Dr. David V. Burley

BA, MA (University of New Brunswick); PhD (Simon Fraser University)
Tel: 778.782.4196 • Fax: 778.782.5666 • Email: burley@sfu.ca

General Research Interests

Topics of general interest and teaching include archaeology and ethnohistory, archaeological theory, chiefly societies, maritime adaptations, historical archaeology, field methods, and the prehistory of Oceania. Recent fieldwork has been conducted in the Republic of Fiji, Kingdom of Tonga and Jamaica.

Dr. Burley discusses his research here.

Current Research

I have been conducting archaeological field research in Tonga since 1989, and in Fiji since 1996.  My specific interests lay in first Lapita settlement and interactions, colonizing adaptations and their impacts, ceramics in prehistory, post-Lapita transformation in Tonga and Fiji, and emergent complexity, especially as it relates to dynastic history and the Tongan Maritime chiefdom.  I am currently involved in three on-going research programs in the South Pacific.  The first, focusing on Polynesian origins, began in 1990 with survey for first settlement sites in the Ha’apai Islands, Kingdom of Tonga. Since then 31 sites on 12 plus islands have been recorded and/or excavated throughout the length of the archipelago.  Excavation and documentation of the founder settlement of Nukuleka in 2007 has been central to this study.  The second project, begun in 2006, focuses on the early prehistory of Fiji.  This has largely included survey for early and later Lapita sites concentrated on Viti Levu, Vanua Levu and Kadavu island groups. Documentation and smaller scale excavations have been undertaken at early Lapita sites on Vorvovoro (2010) and Kavewa (2012) islands off the Vanua Levu coast. The third project is focused on excavations at the Sigatoka Sand Dunes on the Coral Coast of Viti Levu in Fiji.  This work is done as part of a SFU archaeology field school held biennially since 1996 in collaboration with the Fiji Museum and SFU International.  The Sigatoka Sand Dunes are parabolic, with continuous archaeological exposures including human burials.  Recent excavations (2008-2012) are focused upon super-imposed but stratigraphically separated villages associated with Fijian Plainware and Navatu phases of the Fiji mid-sequence.  Finally I have interests in historical archaeology. In collaboration with former SFU graduate student Dr. Robyn Woodward, I have conducted survey (2004) and excavations (2006, 2009) at Sevilla la Nueva, the 1509-1534 AD Spanish capital of Jamaica.


Ha'atufunga (Royal Undertakers) at the funeral of Prince Tu'i Pelehake and Princess Kaimana, Lapaha, Kingdom of Tonga
Otea Lapita Site, 2005 Excavation. Vava'u, Kingdom of Tonga. PhD student and field supervisor, Sean Connaughton serves as a scale.