Micronesian Diary
Felicia R. Beardsley
Tofol

Completing the job

Kosrae State, FSM - May-June 1999

May 31, 1999

After Nena completed the excavation, profile and soil descriptions in his Unit A2, the um, he was responsible for mapping the locations of our stratigraphic trenches and excavation units. These will then be placed on the site map he had created months ago. I wanted him to use the same instrument he used when he first mapped the site, so that there will be consistency from one mapping episode to another. Today, he was to explain the whole process of mapping to a couple of the guys while I continued on my new excavation unit with the remainder of the crew.

Nena first had to explain the process of setting up the transit and placing it over his original datum point. He then went on to explain his note-taking (one would have to record the distance and transit readings as he called them out) as well as the purpose of the rod (the other would have to hold the rod, which is his target with the transit). Meanwhile, I was slipping back and forth between the excavation and the mapping, watching Nena's use of the transit and then checking on the excavators. Everyone was doing a good job.

Dr. Beardsley & Nena on the transit
Tofol: Dr. Beardsley and Nena Lonno on the transit

Nena setting up his transit
Nena setting up his transit

Swinger G. Charley on the rod
Swinger G. Charley on the rod

Lyndon and Dr. Beardsley working on the trench profile
Lyndon Andrew and Dr. Beardsley working on the trench profile

Junior K. Ittu
Junior K. Ittu

Yoshiro Abraham
Yoshiro Abraham

Swinger G. Charley
Swinger G. Charley

June 1 - 2, 1999

Another day in the pit --- this is the last day in this one, our last unit. Tomorrow we move to another site and give it a quick evaluation, which I hope goes fairly fast because I want to spend more time at Walung. I have high hopes for that one as being among one of the earlier settled places on the island. Our next site is in Utwa (where we begin tomorrow) --- Utwa was the place the pirate Bully Hayes called home. It would be a hoot if we found his buried treasure.

At the end of the day, Nena and I sat in a unit and discussed stratigraphy. He was asking all sorts of questions, what's this, what's that. As I would answer, it was then, how do you know that, or this, or what if something else. By the end of our chat, closing the day, he stood up and said he had no idea you could get so much information from one unit. This took me by surprise. Once again, there was the intimation that all the work he had done in the past, under the tutelage of so many professionals, was less than rigorous. We sat in the unit for quite some time; even Lupalik joined us. So Nena had the opportunity to explain what I had just told him to Lupalik. And then I got more questions from both of them.

I learned that the artifact we recovered yesterday was something new, something Nena has never seen before. And now he wants to find more. In fact, it was so unusual to him, he said he might have thrown it out as an odd rock if he had found it. When I showed him the manufacturing marks on it, he was amazed; he had to take another look at it. Thus we entered into a discussion of labs and the kinds of things you can learn from lab work.

The upshot of the day was that he didn't want to fill in the units (I was going to do that tomorrow after I finish my profile in the unit we just completed), but wants to leave them as part of the site attraction. The site, you see, is right next to the museum, and he found the story of the construction of the rock wall I told today so intriguing that he wants others to be able to see it in the soil layers. Of course, in the long run it will be up to him, Stan, and Berlin as to whether to leave the units open or not; whatever they choose is just fine with me.

I am still waiting for something to arrive in my mailbox, most especially the adaptor for my tripod. I can't do any work with the instrument until I have that one vital element in hand. And now Nena is asking how you work on a level, how you make a cross-section of a site (a line of elevations) and so on. But I do have a hand level Aaron sent, and that will do just fine for the meantime. Of course it is always better to do your elevations and mapping at the same time, but in a pinch you can be real innovative in your approach. Besides, it just occurred to me that I still have to go over the basics of mapping anyway with our crew --- basics like using a compass and so on.

Below is a photograph of the boulders that were part of the wall. You can see the large basalt boulders that form the base of the wall; our excavation unit butts up against them. Within the unit are several boulders that had been buried. Only one, the pock-marked boulder on the far left side of the unit, was fully engulfed by the soils that had slid from farther upslope; it most likely was a part of the wall, but a part of the wall that extends upslope. The other boulders appear to have fallen from the wall immediately adjacent to where they now rest. The sliding soil buried these boulders, but did not transport them as it did the boulder to the far left. Our groundstone tool was found underneath the roundish boulder in the center of the unit.

Tofol: Unit A3, top layer
Tofol: Unit A3, top layer

Here is a photograph of the groundstone tool we pulled out of the unit. I placed it against the wall of the architectural compound on the site. The tool was buried in the soil beneath one of the boulders that had fallen from the wall.

Tofol: Unit A3, groundstone
Tofol: Unit A3, ground stone

June 3, 1999

Today was a quiet day for me. The crew had gone over to the Utwa site to clear it, in preparation for our move next week. I spent the day tidying up the Tofol site, mainly in profiling the unit we completed yesterday. This is the same unit where Nena and I spent the last hour of yesterday, just sitting in the unit going over its stratigraphy and the story that developed through the soil layers visible in the walls as well as in our excavations as we peeled back those layers. The unit was placed against the wall of the architectural compound on the site, and one of my interests was to see how the base course of these walls was seated in the ground.

In the view of the south wall, the basalt boulders of the lowest course are set into a hole dug to the parent soil, or saprolite. This saprolite contains a lot of boulders, each in varying stages of decay, in effect becoming soil. In fact, in the images I include here all the boulders you see inside our unit were part of the saprolitic deposit. From the profile of the south wall of our unit, a hole was dug until these boulders were encountered; then the soil removed in the excavations was in part turned back into the hole, probably to cover the odd shapes in the boulders encountered as well as to create a smoother surface in preparation for wall construction. This soil is mixed, made up of the original ground surface soils (the darker soils under the wall boulders) and the saprolite (the parent soil). Over this, the original ground surface soil is returned to the hole, but it is loosened now, soft enough to allow some adjustments to be made in seating the wall base course; after all, the idea in the construction is to create a fairly level or even surface from one boulder to the next, regardless of how misshapen they may be in their lower reaches. Once in place and relatively stable, the real work of increasing the heighth of the wall begins, or doing whatever finishing work is required to bring the wall to its desired form.


Unit A3, view from the top

Unit A3, north wall
Unit A3, north wall

Over time, the site is abandoned and boulders (smaller than those in the base course) tumble from the wall and land at the foot of the wall. These remain in place for some period of time, then (visible in the north wall stratigraphy; the lighter soil layer on top of the darker) soil slides from upslope and comes to rest against, around and on top of these fallen boulders, effectively burying them. Along with this sliding soil, another boulder from farther upslope is transported to the area where we had placed our excavation unit. This too eventully becomes stabilized, grass grows across it, other pioneering plants take root, a few papaya trees sprout, and then we come along and begin to trowel through it all.

As Nena and I are sitting in the unit, contemplating the story in the soils, we begin to trace the different soil layers across the site. I don't know that we have a full story of this place mapped out, but we have something of a start, in that as this compound is under construction those doing the building are likely being fed with food prepared on-site, perhaps in the um or fire pit nearby (the one I hit with the stratigraphic trench and my first excavation unit). We found a lot of charcoal mixed throughout the darker soil layer of the architectural/wall unit, along with scattered fragments of fire-cracked rock, or cooking stones. These could have easily found their way into the soil mix, as the fire pit and wall are not that far apart. After the wall was built, along with the rest of the architectural compound, the site was occupied. People carried out the daily activities of their lives there, going to and from their fields, making their tools, maybe repairing nets, pounding seka (sakau or kava), anything and everything that was a part of their lives. But this activity wasn't going on in the area of the fire pit/um I had excavated; the focus of activity was on the opposite side of the compound, where Nena excavated his um. It is at this side of the site that we found several um features as well as a number of seka stones, all visible on the surface.

We don't know when the site was abandoned, or even how old it might be (although we collected many samples of charcoal with the idea of at least archiving them until such time as they can be sent off for dating). At this point, the best we can do is provide a possible sequence of events that seem to fit what we have turned up in our brief glimpse below the surface.

I finished up my day by taking down the tarpaulin that protected us from the rain and offered us shade from the sun, and picked up a few stray tools that had managed to be left behind yesterday; it is always kind of sad to walk away from a site at the end of your work there. Next week we begin our new site, in the old stomping grounds of the pirate Bully Hayes. In jest, I suggested to Nena that we may just find the lost treasure of Hayes at our new site. He waved my comment aside and said, 'Who cares about that, I want to find more of those groundstones that came out of Tofol.'

Next: Leluh Islets and Utwe



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