Solomon Islands Museum Prepares Archaeological Exhibition Of East Are’Are Artifacts

Materials increase understanding of 'pre-history' in Malaita

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Dec. 8, 2016) – The Solomon Islands National Museum is proposing a special exhibition for materials excavated from a site at Apunirereha, East Are’Are in Malaita Province.

These materials were excavated under an archaeological cooperation project between the Solomon Islands National Museum (SINM) and the Commission for Archaeology of Non-European Cultures of the German Archaeological Institute which started in 2012 at Apunirereha.

A statement from the SINM and German Archaeological Institute said the aim of this research project was to enlighten the prehistory and understanding of human migration and initial settlement of the Solomon Islands.

“The project will not only contribute to the knowledge of the prehistory of the Solomon Islands, but it will help sensibilise the public and local communities to their national heritage,” the statement said.

According to SINM Head of Archaeology Unit Lawrence Kiko and German Archaeological Institute team leader Dr Johannes Moser, the selection of East Are’Are to be the first focal point for the research came about after they heard from a certain individual that East Are’Are has sources of lithic.

The excavation revealed a huge amount of lithic products in all stages of ancient manufacturing process.

Dr Johannes said the stone tools were widely used by native in former time in the area.

He believed that it has a local source where people can access.

“The high possibly for internal trade from the resource to other islands can be possible,” Dr Johannes said.

A further archaeological excavation was also done in Ria cave in the vicinity of Apunirereha.

The statement said the site is a rock shelter that is formed by an isolated natural limestone cliff and can serve as shelter for one or two families.

“The archaeological potential of the rock shelter was suspected during a survey in the region in 2011 and finally confirmed through a first test sounding in 2013.

“Ria rock shelter is very interesting because it shows evidences of human existence in prehistoric times. 

“The excavations under the rock shelter disclosed cultural deposits and features and a large collection of knapped stone tools, shells, faunal and human remains,” the statement said.

Upon permission granted by tribal chiefs, a small amount of stone artefacts was brought to the National Museum in Honiara for stone tool use wear analysis.

A specialist from TraceoLab, University of Liège in Belgium Sonja Tomasso is currently at the SINM to analyse how the stone tools were used.

According to Ms Sonja, the goal of a use wear study is to understand the function of tools in cross examination with the activities on the site.

In functional studies, the life cycle of a tool, from its manufacture through the time it was used until when it was discarded or thrown away is analysed.

During the use-wear analysis different methodologies are applied:

    to record the macroscopic edge damage a binocular will be used ( magnifications up to 100x) and
    to detect microscopic wear traces a metallurgical reflected light microscope will be used (magnifications up to 500x). 

Ms Sonja said all functional interpretation is based on comparisons with experimental tools.

“The result of microscopic analysis have shown that most of the tools had been used through an evidence of glassy friction appeared on the surface of the tool edge.

“The isotope residue analysis to determine what the stone tools are for will be done in later period but it would be interested to find residue that remains on the stone tools even over a thousand of years under strong microscope.

“Radiocarbon determinations given on the sites are providing a Chrono-stratigraphic frame which covers a period of 1700 years starting from 50 BC until 1600 AD,” Ms Sonja said.

Mr Kiko was delighted for the opportunity the project provided in training his archaeology museum staff to equip them with new skills in the area of field and laboratory analysis of archaeology materials.

He added that the stone tool analysis as far as he remembered was the first to be done locally at the museum and it gave his museum archaeology staff the opportunity to have a taste on stone tool use ware analysis.

The government archaeologist is also looking at the opportunity to get archaeology for an exchange program with the partner institution for training.

Mr Kiko said even though the carbon dating of 1700 years is younger, it fills a historical gap of human existence on the given period.

“If we have to project, the whole human migration from first human settlement of 29,000 years from Bismarck Archipelago to 6,000 years at Poha Cave on Guadalcanal and to the current 1700 years, there could be a possibility of reverse migrant of 2900 years from remote Oceania,” he said.

“Other islands such as Makira Ulawa would be an ideal place to do intensive research to confirm theories.

“Archaeologically, Malaita lies on an extreme passage of prehistory human route.

“Few evidence has been surfaced on the Siale area but no archaeological research has been done to prove such oral and surface materials.”

Meanwhile, Mr Kiko said the excavation is still in progress and the team is optimistic that a deeper layer will provide much earliest dating.

He said at the end of the project life in East Are’Are, the SI National Museum is proposing a special exhibition for the excavated materials to be held at the National Museum and a mini cultural centre to be built for the people to display the materials and for safe storage in the village.

The research team thanked all those who have supported the project.

Solomon Star
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