Tracking Emergent Spatial and Social Patterns across Terraced Landscapes in Polynesia

Seth Quintus, Dolly Autufuga, Stephanie Day, Jennifer Huebert, Noa Kekuewa Lincoln, Nolita Motu, Kyungsoo Yoo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Successful settlement on Polynesian islands required the alteration of environments, and such alteration produced extensive cultural landscapes. While some of the characteristics of these landscapes are well-established, what drives the spatial and temporal structure of these settlements is not clear across the entire region. Here, we present data on the nature and structure of settlement along one geological substrate in the interior of Ta‘ū Island, Manu‘a Group, American Sāmoa. Our results suggest that variability in slope and soil fertility were key drivers of archaeological patterns. Early use of the area seems to meet expectations of an ideal free distribution wherein the community was dispersed and located in relatively optimal locations for settlement. Characteristics of the settlement in the 15th century a.d. and later are consistent with landscape packing and community integration, signaling a shift to an ideal despotic distribution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)196-211
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Field Archaeology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. NSF BCS-1732360. We thank the people of Fitiuta, especially Eseta Kese and Pastor Fred Scanlan, for hosting us during our research. We thank Logoleo Feagai Logoleo for permission to work in Luatele. We wish also to recognize the contributions of Tiffany Lee, Darby Filimoehala, Malone Ieti, Princecharles Faleagafulu, Christina Fu‘afu‘a, Tafa Fu‘afu‘a, Paulo Paulo, Oceana Te‘i, Arthur Sega, Fafeta‘i Lauofo, Joshua Fu‘afu‘a, Falani Masunu, Visa Vaivai Tiapusua, Brian Vivao, Fa‘afutai Lauofo, Fauato Aukuso, Taumakai Atautia, Jonathon Mauga, Leonard Vivao, Lawrence Fautua, Robert Mauga, J. J. Tanielu, and Achilles Tevasea to the success of this research. We appreciate the helpful comments of Jeff Clark, Tom Dye, Robert DiNapoli, Christian Peterson, and Jim Bayman on a previous draft of this manuscript. Finally, we thank the American Samoa Historic Preservation Office, specifically Letitia Peau-Folau, Teleai Christian Ausage, and Lancelot Leutu‘utuofiti Te‘i, for archaeological and logistical support. Logistical assistance was provided by the National Park of American Samoa under permit NPSA-2019-SCI-0001.

Publisher Copyright:
© Trustees of Boston University 2021.


  • Luatele Site
  • Samoa
  • Ta‘ū Island
  • ideal-free distribution
  • landscape archaeology


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