The Department of Anthropology Colloquium Series Presents

The Socio-Ecology of Landscape Construction and Formation on Ta`u Island, American Samoa

Seth Quintus
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Thursday, February 20, 3:00 pm, Crawford Hall 115

The analysis of lidar datasets has revolutionized archaeology by providing a means to investigate densely vegetated regions more efficiently and systematically. Oceania is one of the areas that has benefited most noticeably. While engineered landscapes and dense settlements were known long before the application of lidar, the technology has led to a recognition of the full extent of engineered landscapes in the region and, by extension, the size of populations that inhabited these islands. This has generated additional questions relating to the nature and temporal development of these engineered landscapes, and their relationship to ecological and social transformations that occurred in the last three millennia. I will discuss recent paired archaeological and ecological research on Ta`u Island that seeks to address these questions. Like elsewhere in Oceania, the landscape of Ta`u was constructed within a set of ecological and social logics. I detail the timing and spatial extent of this construction to elucidate the social and ecological motivations that lay behind this feat of engineering. Doing so provides important information pertinent to understanding the size and resiliency of populations that have inhabited the island for nearly 3,000 years as well as the physical legacies of landscape transformation that still impact the ecology of the island today.

Seth Quintus has been an assistant professor in anthropology at UH-Mānoa since 2016 after receiving his PhD from the University of Auckland in 2015. His research interests include the historical ecology and political economy of Oceania, especially in Samoa and Hawai`i.