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By B. Chen-Fruean

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (Samoa News, Dec. 22) - While digging in an area at the Pava'ia'i malae [on Tutuila] where the American Samoa Power Authority (ASPA) plans to lay a sewer line, archaeologists stumbled across what is believed to be the oldest and most amazing find of its kind to be uncovered in American Samoa.

ASPA senior archaeologist David Addison reported yesterday that they uncovered an ancient Samoan village about six feet underground, covered with about four feet of volcanic ash.

"We believe the ashes are from the Olovalu Volcano which is located next to Futiga and Ili'ili, after Canco Hill," Addison explained.

And while the ASPA archaeology team anticipates digging deeper (about four more feet) before concluding the project today, they have already uncovered "a lot of pottery, even decorated pottery."

Addison explained that there is only one other place on Tutuila where decorated pottery was uncovered, and that was over at Aganoa in the eastern district where two pieces of decorated pottery were found.

In a matter of two days, Addison and the gang have already found five pieces of decorated pottery, and about 500 pieces of plain pottery in the Pava'ia'i malae.

"This is very significant because we know that Samoans used to make pottery in ancient days. Without any solid conclusion, we can only estimate that the site of the ancient village is about 1,500 -2,000 years old," Addison offered. No human remains were discovered as of yesterday afternoon.

In addition to the pottery, a pig skeleton was also found and according to Addison, although they have yet to analyze all of the evidence, "it appears as if the pig got caught or fell into the volcanic ash, and has since been frozen in place."

All of the uncovered items have been transported to the archaeology laboratory where further analysis will be conducted and a conclusion will be made.

In the meantime, Addison said that the Pava'ia'i site is indeed the oldest place found on Tutuila, and the most amazing thing about it is the fact that the current village is located directly on top of it.

In response to the negative criticism directed at excavation projects across the territory, Addison explained that ASPA archaeologists were digging the area 20-feet along the sewer line in Pava'ia'i, in compliance with the National Preservation Act Section 106, which deals with the protection of archaeological, historical, and scientific data which may be damaged or destroyed by federally assisted projects.

ASPA has its own in-house archaeology team who, before construction is started, perform a surface survey of the areas which will be excavated in order to record any archaeological and historic sites.

ASPA receives federal funding for building utility infrastructure in American Samoa, and it is a requirement for all federally funded construction projects that archaeologists be consulted and present at the construction site. Therefore, the excavation projects are mandatory.

"So far, the project is progressing well. We just want to thank the leaders and people of Pava'ia'i for their support and patience with this project," Addison concluded.

The Pava'ia'i site is one of a handful that has been carried out over the past few months.

In October, an excavation project in Fatu-ma-Futi uncovered, among other things, a millennium old human burial site, about 50 post holes (used to install corner support for a Samoan fale), a trio of telephone poles and Samoan fales, a pair of turtle skeletons, faisua shells, alili shells, pule shells, coral rocks, an ancient carving tool (adze), a chisel, a pavement made up of large flat pieces of coral and rocks, a fireplace used for cooking or nighttime light source, pavings (including layers of 'ili'ili rock or paving pebbles), and thousands of fish bones, the most ever to be found in an archaeological deposit in American Samoa - all of which have been estimated to be 700-2,000 years old.

December 23, 2005

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