Summer 2017 Marquesas Project
Cultural Heritage and Indigenous Studies
Learn About The Project And How To Join
This year’s project centers on a unique community-based archaeology museum in the Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia. Te Ana Peua, The Tahuata Museum, began in 1987 as a collaboration between the community of Tahuata and University of Hawaii archaeologist Barry Rolett. The Museum has its own building in the heart of Vaitahu Village, the capital of Tahuata.
Our 2017 project is an immersion program bringing students to Tahuata with the goal of creating new exhibits illuminating the island's ancient past.
June 17 - July 21, 2017
Tahuata is one of the smallest (50 km2) and most traditional islands in the Marquesas. It is accessible only by boat (Air Tahiti flies to neighboring Hiva Oa). The population of 600 consists entirely of native Marquesans who live in four villages, of which Vaitahu is the largest.
Originally, artifacts from archaeological excavations on Tahuata had to be shipped to the French Polynesian territorial museum, nine hundred miles away in Tahiti. In founding its own museum, the community’s goal was to keep Tahuata's heritage on the island - as a source of cultural identity and as a resource for educators and researchers. The Marquesan community is our primary audience but the Museum also receives more than one thousand visitors a year from outside the Marquesas.
When and how did Polynesians first reach the Marquesas?
How are Marquesans related to other Pacific Islanders?
Our collections and research help answer these questions. The Museum houses more than 1500 artifacts. While most are from archaeological research conducted on Tahuata, some of the most beautiful pieces were donated by the islanders themselves. By evoking their cultural significance, our museum stimulates appreciation of the irreplaceable value of such artifacts to future generations.
Who can apply? Students and members of the general public. The project team includes no more than 5 international participants and an equal number of interns from the local Marquesan community. Preference given to applicants with French language skills and course work in anthropology and archaeology.
Where? Vaitahu Village, on Tahuata in the southern Marquesas, French Polynesia
When? June 17 – July 21, 2017.
Project goals. To create new exhibits for the Te Ana Peua Museum. To make archaeology relevant. To promote cultural revitalization.
What you will learn. Our project offers a unique hands on experience in working with indigenous communities in cultural heritage management and an in-depth perspective on Polynesian culture and archaeology.
Our 2017 field season is part of a two year project to add a new 250 ft2 gallery space with exhibits, lighting and ornamental wooden carvings by local artists. Juxtaposing past and present artistic traditions creates a synergy that heightens the appreciation of both, while inspiring modern Marquesans to perpetuate the art for which their ancestors are famous.
The December 2017 Marquesan Arts Festival (Matavaa) will bring more than one thousand Marquesans to Vaitahu. Matavaa is a hugely popular five-day event celebrating traditional Marquesan dance and music. It rotates among the islands and the custom is for the host community to house and feed visitors from the other islands. Matavaa was last held on Tahuata ten years ago and there is much excitement as we plan for December. The Museum will be a focal point of the festival. This is an opportunity for us to reach an audience from throughout the Marquesas and other archipelagoes of French Polynesia.
GALLERY: PHOTOS FROM THE LAST FESTIVAL
Most of the artifacts in our museum are discoveries from excavations at the nearby Hanamiai coastal dune site. The Hanamiai collection reveals the evolution of Marquesan culture over nearly one thousand years, from initial Polynesian settlement through the time of European contact. New exhibits will draw upon large numbers of artifacts discovered during six field seasons of excavations conducted since 1998. Displays will be illustrated with numerous photographs (e.g. action shots from the digs and close-ups of tiny specimens), as well as voyaging maps presenting the latest hypotheses explaining Polynesian origins, migrations and interaction spheres.
Community Involvement and Project Leadership
This is a team effort with a shared vision. Project codirectors Felix Barsinas and Barry Rolett have complementing realms of expertise. Felix, as a native Marquesan and community leader (Mayor of Tahuata) is responsible for mobilizing community support and integrating this project with other community initiatives. Barry, as an experienced archaeologist and cofounder of the Museum, plays the role of scientific director and overall coordinator for many of the practical considerations.
This project is part of a long-term collaboration between the community of Tahuata and archaeological field teams involving American students working together with local Marquesans.