New Discovery Shows Wide Use of Ancient Polynesian Pottery

Archaeologists discover evidence for ancient ceramic manufacturing and Polynesian pottery in American Samoa.

Territorial Archaeologist of American Samoa, Dr. Joel Klenck, states a new discovery of ancient pottery in western Tutuila Island has added to archaeological knowledge regarding the distribution of ceramic manufacturing in Polynesia. At the excavation at Fangamalo in American Samoa, archaeologists retrieved an array of artifacts including ceramic sherds at various stages of firing, adzes, basalt debitage, adze preforms, fire-cracked rocks, clays of different color, volcanic glass, small wafer-thin rocks, cinders, ash and other artifacts.

Epi Suafo’a, the principal investigator of the site, remarks, “Until recently, Polynesian pottery was not discovered in western Tutuila unlike the center and eastern parts of the Island. In the last year, we have discovered ceramic material at Leone and Maloata. The amount of ceramics and range of archaeological artifacts at Fangamalo shows that the manufacture and use of pottery was not limited to central and eastern Tutuila.”

A series of one-meter square unit were excavated to a depth of nearly two meters and revealed two layers of features. The archaeology team sponsored by the American Samoan Power Authority (ASPA) and advised by the Historic Preservation Office worked during June, 2012, to complete the excavation and deliver all artifacts to ASPA’s archaeology laboratory for further analysis.

The archaeology is being conducted to keep an ASPA waterline project in compliance with a federal historic preservation law known as the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. The Act requires that all federally funded projects take historic and archaeological sites into account by recording and avoiding damage to those sites whenever possible. The American Samoa Coastal Zone Management Act of 1990 also requires that construction projects in Territory be conducted in a manner to protect historic, cultural, and archaeological sites.

David Herdrich, the Director of the Historic Preservation Office, remarks that pottery manufacturing indicates craft specialization and suggests a hierarchical social organization enabling individuals to learn the technology required for this task. Herdrich notes, “The discovery at Fangamalo suggests that at one point the prehistoric inhabitants in western Tutuila had the same degree of sophistication technologically as their counterparts in the center and east of the island.”

Both professional archaeologists and volunteers participated in the Fangamalo excavation. One of the archaeologists, Jeff Toloa states, “Everyone worked well with each other. Even though the excavation was difficult, it gave everyone a great feeling of pride to contribute to the knowledge of our Polynesian ancestors and the prehistory of American Samoa.”

Significant research remains on the artifacts from the Fangamalo excavation. Joel Klenck remarks, “Our first priority is to obtain radiocarbon dates of the site to determine when prehistoric inhabitants occupied the area. Many archaeologists believe ancient Samoans abandoned the use of ceramics at around 300 to 600 AD (or about 1,400 to 1,700 years ago). The dating of the pottery from the Fangamalo site will yield more insight into when ancient Samoans used pottery and when this material was abandoned.”

By Alisi Iongi Filiaga, American Samoa Historic Preservation Office

Archaeologists Discover Array of Prehistoric Stone Tools in Ancient Polynesian Structure in American Samoa.

Archaeologists excavate a prehistoric dwelling and retrieve ancient Polynesian stone tools before a building project, to repair damages by a recent tsunami, impacts the archaeological site.

Directed by Dr. Joel Klenck, a team of archaeologists and volunteers excavated a prehistoric dwelling at Leone retrieving stone tools, pottery, and charred organic remains on the surface of an ancient floor.

A series of nine one-meter square units were excavated to a depth of nearly two meters revealing a pavement-like surface comprising flat stones of coral, basalt, and sedimentary rock. The excavation comprised a salvage effort to preserve archaeological remains before the construction of a shoreline revetment, by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, at the village of Leone in Tutuila Island.

The principal investigator, Klenck, remarks, “The site presented a rare opportunity to excavate a well-preserved prehistoric dwelling with many artifacts several feet below the surface of the ground.”

Epi Suafoa, an archaeologist from American Samoa, states, “Being from Leone and knowing this ‘fale’ or dwelling was about to be destroyed, we felt it was important to help preserve our Samoan heritage and retrieve whatever cultural remains we could from the site.”

The excavation at Leone was conducted to comply with a federal historic preservation law known as the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. The Act requires that all federally funded projects take historic and archaeological sites into account by recording and avoiding damage to those sites. The American Samoa Coastal Zone Management Act of 1990 also requires that construction projects in Territory be conducted in a manner to protect historic, cultural, and archaeological sites.

David Herdrich, the Director of the Historic Preservation Office, remarks, “The discovery of the Leone structure so close to the shoreline evidences the importance of conducting historic preservation efforts before other sites are detrimentally affected by beach erosion.”

The Leone site has broader application for prehistoric archaeology. Klenck states, “The Leone excavation enables archaeologists to compare how beach erosion and ordinary domestic processes affect the distribution and preservation of stone tools and flakes in a confined structure. We are analyzing the size and spread of the lithic artifacts so archaeologists from other sites with stone tools can compare their data to the factors that affected artifacts at the Leone site.” The archaeologist concludes, “It was excellent that the team was able to both preserve Samoan heritage and gather important data to assist wider archaeological research.”

By Florence Aetonu-Teo, American Samoa Historic Preservation Office.

World War II Structures at Masefau in American Samoa Nominated for U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

Military fortifications at Masefau in American Samoa, from World War II, are nominated for the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

Archaeologist Dr. Joel Klenck has nominated World War II structures at Masefau in American Samoa to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Klenck states, “The World War II features at Masefau are similar to the two-tiered domed pillboxes first identified by the late archaeologist Joseph Kennedy, which are prevalent on the island of Tutuila. However, the Masefau constructions exhibit a variation of this design and comprise non-tiered octagonal structures.”

The nomination was a result of an archaeological survey to comply with the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. The Act requires that all federally funded projects take historic and archaeological sites into account by recording and avoiding damage to those sites. The American Samoa Coastal Zone Management Act of 1990 also requires that construction projects in Territory be conducted in a manner to protect historic, cultural, and archaeological sites.

David Herdrich, the Director of the Historic Preservation Office in American Samoa, states, “The martial structures at Masefau broaden our knowledge regarding the variation of designs in World War II defensive fortifications. In addition, this nomination is opportune as the government of American Samoa is preparing a tourism effort to guide former veterans and new visitors to historic properties that were built during the War.”

The fortifications at Masefau were impacted by a tsunami in 2009, which revealed the foundations of these structures. Previously, the archaeologist Joseph Kennedy advocated that separate compartments were attached to these pillbox types for ammunition storage. The Masefau fortifications exhibit no attached structures and are stand-alone units with a rearward entrance at the base of the pillboxes. Joel Klenck concludes, “The lack of separate compartments at the base of the structures at Masefau in the northeast of Tutuila Island contrasts with the presence of additional components on pillboxes in the west of the island such as found at Maloata. This difference may indicate varying tactical considerations by the U.S. Marines and Navy in preparing the defenses of Tutuila for a Japanese invasion during World War II.”
By Florence Aetonu-Teo, American Samoa Historic Preservation Office.

American Samoa Historic Preservation Office Implements Process Improvements

Archaeologists streamline recording of archaeological sites and historic places and improve responsiveness to government agencies to benefit construction efforts and future research.

“Creating more efficiency to safeguard the heritage of American Samoa while providing solutions to accomplish new construction projects is our main focus,” states Dr. Joel Klenck, the Territorial Archaeologist of American Samoa. The American Samoa Historic Preservation Office (ASHPO) is responsible for protecting historic and prehistoric sites among the territory’s seven islands. In April of 2012, the ASHPO began implementing strategic process improvements.

The first objective of the ASHPO is to increase the level of responsiveness to government agencies seeking to construct roads, docks and other building projects in American Samoa. David Herdrich, the Director of the Historic Preservation Office, states, “Our office is required by law to respond to U.S. agencies within a thirty-day period. With the aid of Dr. Klenck, we now strive to respond within a week of our being notified of a construction project. Our recent data indicates a seventy-five percent improvement in the timeliness of our responses.”

The ASHPO also plans to modify its current system of data analysis. Klenck remarks, “The goal is to permanently improve the process by which we evaluate areas for potential construction with regard to the presence of archaeological artifacts and features. Currently, when contractors ask for an analysis of a particular area, we must look through many paper site forms to respond.”

With the help of an archaeology intern, Ms. Victoria Su’e, all archaeological site forms are being added to a computer database. This data will then be updated and processed through a new archaeology program called ARC GIS 10 that enables researchers to ascertain archaeological features and artifacts throughout the seven islands of American Samoa using satellite data from the Global Positioning System (GPS).

“In the future,” Klenck adds, “Contractors will be able to give us the location of a construction project and within minutes we will have a clear understanding of the historical features and artifactual assemblages that were discovered in the researched area.” Herdrich concludes, “These measures will make it easier for researchers formulate new studies of the past, preserve the heritage of American Samoa, and enhance efficiency in planning building projects.”

By Alisi Iongi Filiaga, American Samoa Historic Preservation Office

Bedouin Animal Sacrifice Rituals Provide Clues to Archaeological Remains

Modern animal sacrifice rituals practiced by Bedouin communities in the Levant provide insight to the deposition of remains at archaeological sites in the Near East.

Miami, FL — (ReleaseWire) — 03/28/2012 –Harvard University educated archaeologist and president of the Paleontological Research Corporation, Dr. Joel Klenck, conducted an ethnoarchaeological study of modern Bedouin sacrificial practices in the Levant to provide insight on the deposition of remains at ancient cult sites. Ethnoarchaeology comprises the analysis of modern behaviors and the remains left over from these activities. These studies are linked with a concept in archaeology called middle range theory where observations of natural processes or human behaviors are used to explain the deposition of archaeological finds. Deriving his theories from the sociologist Robert Merton, the American archaeologist Lewis Binford strongly encouraged middle range theory and completed ethnographic studies of Australian aborigines, Nunamiut Eskimo and other groups. Binford then compared his data to remains from archaeological sites.

Klenck remarks, “During my excavations and research in the Levant, I observed many foot bones of sheep, goats and cattle near ancient sanctuaries particularly at the Middle Bronze IIB/C period (1800-1550 B.C.) cult site at Tel Haror. At the same time, I learned that modern Bedouin communities sacrificed sheep, goats, cattle and an occasional camel to a “weli” or a revered person at their sepulchers.” Sponsored by a grant from the Joe Alon Museum, Klenck conducted an ethnoarchaeological study of Bedouin sacrificial rituals taking photographs and recordings of his observations. He then analyzed the animal bone remains strewn around the venerated areas after the rituals. An analysis was completed in 2012 of the butchery and preservation processes affecting these bones for a forthcoming manuscript. Klenck comments, “It was quickly apparent that the bones with meat on them such as upper limb bones, ribs and vertebrae were subjected to more intensive butchery processes, were boiled and eaten by the families and then targeted by dogs and other scavengers after the Bedouin left the cult areas. At two of the sacrificial areas, the Bedouin burned the bones. Without any hides covering them, the meat bones disintegrated in the fires.”The archaeologist notes that the foot bones were treated in a different manner. Klenck states, “Bedouin removed the hooves from the carcass at the beginning stages of butchery. The foot bones remained encased in animal skins and were discarded around the cult sites and not eaten. The sparse meat and marrow in these bones made them less attractive to scavengers and the skin surrounding these bones protected foot bones when Bedouin burned animal bones at the conclusion of the sacrificial meals.” The researcher then compared activities around the venerated tombs to the types of animal bones brought into Bedouin homes. The latter brought mostly meat bones into their homes while foot bones were removed in butcher shops at considerable distances from their domestic dwellings. Conversely, at the cult sites the entire butchery process was conducted near the venerated sepulcher. Klenck concludes, “The study of Bedouin sacrificial rituals provides archaeologists with valuable insight as to behaviors that might explain the enhanced preservation of foot bones at ancient cult sites in the Near East.”

About the Paleontological Research Corporation
Founded in 2007, the Paleontological Research Corporation provides comprehensive worldwide archaeological and paleontological services including surveys, excavations and research.

Modern Sacrifice Rituals in the Levant Reveal Diversity of Beliefs

Animal sacrifice rituals performed by Bedouin in the Levant reveal diversity of beliefs.

Miami, FL — (ReleaseWire) — 03/26/2012 –Harvard University educated anthropologist and president of the Paleontological Research Corporation, Dr. Joel Klenck, conducted a study of Bedouin sacrificial rituals that reveal a diversity of beliefs in Arab populations in the Levant. Sponsored by a grant from the Joe Alon Museum, Klenck conducted a study of Bedouin sacrificial rituals completed in 2012 and featured in a forthcoming publication.

Rarely revealed by Western researchers, Arab pastoral nomads practice several types of sacrificial rituals other than the main feast of sacrifice or “Id al ‘Adha” that occurs the tenth day of the Hadj or “Dhul Hijjah” and is practiced by all observing Muslims. Three other rituals include sacrifices to spirits or “ginn”, ritual slaughters to ward off curses and bless newly married couples, and commemorations to deceased family members. Another type of sacrifice practiced by Bedouin in the Levant comprises sacrifices to a “weli” or revered person. Klenck states, “Bedouin sacrifice sheep, goats, cattle and occasionally a camel to a weli to redeem vows, incur healing, give thanks or insure fertility. Individuals performing the sacrifices believe the weli will act as a mediator between them and Allah to facilitate their requests.”Around 1771, Muhammad Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, a cleric who traveled throughout Saudi Arabia and Iraq, began to influence the ruler of Dara’iya, Muhammad Ibn Sa’ud, whose tribe created the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932. The religious leader al-Wahhab formed a movement that denounced Bedouin believing in the special powers of a weli, punished individuals performing sacrificial rituals to these revered persons and largely eradicated these practices.

Although sacrifices to Bedouin saints are mostly forbidden in Saudi Arabia, these rituals continue to be practiced by Muslim pastoral nomads in the Levant and North Africa. Klenck states, “I was able to observe Bedouin venerating the tombs of Sheikh Abu-Hurreira, Ibrahim, Hussein, Falougie, Nebi Musa, and the adjacent sepulchers of Al-Azzam and Al-Nabari. The sheikhs’ tombs vary in their size, care and decoration. The tombs often feature sticks of wood mostly of palm with white or green cloth tied to each structure. According to the Bedouin, the white cloth represents peace and goodwill and is a beneficial omen for those petitioning Allah through a weli. The Bedouin consider the color green to be very holy as its significance stems from their traditions and because they allege the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad and the Kabbah in Saudi Arabia are covered with green tapestries. At the tombs the Bedouin often light candles and sometimes leave salt, sugar, matches, and coins in the sacred area.”

While Bedouin women perform prayers and light candles at the tombs, the men perform animal sacrifices near the sepulchers. At the tombs of Al-Azzam and Al-Nabari, the trees surrounding the sacred areas exhibit slash marks where Bedouin hang animal carcasses during butchery activities. After the sacrifice, the meat is boiled and everyone participates in the subsequent feast, especially the poor. Several Bedouin stated that in past centuries, individuals left valuable possessions at the sheikh’s tombs knowing that no Bedouin would dare steal from the tomb for fear of being cursed. Klenck concludes, “Studies of Bedouin animal sacrifices reveal a diversity of beliefs and are important in understanding cultures and ritual activities in the Levant.”

Archaeologists Discover Earliest Equestrian Bit

Archaeologists excavate a donkey burial from the Middle Bronze IIB period (1,750-1,650 B.C.) in the Levant and discover the earliest reported equestrian bit.

Miami, FL — (SBWIRE) — 03/19/2012 — Archaeologists led by Professor Eliezer Oren from Ben Gurion University excavated an equid burial at Tel-Haror, an archaeological site located in the Levant with strata dating to the Middle Bronze IIB Period (1,750-1,650 B.C.). Here, archaeologists retrieved the earliest metal equestrian bit. Dr. Joel Klenck, a Harvard University educated archaeologist and president of the Paleontological Research Corporation, who presided over the analysis of the equid remains, states the burial is at the base of a dome-shaped structure. The southeastern wall of the burial edifice is overlaid by a thick mudbrick partition that surrounds a nearby temple complex. An archaeologist specializing in the analysis of faunal remains, Klenck notes the equid is a donkey as evidenced by foot bone measurements and traits on the grinding surfaces of its teeth. In 2011, the skeletal data from the donkey burial was compared to the material assemblage at the site in preparation for a forthcoming manuscript.

Archaeologists are increasingly finding remains of horses and donkeys in ancient Near Eastern contexts. The Vulture Stele, dating to the Early Dynastic III period (2,600-2,350 B.C.) in Mesopotamia, portrays an equid pulling a chariot-like vehicle. Various Mesopotamian manuscripts dating to this period mention the horse, donkey, hemione and hybrids such as the mule. From Sumeria, terracotta reliefs from the early second millennium B.C. show equids pulling a chariot and a human riding horseback. Hittite reliefs from the thirteenth century B.C. in modern Turkey show a larger species of equid perhaps a horse pulling a chariot with three soldiers in contrast to smaller equids in Egyptian murals presumably donkeys pulling chariots with only two men. Horse bones were found at Tell el-‘Ajjul in Israel in contexts dated to around 3,400 B.C. and in Turkey at Bogazkoy from the seventeenth century B.C. Archaeologists excavated donkey remains at Tell Brak in Mesopotamia in contexts dating between 2,580 and 2,455 B.C. Egyptian donkey burials dating to Middle Bronze II periods (2,000-1,550 B.C.) include those found at Inshas, Tell el-Farasha, Tell el-Maskhuta, and Tell el-Dab’a. From similar time periods in the Levant, archaeologists excavated donkeys at Tell el-‘Ajjul and Jericho.

Klenck notes the donkey burial at Tel Haror is special since this site provides the earliest direct evidence of a metal equestrian bit. These devices continue to be used today to control the movement of horses and other equids. He states, “Until the excavation at Tel Haror, archaeologists had only indirect evidence for the use of bits. An example of this indirect evidence is wear marks on equid teeth at the fortress of Buhen in contexts dating to the twentieth century B.C. At Tel Haror, we retrieved the actual metal device.” The archaeologist notes the ancient bit caused equids to turn due to the force of the device. Also, round plates on either end of the ancient bit exhibit triangular spikes that pressured the lips of the equid if the reins were pulled from one direction. Klenck concludes, “The excavation of the earliest reported metal bit at Tel Haror provides important data concerning ancient equestrian practices and methods of transportation in the Levant.”

Archaeologists Excavate Puppy and Raven Skeletons in Bronze Age Temple Complex in Levant

Archaeologists excavate puppy and corvid remains in a Middle Bronze Age temple complex in the Levant.

Miami, FL — (SBWIRE) — 03/19/2012 — Harvard University educated archaeologist and president of the Paleontological Research Corporation, Dr. Joel Klenck, states that recent archaeological discoveries are revealing new aspects of cult practices of ancient inhabitants in the Levant. At Tel-Haror, a site with strata dating to the Middle Bronze II period (1,800-1,550 B.C.), archaeologists led by Professor Eliezer Oren from Ben Gurion University excavated a temple complex with a “migdal” or tower temple. Here, Klenck directed the removal and excavated the skeletal remains of dozens of juvenile dogs, ravens and crows in various states of articulation. In 2011, the animal bone data was compared to the unique material assemblage at the site that includes serpent figurines, the upraised arm of a statuette, and a pentagram design in preparation for a forthcoming manuscript. Many of the puppies, ravens and crows surrounded a square altar with a mudbrick base several meters away from the main sanctuary. The populations at Tel-Haror buried human shaped clay figurines, small ceramic bowls and other artifacts with these dog and corvid bones. Klenck states, “Several of the more complete animal skeletons showed the heads of these animals were severely twisted. This evidence suggests that the inhabitants broke the necks of some of these animals before interring them in the temple complex.”

The cultic significance of why puppies, ravens and crows were dispatched is less clear. Klenck notes several inscriptions that might shed light on the ideological motivations of the inhabitants at Tel Haror. In the Tale of Aqhat retrieved from Ugarit dating to the fourteenth century B.C. the tablet mentions the deity Baal splitting open vultures and interring them in the ground. Other texts dating from the nineteenth to first centuries B.C. mention the use of dogs in conjunction with healing deities such as Gula or Ninisina in Mesopotamia, Asclepius in Greece, Eshmun in Phoenicia and Resheph-Mukal in Phoenician Cyprus. Further, Hittite texts such as the Ritual of Tunnawi mention puppies in rituals for purification, healing and to ward off evil omens. In contexts from the tenth century B.C., dog burials were found in a ramp leading to a temple at Isin in ancient Babylonia.

Conversely, ancient Israelites considered dogs and corvids to be unclean and these animals were forbidden in their sacred areas. Also, a text in the Tanakh deplores rituals that involve the breaking of a dog necks. Klenck concludes, “Although we can only speculate on their ideological motives, the excavation of puppies and corvids from the Middle Bronze Age temple complex at Tel Haror adds new insight into the ritual activities of ancient Levantine populations.”