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Artifact Recovery

After a long break from the work at the ATIAHARA site, I find myself back in the thick of the potato planting season with many newly tilled fields to explore. The weather has been nearly perfect for a fossicker while near disaster for the planters, torrential rains over the past month have turned the fields into muddy bogs and exposed a wealth of ancient artifacts. This year I have had the good fortune to have been able to search many important fields numerous times, as each time the fields were turned heavy rains closely followed. Normally I wouldn't expect to find much in these fields which I have already thoroughly fossicked in previous years however with so much rain I now still manage to find incredible treasures.

Whale Tooth Pendant

Perhaps the most exciting find so far this year is the discovery of a Whale tooth shaped pendant, it was found at ATIAHARA # 6 about 75 meters from the present shoreline where there is an important deposit of blackened sand and midden. The pendant was found in the shoreward part of the deposit where the sand is grayer and there is visibly less midden. In as much as I have recovered a wide variety of artifacts from this midden generally I think it may have been an area that has been occupied over a very long period of time. In terms of stone tools certainly we find some very early forms as well as those which extend on up to the contact period. As a final comment as to the findspot of this artifact it is important to note that it was found about 50 meters east of the remains of the Marae TONOHAE, traditionally one of the islands most important landmarks.

In as much as this artifact appears to be an important component of the Early Eastern Polynesian cultural assemblage, it seemed likely that it should be found here in Tubuai where we have now gathered so many artifacts which can be directly attributed to the EEP. Considering however that it is but a single example amongst several thousand artifacts collected over many years of extensive fossicking, to describe it as rare would be an understatement.

Before describing this artifact I would like to take the time to refer to a recent paper by Y. H. Sinoto in which we find reference to other similar pendants: Tracing human movement in East Polynesia, A discussion of selected diagnostic artifact types.

Dr. Sinoto starts his paper by stating:
In recent years the elucidation of human movement into and within East Polynesia has re-emerged as a popular research topic. It seems that this task of tracing cultural movements can be greatly facilitated in East Polynesia through the study of certain artifacts that can supplant the role of Lapita pottery in Melanesia and parts of West Polynesia.
This sounds like a job for IMPLEMENTOLOGY, further on he adds:
Without a viable pottery culture, emphasis must be placed on observing and studying the attributes of other artifacts in order to discern early cultural relationships among the island groups in East Polynesia. Establishing a typological sequence of material culture within an island group is a prerequisite task, especially for defining the settlement period, and also in comparing those of the other island groups. Radiocarbon dates will aid in placing the typological sequence within a chronological context.

Certainly this line of thinking has been the foundation from which I have been building now for several years and produced the numerous Volumes dedicated to COMPARATIVE IMPLEMENTOLOGY.

Shaped Whale-tooth Pendants

Dr. Sinoto then goes on to give a thorough description of these Pendants:

Whale-tooth or simulated whale-tooth shaped pendants, have been found throughout Polynesia. These pendants are not necessarily single pendants. They can be strung together for a necklace. I have separated the shaped whale-tooth pendants from the other, so-called whale-tooth pendants. Further research and classification is necessary for a better understanding of these ornaments. I think it is useful to subdivide the non-shaped whale-tooth pendants into the following 3 varieties:
Variety 1
Unmodified whale-tooth, or simulated whale-tooth form, made of other materials with a suspension hole. The distal end protrudes outward.
Variety 2
Whale-tooth or other materials with a long and rounded stem, and pointed, outward-protruding distal-end.
Variety 3
Usually made of shell, but also of whale-tooth, these pendants have the whale tooth profile, but are flattened and have side perforations near the top.

While examples of these pendants are found only rarely in East Polynesia, early New Zealand examples abound especially in the Wairau Bar Burials (Duff 1956) where entire necklaces have been recovered. Duff gives a thorough description of the New Zealand examples many of which appear to be of evolved forms resulting from stylistic elaboration.

The term 'whale-tooth" pendants is here given to the units of the second Moa-Hunter necklace type. These handsome necklaces comprise a number of carefully shaped units, more often of bone than of ivory.

It seems to me that the first separation of these artifacts into Classes, Types or Varieties could be made in discerning authentic Whale-tooth pendants from imitations made of other materials. The next sorting being given to shaped or unshaped for the authentic specimens as well as the actual species of whale from which the tooth derives. As for the imitation examples certainly shape and size will bear heavily on classification schemes. Also I think it likely that the specific shapes and stylistic transformations found within these artifacts will allow researchers to establish a relative chronology for the given types. One might first want to ask how far back does the tradition of these ornaments go?
xxxxTo move on now to the Tubuai specimen (see Diagram 26.1) this is an imitation whale-tooth pendant made of bone which is now in a somewhat deteriorated condition. The distal point has broken off as well as part of the flat proximal 'poll' (Duff). There is no evidence of a chin or breast as in the evolved New Zealand examples. A rounded oval or slightly lenticular cross section with each side convex longitudinally make front and back distinctions difficult although one side is slightly flatter. The scanned image in Diagram 26.1 is then of the flatter possibly back surface as well as the right side (in fact there is no distinct side between the back and front). The perforation of this side is clearly visible whereas on the left side the upper part of the drilled poll has broken away and only a groove remains as an indication of drilling on this side. This groove is funnel shaped as is also the drilled hole in the right side allowing only a small opening for eventual threading. In comparing the shape of this imitation whale-tooth with authentic examples (which also may have been shaped) the Tubuai specimen appears to be generally less convex however this may be largely due to the constraints of the shape of the bone from which it was carved (rather than by intention) otherwise we see a rather long thin form which may have some chronological importance.