Pacific Archaeology Project

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Photo: The first settlers are thought to have arrived on the Marquesas Islands before 100AD Photo: Wikipedia/Makemake

France’s Institute of Research for Development (IRD) is using community archaeology to uncover valuable heritage sites and increase economic and social wellbeing in French Polynesia.

IRD archaeologist Pierre Ottino has spent more than 15 years researching ruined settlements in the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia with the help of local people.

According to, his work has inspired local people to reconstruct traditional housing based both on elders’ recollection and on Ottino’s research. This in turn has spurred the rediscovery of traditional crafts such as wood carving.

The project has also helped local people to understand the benefits of archaeological research.

The IRD runs the Marquesan project under a local heritage research unit that operates in more than 20 countries across Africa, Oceania, South America and South-East Asia.

The first recorded settlers of the Marquesas are thought to be Polynesians, who, from archaeological evidence, are believed to have arrived before 100AD. Ethnological and linguistic evidence suggests that they may have come from the regions of Tonga and Samoa.

 The islands were given their name by the Spanish explorer Álvaro de Mendaña who discovered them in July 1595.