Archaeologist Working In Tonga Wants Museum To Display Finds

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Burley uncovered oldest material in Polynesia: 2,800 years old

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, August 5, 2014) – An archaeologist whose work has traced the origins of Polynesian settlement in the Pacific says its a shame Tonga doesn't have a museum to showcase its own history.

Canadian archaeologist Professor David Burley has spent many years uncovering the origins of settlement in Tonga.

He's just completed an excavation outside the small village of Nukuleka, at the entrance of Tongatapu's central lagoon.

Professor Burley collected Lapita pottery, fish bones and shell dating back 2,800 years - making it the oldest material in Polynesia.

"What makes Nukeleka so special is that it's the earliest site in Tonga, and Tonga is certainly the first archipelago to be settled in Polynesia," he said.

"Ultimately all Polynesians can trace their ancestry, or some part of it, back to that founding colony."

Professor Burley says he would like the materials collected to be on display in Tonga, so local populations can see their heritage.

He says Tonga is one of the few countries in the Pacific without a museum, after the previous museum, which was sponsored by the royal family, ran out of funds.

"It's not just this material," he said.

"I've been working in Tonga for almost 25 years and I have very large collections of archaeological remains that I would like to ultimately return to Tonga and of course have them put on display.

"Tonga is a developing nation...[and] the government has considerably greater priorities just to run the nation on a day-to-day basis."

Professor Burley says a group of business people in Tonga is starting to formulate plans for a heritage program and museum facility.

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