Saturday, June 19, 2010

I am the Key Master...Are you the Gate Keeper?

I spent this week at the village of Alega making connections to get into the valley behind Mount Pioa. Things are going well as far as the first week on the ground usually goes. I have a car, have money, no injuries and plenty of other words no complaints.

I’m having a little trouble finding a resident of Lauli’i named Imo Tipula, he’s the guy that can tell me the exact spot that I have been hearing about. Next week I’ll be living with my friends in Aoa and they have another contact that will hopefully get me in and working on the western ridge area.

Village boundaries, at least on this part of the Island are defined by drainage basins that go from 3 miles to sea all the way up the the mountain top. As soon as naturally flowing water changes direction on the other side of a ridge you can bet you’re on someone else’s land and better get new permission. Hidden boundary lines are a part of work here and getting full permission when in doubt is the only way to maintain sustainable archaeology on this island. Even when I think I’m playing within the rules, a social boundary left over from twenty or thirty years of inter-family bickering will shut me down. If all else fails, offering a big smile accompanied by a case of canned fish,

a bag of Doritos and a pack of menthol cigarettes will get me almost anything I can think of. Maybe I’ll pull that trick next week, and I still think it’s all in the nacho Doritos. At the moment I’m hopeful and excited about the coming week of survey under the dense canopy of the upland forest.

My place at alega

During the last week my GPS unit has had a difficult time picking up enough signal under the thick over story of old-growth forest. My old school Garmin GPS unit can’t pull the 5 or 6 satellites needed for accurate measurements under heavy cover. So...and this is really fun, I keep a map in a bag and shoot in landmarks with my compass to find my location and then plot my next path of travel. Batteries always tend to fail, vegetation will always become too thick at important locations and satellites, well...they don’t seem to enjoy archaeology. A topo map, grease pencil and a global compass have become my posse, let’s hope they stay loyal to the cause.

The first leg of the obsidian source survey

Here's my next survey route

more to come...


  1. Hey Dan,
    A few questions:
    1. The place you're staying at Alega - what is it? who owns it? How did you find it?
    2. Have you ever been to Ofu before?

  2. Hi! The place I was staying at last week is owned by Tesa. Her grandfather moved into the valley in the 1930s. She runs a restaurant/private beach thing and also has a few beach shacks for $50 a day including meals. Good place to stay since I was working in their back yard. Pretty place!

    Never been to Ofu before, I'm really excited about making my way over.