nonceramic artifact component was surprisingly limited, amounting to less than 40 specimens. Faunal remains were not only well preserved but very abundant. Steadman's (Steadman et al. 1998) analysis of the bird fauna further indicates a high percentage (28% of total) of extinct or now extirpated species. Shell fish samples were systematically collected for species representation within most excavated units, but a 100 % sample from a specific excavation unit was not maintained.
|Maximum Depth (cm)||106||150||120||133||130||142||161||152||116||124||106||152||139||165|
|Maximum Depth (cm)||141||183||152||159||40||90||90||133|
It was decided to return to the Faleloa site in 1997 to accomplish three objectives. First, a systematic auger testing project was to be undertaken to further delineate site boundaries as well as variation in the distribution of cultural deposits. Second, to bring the faunal assemblage into a comparable framework with those from other sites, control samples for 3.2 and 1.6 mm mesh sizes were required, as also a 100% shell fish collection unit. Finally, additional excavation units were to be completed to further test the southern part of the yard and to enhance the ceramic and nonceramic artifact assemblages. Work was carried out at the site between 29 May and 9 June.
The auger test program, as at other sites in Ha`apai, employed a 10.2 cm diameter soil auger. The soil auger is able to remove matrix samples in 10-12 cm levels. Ceramic sherds, faunal remains and other artifacts can then be recovered and quantified in vertical profile. Auger testing at Faleloa was limited by the presence of a house and other structures in the yard. Where possible, auger holes were situated at the intersection points of a 6 m grid; extended lines were also taken to the north and west (Figure 4). Twenty-two auger tests were excavated with depth, ceramic sherd count, and ceramic density index for each provided in Table 3. None of these tests produced a decorated Lapita sherd, nor do the quantity of sherds recovered from the augering seem to reflect the richness of the subsurface deposits as verified through site excavations. The ceramic density indices do suggest two concentrated occupation zones, one in the northwest corner of the yard and another to the southeast. They also suggest that the overall site spatial extent, estimated to be 750 m2, remains approximately correct.
Two sets of adjacent 1 x 1 excavation units were completed in the past field season (Figure 4). The first set was located 2 m south of the 1992 excavations. The western-most square in this set (Unit 16) served as the collection unit for 3.2 and 1.6 mm sieve faunal control samples. The second set of adjacent units was placed 11 m to the southwest. These units were situated in a previously excavated depression where 30 - 40 cm of the upper stratum had been removed. The 100% shell fish collection strategy again was applied to the western-most unit (Unit 18). All excavation was carried out in arbitrary spits by trowel. Systematic screening of excavated matrices was done using nested sieves of 6.4 and 3.2 mm. Where intrusive feature's could be clearly identified, these were excavated as individual collection units.
The stratigraphy of the site recorded in the 1997 excavations remains generally consistent with descriptions given for the 1992 trench excavation (Shutler et al. 1994). In a modal sense, this consists of the following strata (Figure 5):
The 1997 project encountered numerous cultural feature in the four excavated units. Among these were small and large post holes as well as hearth and earth oven depressions. An extremely large (1.5 - 2m in diameter) and deep (1.2 m) earth oven feature was excavated in the northern half of Unit 18 (Figure 5). Originating in Stratum III, this feature extended to a depth of 1.8 m. Also present in the southwestern corner of Unit 18 is a single large post hole. This has an approximate diameter between 35 and 40 cm and a depth of 1.2 m. This feature originates in Stratum II.
The four excavation units at Faleloa recovered a total of 6696 ceramic sherds of which 277 were decorated (Table 4). Decorated rims account for 18.4% percent of the rim assemblage total. The recovery of nonceramic artifacts continued to be extremely limited, amounting to only 40 specimens (Table 5). The majority of these are manufactured from shell with bracelet fragments and bivalve scrapers dominating.
For the 1992 project, three radiocarbon dates on charcoal were processed (see Appendix A). These indicated an uncalibrated 2900 BP date for site origin for Faleloa with a subsequent occupation of approximately 400 years. An additional 27 charcoal samples were collected in 1997. Two of these, both from Unit 18, were selected and submitted for measurement. The samples were chosen for their individual stratigraphic associations with Strata II and III and for the integrity of their context. The lower sample also provides a radiocarbon date on the large earth oven feature described above.
The 1997 dates are 2600 + 50 BP and 2550 + 50 BP and, respectively, can be associated with Lapita and plain ware deposits. A reassessment of all Ha`apai radiocarbon dates (Appendix A) now indicates that the earlier 2900 BP date is anomalous, probably as a consequence of old wood. The 2600 BP Stratum III date thus seems appropriate for Lapita at Faleloa, albeit near the end of the Lapita period in Ha`apai. The remaining radiocarbon dates also suggest a relatively short temporal occupation at the site.
The principal objectives for returning to the Faleloa site during the 1997 field season were met. Faunal control samples were collected, ceramic and non-ceramic artifact assemblages were enhanced, and site boundaries were more securely assessed. The additional Lapita-associated radiocarbon dates for Faleloa are intriguing for they seems to represent the end of the early Lapita phase in Ha`apai and an occupation span of extremely short duration. The recovery of nonceramic artifacts continued to be limited, and this impoverishment may well reflect the short time period that the site was occupied.