Centuries before Europeans arrived in the Americas, Polynesian peoples had already gained widespread recognition for their sophisticated sailing technology and their ability to navigate to the planet’s most isolated islands.
Polynesian societies migrated rapidly towards the east and established settlements on almost every island in the region, including Samoa and Tonga to Rapa Nui/Easter Island in the east, Hawai’i in the north, and Aotearoa/New Zealand in the south. However, our knowledge about Polynesian migrations to the west of the 180th meridian remains limited.
A multidisciplinary study by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, has analysed the geochemical characteristics of stone artefacts known as Adzes, gathered from Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, and the Caroline Islands.
After comparing the geochemical and isotopic compositions of the artefacts against referenced natural rocks and archaeological quarries in the area, the researchers have been able to determine the geological source and gain a greater understanding of the interconnections between Polynesian societies in the Western Pacific, Melanesia, and Micronesia, commonly referred to as “Polynesian Outliers.”
Out of the eight adzes or adze fragments studied by the researchers, six were traced back to the Tatagamatau quarry complex located on Tutuila Island in American Samoa, which is over 2,500 kilometres away from the Polynesian homeland.
Aymeric Hermann, from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, said: “Tatagamatau adzes were among the most disseminated items across West and East Polynesia, and the sourcing of Taumako and Emae adzes suggest bursts of long-distance mobility towards the Outliers similar to those that led to the settlement of East Polynesia.”
The team highlights that such inter-island contacts are signals that Polynesian sailors might have played an important role in the reappraisal of long-distance mobility and in the distribution of specific material culture items and technologies such as shell adzes, back-strap loom, and obsidian points among the mosaic of Pacific Island societies in the western Pacific during the last millennium A.D.
“A recent study describes an obsidian stemmed point as a chiefly heirloom found on Kapingamarangi Island with a geochemical signature matching an obsidian source on Lou Island in the Admiralties: this is an exciting find that echoes our identification of a basalt flake from mainland New Britain on that same atoll”, adds Hermann.
Long-distance mobility in the past
In the Pacific region, geochemical sourcing has been particularly successful at locating sources of stone artefacts and tracing the transport of specific items across distant islands and archipelagos. Such material evidence of long-distance inter-island voyaging shows that Pacific Island societies were never completely isolated from one another. These patterns of interaction are central to our understanding of the deeply intertwined history of cultural systems in the Pacific.
In this study, atomic emission spectroscopy and mass spectrometry were used to measure concentration of oxides, trace elements and ratios of radiogenic isotopes in order to identify geological provenances with a high level of accuracy. Thanks to the collaboration of experts in archaeology, geochemistry and data science, a cutting-edge approach to geochemical sourcing was developed, which involves the use of computer-assisted comparisons with open-access databases.
Header Image Credit : Aymeric Hermann
New chambers discovered in Ancient Egyptian pyramid of Sahura
An Egyptian-German archaeological mission has discovered several new chambers in the pyramid of Sahura, located in the Abu Sir Pyramid Field south of Giza.
Sahura, meaning “He who is close to Re”, was a pharaoh of Ancient Egypt and the second ruler of the Fifth Dynasty (2465 BC to 2325 BC). Sahure’s reign is seen as one of economic and cultural prosperity, opening new trading links to the land of Punt and expanding the flow of goods from the Levantine coast.
Choosing not to follow the tradition of being buried in the royal necropolises of Saqqara and Giza, Sahura instead chose for his pyramid to be constructed at Abusir. Although smaller in size than the pyramids of his predecessors, Sahura’s pyramid complex was decorated with over 10,000 m2 of finely carved reliefs, some of which are considered “unparalleled in Egyptian art.”
The interior chambers of the pyramid were extensively damaged by grave robbers during antiquity, making it impossible to precisely reconstruct the substructure plan.
Image Credit : Mohamed Khaled
A restoration project led by Egyptologist Dr. Mohamed Ismail Khaled of the Department of Egyptology at Julius-Maximilians-Universität of Würzburg (JMU) has discovered a series of storage chambers and passageways. The northern and southern parts of these chambers are badly damaged, however, remnants of the original walls and parts of the floor can still be seen.
Using 3D laser scanning with a ZEB Horizon portable LiDAR scanner, the team conducted detailed surveys to map the extensive external areas and the narrow corridors and chambers inside.
According to the researchers: “Careful documentation of the floor plan and dimensions of each storage chamber has greatly enhanced our understanding of the pyramid’s interior. During restoration, a balance between preservation and presentation was pursued to ensure the structural integrity of the chambers while making them accessible for future study and potentially the public.”
During the restoration work, the project was also able to uncover the floor plan of the antechamber which had deteriorated over time. Consequently, the destroyed walls were replaced with new retaining walls. The eastern wall of the antechamber was badly damaged, and only the northeast corner and about 30 centimetres of the eastern wall were still visible.
Header Image – Pyramid of Sahura – Public Domain
Archaeologists identify runesmith who carved the Jelling Stone runes
Archaeologists using 3D scans have identified who carved the Jelling Stone runes, located in the town of Jelling, Denmark.
The first of the two Jelling stones was erected by King Gorm the Old in honour of his wife Thyra. Following this, a second stone was raised by King Gorm’s son, Harald Bluetooth, to commemorate his parents and to mark his victorious rule over Denmark and Norway, as well as his role in converting the Danish people to Christianity.
Researchers from the National Museum in Copenhagen have conducted 3D scans to analyse the carving tracks of the runes. Similar to handwriting, the carving techniques are relatively unique to each runesmith, as each stonemason holds the chisel at a certain angle and strikes with a certain force with the hammer.
By studying the angle of the chisel grooves and the distance between them, comparisons can be made with other rune stones, such as the Laeborg Runestone which stands approximately 30 kilometres southwest of Jelling
The analysis has revealed that the Laeborg Runestone has the same carving technique, which also has the inscription: “Ravnunge-Tue carved these runes after Thyra, his queen”.
Queen Thyra is mentioned in the two Jelling stones as the mother of Harald Bluetooth, wife of Gorm the Elder and “penitent of Denmark”, but Thyra’s name is also mentioned in two other runestones, that of Læborg, carved by Ravnunge-Tue in honor of Thyra, his queen, and that of Bække 1, which bears the inscription “Ravnunge-Tue and Fundin and Gnyple, the three made the stop of Thyra.”
For many years, researchers have debated whether Læborgstenen’s Queen Thyra is the same as the Thyra mentioned on the stones from Jelling.
According to the researchers: “The discovery in itself is interesting because it can link another person to the Jelling dynasty, but it is especially interesting because the realization brings with it another startling revelation, explains Lisbeth Imer, runologist and senior researcher at the National Museum.”
“It is an absolutely incredible discovery that we now know the name of the rune maker behind the Jelling stone, but what makes the discovery even wilder is that we know Ravnunge-Tue’s boss. It is Queen Thyra from Jelling, i.e. Harald Blåtand’s mother, there can no longer be much doubt about that, and that puts the discovery in a completely different light,” says Lisbeth Imer.
Header Image Credit : Shutterstock
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