M.A. Theses: Anthony P. Marais, 1995

Kolo Velata: An Analysis of West Polynesian Fortifications

For some time ring-ditch fortifications in Tonga have been the focus of archaeological interest. However, there has been little systematic excavation or survey of these sites and most studies of them have relied on historic sources that are biased toward a period of chiefly warfare in the 19th century. Consequently there is a lack of consensus about the origin and antiquity of such sites. This thesis addresses these issues by way of an archaeological and historic analysis of a specific fortification site, Kolo Velata, located on the island of Lifuka, in the central Ha'apai group of Tonga.

Research at Kolo Velata produced a detailed contour map of site features as well as limited excavation data relative to site occupation. Oral tradition suggests that the site was established in the mid-15th century and that rebuilding and reoccupation occurred in the 19th century. Evidence of occupation of the site prior to the construction of the fortification and disturbance due to post-abandonment cultivation activities were also recorded.

Data from Kolo Velata are placed within the broader context of fortification construction across Tong and western Polynesia. This study indicates that the earliest dated fortifications occur in Fiji. It is suggested therefore that the form Tongan fortification features is a result of diffusion from these islands.