Micronesian Diary
Felicia R. Beardsley
Making a Picture of the Site
Yap State, FSM - March 1999

March 23, 1999

Petrus Tun died today. He was the first vice president of the FSM, a governor for Yap, and John Tharngan's brother. He had been in the hospital in Honolulu for the last few weeks. According to John Tun, his death is a great loss to Yap. He was a man of charisma, who put action to his words and insisted others do so as well. The family is expected to return to Yap on Sunday, with the remains of Petrus. A state funeral is expected to take place next week.

The day itself was a bit oppressive. It was sultry, much like yesterday --- hot, humid, scarcely a breeze, but also unsettled. By late afternoon, the wind had picked up and clouds were building on the horizon --- rain, I expect.

At the site we continued with our mapping. Inch by inch we will get this site done. We also cleared off that stone path segment we found last Friday and found its limits. Its intersection with the path by the well is intact, with the exception of the banyan tree growing at this point. And its edges are fairly intact, although the pavement is gone. One edge is marked by the mounded soil used to level the path; the opposite edge is marked by a cut in the slope intended to even out the overall course and bedding of the path. The whole thing is cut short, however, because of Japanese gardening activity. The path is completely interrupted at this point; its paving was stripped, soil from its bed was dug up and mounded to one side, and the rows and rows of furrows we have come to recognize as remnant gardens are laid out across the path, following the slope in its descent toward the principal stream in this drainage.

Tomorrow I am supposed to give the Council of Pilung an update on our progress across the site. If there is time left in the day, we will once again return to the site and pick up a bit more of the mapping work. We still have to map the retaining walls associated with Daf 6, the same platform complex at which we have been working the last couple of days, and we have to chart the drainage/stream course these retaining walls follow. The stream (it started as a slope drainage, artificially dug to feed into a stream, and with time became a stream drainage in its own right) is important in that it creates a distinctive landmark through the site. Taro patches have been built alongside its course; it seems to have been the source of building stone for the platforms; and it marks our own route to the top of the site.

March 24, 1999

We have been working at the Daf 6 complex. You can see a step from a paved terrace onto the wunbey, or sitting platform. The step is eroded now, but it is mostly there. There is also a stone path (paving removed) that adjoins the complex. In one of the photographs below you can see of the edge of the path, showing the drainage alongside its length. This is one of the only ways we could actually trace the course of this path --- by following its contours. A backrest is in the corner of this terrace, leaning up against the retaining wall of the wunbey. Other surface artifacts are from the Japanese period, a bottle and coffee pot. I have to wonder what might be found under the vegetation and sub-surface, but time is running out.

Backrest Coffee pot and bottle
Early prehistoric and late historical period artifacts are evident on surface at Daf 6: left, a stone backrest; right, a coffee pot and Japanese bottle.

Path Step
Left: path at Daf 6; Right: step at Daf 6

March 26, 1999

It is still very hot here, with little relief from rain or wind. Last week, about the day after the students from the College of Micronesia (and a couple of guys from the Coast Guard and Navy) came to visit our site and see "archaeology in action", our access to the site was blocked by a very large branch of hibiscus. Andrew and I walked around the branch and continued our ingress and egress from the site, but we remained confused by this new signal. Was it a sign from the gardeners (relatives of the land owner) to keep out of their freshly planted garden? Did some of the students inadvertently step into some of the freshly planted mounds? Did the land owner not inform the gardeners that we would be bringing a troupe of people through the grounds on the way into the archaeological site? Was the blockage intended for another purpose, such as to keep out people looking for betel nuts? After all, it is near the end of betel nut season, which means they are becoming scarcer and more costly; if you don't have your own source, you have to buy them, and it could run into quite a bit of money.

These questions and others confounded us. Oh, we still continued going in and out of the site, skirting around the hibiscus branch, cutting new trails through the brush --- after all, we did have permission to pass through on our way to the site, and no one had informed us otherwise. Andrew made some inquiries locally because he is from that area and the gardeners are his relatives. The blockade was put up by the gardeners and not the land owner. This was a small bit of relief, as it came from the tenants and not him. But the question remained, Why? Every day we pass through the gardens. We have been watching the progress of the gardeners, in their clearing, in their planting, in their pruning; we have also been very careful not to disrupt their activities, and not to step on the planting mounds or squash newly planted cuttings of sugar cane, tapioca, or taro.

The mystery was finally solved. Tharngan talked to the land owner, a man who works in the water treatment plant and whose name I can't remember. (The only thing I remember about him is that he carried a pet rooster with him when he initially showed us the general site area.) The branch blocking passage was not intended for us; it was instead intended for the contract workers at Kingtex, a local clothing production factory adjacent to the site (they make things for K-Mart and similar kinds of department stores). Apparently they have been entering the gardens and taking some of the produce that is just reaching its prime. I was greatly relieved. We had done nothing wrong, nothing offensive.Whew.

I entered the site today with a great weight lifted from my shoulders, and in the process discovered the connection between the stone path by the well and the pavement adjoining the well. This has been a puzzle every time we pass by, because of the severity of erosion in this area. What I saw today was an entire section of the path on a deflated portion of soil; the pavement was still in place, but it sat at least a meter below the rest of the path. All the soil below the pavement had been washed away. And the well? It had been expanded at a later date, probably during the Japanese gardening era. A small portion of the original well circumference was still in place; the remainder had been removed when the well was expanded. This expansion ripped up the pavement that was laid all the way to the edge of the well, and in the process left a mound of debris cast to one side. The debris mound was one of the giveaways that something was amiss at the well. It is very uncharacteristic of the site as a whole to have an untidy mound of soil and rock in the middle of what is otherwise a level, paved surface, and a place that likely served as a central meeting place for this ancient village.

It was a good day all in all --- we were not the target of the hibiscus blockade, and we gained new insights into a portion of the site that had befuddled my mind every time we passed.

Next: Colonia and Memorial for Petrus Tun