Archaeologists work with Taoga Niue examining historical sites on the island

Archaeologists with community members who attended the workshop at Taoga Niue building last Thursday

A team of five archaeologists, one from New Zealand and four from the United Kingdom, were in-country in the past two weeks undergoing a project researching Pacific endangered cultural heritage in Niue and the Cook Islands. 

Last Thursday, the team hosted their second workshop at the Taoga Niue building to share their findings with community members of the sites they visited while on the island. 

Members of the community, village councils and government workers were present for the workshop. 

BCN News spoke with Professor Kate Welham from Bournemouth University last Thursday who provided an update of the work they have been doing. 

“We’ve been able to visit fifteen of the historical archaeological sites and special places on the island with Taoga Niue and do some recording.” 

“We’ve been able to sign a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) with the University of the South Pacific to help our work going forward. We are very pleased to do that.”

Some of the sites they were able to visit include Paluki, Fatuaua in Tuapa at Anaana cave in Tamakautoga.

Kate says that on top of all the work that they have been doing helping Taoga Niue record the cultural heritage of Niue, they were also able to visit Niue High School and share their work experience with the Year 8 students for their careers programme. 

Dr Lawrence Shaw from Forestry England told BCN News some of their research findings. 

“We’ve been taking a few different approaches to understand the archaeology and the historic sites. First of all we have been looking at past work that has been undertaken predominantly by Trotter around 50 years ago and specifically trying to understand where he located these sites and what condition they are in.”

“We’ve been looking at different techniques to do this using GPS, using drones, using cameras and we’ve also been looking at different scales.”

“We’ve been looking at complexes at Paluki where there were a number of different types of sites. We’ve also been looking at caves and features found within them and also large monumental structures and their composition.”

Dr Lawrence says that it has been really interesting to understand how well the historical sites they have visited have survived. 

“It’s been nice to get out and explore the landscape and really understand the amazing heritage that’s here. We’ve also been doing some work about recording old buildings as well. Some important sites perhaps under threat for future cyclones to make sure we got them recorded for prosperity.”

Director of Taoga Niue Moira Enetama told BCN News yesterday afternoon that the work of the archaeologists to Niue have been an important aspect also for her department in examining historical sites on the island that may have been forgotten, damaged and overgrown with bush. 

“The team had wanted to cover more than a hundred sites while they were here for two weeks but that was impossible. They just continue on from what Trotter left 50 years ago to assess what has changed over the years and they did see damage to the sites. Damage to the sites and there are also challenges in terms of getting there and making an assessment.”

New Zealand archaeologist Michael Trotter came to Niue in 1971 and conducted research on the island where he visited a total of 100 sites. 

The recent archaeologists on the island, although they wanted to visit the same 100 sights as Trotter did, it was impossible in the matter of two weeks that they were only here for. They only managed to visit 15 sites.

“I think the important aspect to all this is the introduction of new technology to see how the sites have been maintained over the years or not maintained. To see it in a different perspective, how they can build up sites and be appreciated by the people when they get to view them.”

“It is also important that all this information contributes to what we do in the department, especially museum displays and promotions to the young people.”

Moira hopes that there are young future interests to study in the fields of archaeology or anthropology to continue the work for our Niue and the Department of Taoga Niue. 

The archaeologists departed the island on Monday and are heading to the Cook Islands to continue their research project on Pacific endangered cultural heritage.

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