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Documentation of Samoan Archaeological & Built Heritage Places and Associated Oral Traditions aka Samoan Heritage Survey and Database

Funded by the US Department of State Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP)

Samoa has a rich and diverse archaeological and cultural history spanning some 3000 years. This history represents all major phases of human activity in the southern pacific region commencing with the arrival of the Lapita peoples, the region’s first human colonists. Samoan oral traditions encompass a deep account of the past. There are many kinds of oral traditions; proverbs, genealogies, village histories and protocol statements (fa’alupega), myths and legends, fairy tales, songs, and poems. Some refer to events over the past 5-600 years (using genealogical reckoning), or to mythological eras when the islands were created by the ancient gods. Others recall major events of more recent times. A large body of oral tradition was recorded in writing in the 19th century by missionary scholars (for example Pratt 1890, Ella, 1895, Stair, 1896, Fraser 1896) and by anthropologists, notably Kramer (1994 [1902]) and Buck (1930). Since 1903 The Samoa Land and Titles Court has stored written records in the Samoan language of family and village histories. Today most families also have written versions of significant family oral traditions. However, many oral traditions continue to reside in the memories of older Samoan people and are passed down in families and villages in the traditional manner, although this mode of transmission is under increasing threat as Samoa modernizes.
There is a need to keep track of the archaeological sites that were recorded during the early phase of research activity during the 1950s to 1970s, as well as more recently discovered sites. There is currently no central database to help conserve and manage Samoa’s rich archaeological heritage and there is no central government agency tasked with this responsibility. This represents a significant risk for the effective conservation and management of Samoa’s archaeological and cultural heritage and its associated oral traditions.

Samoa currently possesses no central database of archaeological sites or historic places and this presents a significant disadvantage for the protection, conservation, and management of Samoa’s archaeological and historic heritage. It is the aim of this project to rectify this situation by compiling a database of Samoa’s known archaeological and built heritage places and their associated histories and oral traditions (as applicable) with the purpose of documenting, conserving and preserving Samoa’s cultural heritage. This will be the first project of this type to be conducted in Samoa.
Project Update (as of December 2016)
Having completed our first Field Season in June 2016, the AFCP Project Team are compiling data recorded from 30 sites across the island of Upolu. SEE GPS MAP HERE? Our next Field Season is June 2017, this time to the big island of Savai’i. Watch this space!

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