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, historical archaeology, archaeological theory, maritime adaptations, field methods, and the prehistory of Oceania and the Caribbean. Earlier in my career I held several government/private sector positions in heritage resource management and have taught the CRM course in the Department. I presently serve as a thesis supervisor for the MA Program in Heritage Resource Management.

Dr. Burley discusses his research here.

Current Research

         I have been conducting archaeological field research in Tonga since 1989, in Fiji since 1996 and in Jamaica since 2004. I am currently active in two projects in Tonga. The first is a continuation of long-standing research concerns with first Lapita settlement that, ultimately, reflects upon Polynesian origins. In 2014, I undertook extensive excavations at the founder settlement of Nukuleka on the island of Tongatapu, a site dating to 900 BC. This led to the discovery of an aroid planting pit associated with agricultural practices of the first colonists. My second project in Tonga is focused on documentation of sites related to the late prehistoric Tongan chiefdom. Employing LiDAR, we have examined late prehistoric mound distributions on the Tongan landscape as well as fortifications sites. This work, in part, is in collaboration with archaeologists from the Australian National University. For Fiji, I regularly have taught SFU field schools conducting survey and excavation programs at the Sigatoka Sand Dunes National Park. Research here has focused on the Fijian mid-sequence (100 BC – 600 AD) where changing ceramic sequences suggest a break in continuity in the archaeological record at this time. Additional archaeological surveys of Vanua Levu and Kadavu islands have been conducted. Finally, in Jamaica I have been collaborating with SFU adjunct professor Robyn Woodward on the first Spanish settlement on the island, Sevilla la Nueva (1509-1534). My role has been as a principal investigator for excavations of an early Spanish butchery. Most recently this has incorporated the recording and excavations of the nearby late prehistoric/contact period Taino village of Maima. This village had provisioned Christopher Columbus for a year in 1503/1504 when he and his crew were marooned on Jamaica during his 4th voyage to the New World.



LiDAR imagery – mounds constructed for the chiefly sport of pigeon snaring, Tongatapu reef, 2015


Aroid planting pit excavations on the Nukuleka Peninsula, Tonga 2014


Taino house floor excavation, Maima, Jamaica, 2015