B.P. 45 Mataura, Tubuai
Iles Australes, Polynesie Francaise
FAX # 011-689-950-738
ATTENTION Dr. Murry Tamers / Dr. Jerry Stipp
*****I am sending this letter as requested with the details of the sample provenance (see Diagrams). The site is can be termed a beach site which has been invaded by numerous storm deposits forming layers of relatively clean sand which seal in the cultural layers. The cultural layers are composed of discoloured sand, ash and accumulated dirt dispersed with shell, stone, bone, charcoal, etc. In the excavation of some 30 square meters, I have found no sign of solid wood, posts etc., these have long since dissolved.
*****The possible contaminates include small roots, and or Coconut palm roots. chemical non-organic fertilizers, sea water which invaded the excavation during the last cyclone, and 10 years of atmospheric atomic testing pollution from Moruroa 600 miles east (as well as more recent sunlight while drying the sample).
*****I will now try to briefly detail my reasons for claiming that the samples should date to more than 1000 BP. I have been collecting artifacts in Tubuai for about 8 years. Tubuai is an exceptional island in the list of important archeological sites in Polynesia due to the ideal conditions for artifact preservation. The Island is protected by an extensive barrier reef which lays from 1-2.5 kilometers off shore. While the island is mountainous it is encircled by a wide flat coastal plain of accumulated beach sand, recent sea level studies indicate that the relative sea level has not varied more than a few inches over the past thousand or more years, thus the island has changed little other than the occasional cyclone storm deposit which may occasionally alter the coastline, yet even this may not be much of a permanent change as it would appear that sand removed by storms is quickly replaced and the island returns to its original form which has probably evolved through many thousands of years of molding in the presence of the south east trades, deep oceanic currents, and the combination of wave and tides acting upon the surrounding barrier reef which otherwise largely protects the island from erosion. The currents within the lagoon, along with wind and wave deposit sand along the beach in such an even manner that the island has developed into a rather rounded potato shaped form which is not likely to change to any great degree regardless of violent storms (relatively rare at a rate of, once or twice every century or so)
*****The long and short of the matter is that we have, unlike just about every where else, very stable conditions and thus the early settlement sites and the conditions where they are found have changed little other than the changes that are brought about by the long term occupation of the same site. That is to say most of the deposits are a mixture of old and new thoroughly churned by years of digging and cultivation, in recent times however modern cultivation methods have brought to the surface an enormous quantity of artifacts that were otherwise lost, buried, or discarded. I decided to collect and study these artifacts and after some years of comparative study I came to the conclusion that there was enough evidence to indicate an early settlement in Tubuai, a settlement which could easily date to as early as 600 AD.
*****The artifacts recovered from certain 'early' Tubuai sites being identical to those recovered in the Society Islands at such early sites as VAITOOTIA in Huahine and Hane in the Marquesas. These artifacts were however few and far between and while I claimed an early settlement it was hard to find Archeologists interested in material collected from the surface, further, the mixing of the deposits either by years of prolonged occupation or recent cultivation meant that it would be hard to find 'archeologically' further clues. However as fate would have it a large site was accidentally discovered during a large scale excavation at ATIAHARA #3 where the accumulated beach sand and storm deposits had buried and sealed in the ancient deposits. I was the first to explore the sealed in lower layers of this site and quickly discovered a good quantity of well preserved charcoal coming from about the middle of the lowest visible layer, this I forwarded to you via Dr. Shutler and we obtained a date of 580 +/- 50 BP.
*****While waiting for the results of this first sample I explored further the lowest layers at the ATIAHARA site and after years of fossicking for early artifacts previously, I had a good Idea of what I was looking for, an artifact that could be shown to be indisputably early. As it happened a by a stroke of very good luck I stumbled upon a cache of artifacts, all turned out to be early, in fact earlier than I had hoped. Up until now I had but a sprinkling of fragments (in a general collection of some thousands of artifacts) indicating the presence of such artifacts when suddenly I discovered completed whole examples of finished pearl shell graters identical to those found at Huahine and Hane, untanged adzes, shell chisels, sea urchin spine files and so on. There was no doubt in my mind that these deposits would prove to be early, certainly earlier than the earliest New Zealand settlement dates which are now fluctuating around 1000 years BP.
*****You can imagine my shock when I received your dating results, I then sent you a small sample which I had recovered with the cached artifacts and this sample dated to 560 +/- 150 BP. again I felt this date to be much too recent, the adzes of this period are well pecked, tanged and of an evolved and easily recognized form.
*****I invited Dr. Richard Shutler to come and see the site and while exploring it together we recovered yet more clues such as fishhooks of early types and since I have excavated archeologically a good number of square meters in the hopes of finding a better charcoal sample which could be again identified with artifacts.
*****This then explains the arrival of yet a third sample in your hands this sample was recovered from a lens of blackened sand that is probably the remains of a cooking fire which I noted as being below the main lowest layer or over 110 cm below the surface, I am enclosing photos of the lens and would ask you to return the photos with the dating results, we see in the photos that the main cultural layer starts about 75-80 below the surface and that the lens is found 40-50 cm below the top the main cultural layer, thus the sample comes from about 120 or more cm below the present surface.
*****Given Murphy's law there is always a possibility of something going wrong either an unseen intrusion or sampling error, bags mixed and so on, so I imagine that a number of dates must be attempted. preferably from a number of locations in the Cultural layer, for now however with my limited finance I ask you to date this latest sample that should be labeled ATIAHARA Trench 1-1.5C 40+ cm.
L. A. Miller.