Chronometric dating of colonisation-period sites is arguably amongst the most contentious issues in island and coastal archaeology worldwide, and it is certainly true for Polynesia. The human colonisation of East Polynesia has garnered most attention in Oceania as the earliest sites anchor foundational discussions of the timing, speed, and direction of colonisation of the last region settled on Earth. Coastal middens are often locales for early occupation, whether for the island or region. Those situated adjacent to marine shorelines and rivers, streams, or marshes often have stratigraphy with natural depositional events originating from a complex mosaic of sediment sources and depositional agents (wind, water, and human), as well as human-caused stratigraphic mixing of layers. These sites also contain an archive of long-term environmental change with attendant human responses, thereby making coastal dune sites ideal locales for addressing a range of issues pertinent to archaeologists and allied disciplines.  

We describe the leeward environmental context and dating of a 13th century AD habitation mound on Moloka‘i—the oldest on the island and one of a handful of early habitation sites in the archipelago—and provide a model for locating early sites along this leeward coastline that should be applicable elsewhere.


About the presenter 

Weisler’s geographical focus is on Oceanic archaeology and prehistory. Research themes include: island colonisation strategies, human adaptation to island ecosystems, identification and development of prehistoric long-distance interaction (so-called trade and exchange) by the geochemical fingerprinting of source rock and distant artefacts, understanding long-term changes in marine exploitation, sustainability of low coral islands or atolls during the past two millennia and the development of Hawaiian religious architecture and inferred human population trends through the high-precision U-series dating of coral offerings. Major field projects and collections based research have been conducted in Hawai‘i, New Zealand, the Pitcairn Group, French Polynesia (Society Islands, Tuamotus, Mangareva), Cook Islands, Samoa and the Marshall Islands. Current field research is supported by a New Zealand Marsden grant (with Richard Walter, University of Otago) to understand human colonisation strategies of New Zealand. 

About Archaeology Working Papers

The Working Papers in Archaeology seminar series provides a forum for dissemination of archaeological research and ideas amongst UQ archaeology students and staff. All students are invited to attend the series and postgraduate students, from honours upwards, are invited to present their research. The aim is to provide opportunities for students, staff and those from outside UQ, to present and discuss their work in an informal environment. It is hoped that anyone interested in current archaeological directions, both within and outside the School and University, will be able to attend and contribute to the series.