Guest blog by Helen Alderson, visiting researcher
As mentioned in my first blog, Micronesia is home to some impressive monumental structures. One of these is the House of Taga, on the island Tinian in the Marianas. The House of Taga’s impressive stone columns are inspiring, but what lies beneath them tells a story about cultural change over time, as Marcian Pellett discovered in 1958 (Pellett and Spoehr 1961).
The House of Taga collection at Bishop Museum holds a variety of different pottery sherds, and a lesser amount of associated ornaments such as shell beads. Interestingly, the elaborate “Marianas Red” pottery was found at an older stratigraphic context than the “Marianas Plain” pottery which was found in the same context as the Latte columns that form the foundation of this monumental structure (Pellett and Spoehr 1961:322). Why did pottery become simpler over time? To me, this may ring of a change in investment in labor, from the creation of elaborate pots to the construction of monumental architecture. However, in other parts of Micronesia, different researchers have different theories as to why pottery became plainer, and in many cases disappeared altogether. On Pohnpei, for example, Rainbird (1999) suggests that pottery disappears because its social meaning (i.e. the remembrance of ancestors) was transferred into tombs.
I find the elaborate patterns of the Marianas red ware truly striking. They include delicate shell inlay, and bright red slip. It is exciting to be able to find and match the intricate designs on some of the sherds with those drawn by Pellett and Spoehr (1961), which you may also wish to do using the photos provided. Their article can be found here: http://www.jps.auckland.ac.nz/document//Volume_70_1961/Volume_70,_No._3/Marianas_archaeology,_by_Marcian_Pellett,_p_321-325/p1
Pellett, M. & Spoehr, A. (1961). Marianas archaeology: Report on an excavation on Tinian. The Journal of the Polynesian Society,Â 70(3): 321-325.
Rainbird, P. (1999). Entangled biographies: western Pacific ceramics and the tombs of Pohnpei. World archaeology, 31(2): 214-224.