People: Sidsel Millerstrom
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Sidsel Millerstrom
Archaeological Research Facility
2251 College Ave.
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720

Since 1984, I have focused my research on archaeological art and architecture in the Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia. I became interested in the Marquesas while working on Georgia Lee's (UCLA) Easter Island Rock Art Project, in 1983, and excavating cave sites on the island with Linda King (UCLA) the following year. Easter Island's rock art and sculptures were in the process of being systematically documented. Up to this time no systematic survey had been conducted in the Marquesas, an archipelago which, in prehistory, was connected culturally with Easter Island.

The Marquesas Islands Rock Art Project commenced in 1984 under the direction of Maeva Navarro, former director of Departement d'Archeologie du Centre Polynesien des Sciences Humaines "Te Anavaharau" (C.P.S.H.), Tahiti. The initial aims were to establish rock art site distribution, estimate the extent of rock art sites in the archipelago, and to evaluate the carvings' state of preservation.

Between 1984 and 1989 Edmundo Edwards, then chief archaeologist with the C.P.S.H., and I worked with various volunteers on all six presently inhabited islands of the Marquesas. We partially surveyed 41 valleys and 6,331 individual design elements (petroglyphs), 110 wall paintings (pictographs), and 81 human sculptures (tiki) were documented, sketched and photographed. We also mapped some of the associated architecture.

Since 1989, I have focused my research in Hatiheu Valley, the north coast of Nuku Hiva. At the center of my Ph.D. inquiry was the interrelationship of stone images, the spatial arrangement between images and architecture in the landscape, and the images’ sociocultural significance. In order to place the archaeological art in a cultural matrix, I mapped the majority of visible structures and features between the Puhioho and Vaiuua rivers, from the coastal plain to the head of the valley. This area included four tribal ceremonial centers (tohua): Tohua Hikoku’a, tohua Kamuihei I and II, and tohua Tahakia. In the study area I documented 1,282 individual images, four sculptures and several hundred structures, and features. That part of the valley was clearly divided into at least two segments in the past, what I called the chiefly area and the agricultural area. The household units of the chiefly class were situated around the Hikoku’a-Kamuihei-Tahakai ceremonial region on the east side. The residential architecture was complex and monumental. Several large breadfruit pits were associated with the chiefly households. Regarding the images, the majority was placed, not on the tribal ceremonial plazas, but on or in the vicinity of the chiefly residents. Here, 1,090 (85 percent) of the figures were recorded. In contrast, in the agricultural section on the west side, only 30 (2.3 percent) of the figures occurred.

The Marquesan temple complexes (ahu/me’ae) are the most difficult prehistoric sites to identify, in part because they differ considerably in placement, size, and architectural components. An archaeological interpretation of petroglyphs and pictographs, one of the most challenging parts of the material culture/cultural records, depends largely on being able to associate the images with architectural structures, features, and artifacts.
With this in mind I began, in 2002, a multi-year archaeological field survey of ritual architecture that will include a broad sampling strategy of historically known temple complexes in the northern archipelago. From this data I expect to be able to construct a model that will characterize the temporal and spatial architectural variations of ritual complexes.
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Dissertation Abstract:
Images Carved in Stones and Settlement Patterns
Archaeology in Hatiheu Valley, Nuku Hiva, the Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia

In this dissertation I interpret the data collected from archaeological research on archaeological art in the Marquesas Islands, French Polynesian. Despite numerous archaeological projects in the Marquesan prior to 1984, this research is the first large-scale survey with a specific focus on rock art.

What we collectively refer to as “rock art,” has long captured the interest of both social scientists and the general public. However, the study of prehistoric images is or archaeological art, in contrast to the studies of other artifacts, academically marginalized in North American archaeological literature. Despite changes in our intellectual, social, and political context since the early 1980s, rarely are the results of rock art studies put to use on the same level as other artifacts in discussions on cultural processes and changes. Far too often “rock art” is studied as a subject apart from the mainstream archeology. One of the problems, perhaps, is that the lack of interpretation and theoretical development are largely due to little or no settlement-pattern context, material cultural assemblage, or temporal association.

In this dissertation I start our by providing an overview of past archaeological research related to rock art in the Marquesas Islands as well as discuss the results from our Marquesas Islands Rock Art Project conducted between 1984 and 1989. This data set in addition to the settlement pattern data resulting from extensive field survey and archaeological excavation, west Hatiheu, form the base of the dissertation. A section of the western part of Hatiheu, between two major watercourses, the Vaiu’ua and Puhi’oho, were surveyed, mapped, and the majority of the sites were recorded. Test excavation at selected rock art sites placed the rock art to the late prehistoric early historic period. Two distinct settlement patterns emerged. The majority of the images are located, not on the four tribal ceremonial complexes, but in their vicinity, within a chiefly occupational zone that reach to a steep ridge above the complexes, and to the southeast. The architecture in this chiefly section consisted mostly of high status monumental structures with associated features such as such cut lime stone, and red tuff blocks, rock art, sunken veranda pits, and large private and communal bread fruit silos. To the west near the river Puihoho, the agricultural sectors were found. Here few images were located and the structures consisted mainly of smaller size house with limited architectural embellishment. The associated breadfruit pits were small in size. On the tribal ceremonial complexes the spatial organizations of rock art in relation to the social status of the occupants of the house platforms are variable suggesting that the high status person, the chiefs, the priests, and the warriors competed for power and influence within the tribe.

The research illustrates that settlement pattern survey, as a method of research, in concert with excavation is particularly well suited to the study of rock art in the Marquesas Islands.
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In preparation. S. Millerstrom and J. Coil. Taxonomic identification of archaeological charcoal from Hatiheu Valley, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia.

In preparation. S. Millerstrom and R. Roger. A historic ship petroglyph, Vaihi, Marquesas.

In preparation. S. Millerstrom and R. Schmith. Archaeological art and gender relations in prehistoric Marquesas Islands.

In press. Ritual and Domestic Architecture, Sacred Places, and Images: Archaeology in the Marquesas Archipelago, French Polynesia. In Ian Lilley (ed.), The Archaeology of Oceania (Australia and the Pacific). Blackwell, UK.

S. Millerstrom and P.V. Kirch. Petroglyphs of Kahikinui, Maui, Hawaiian Islands: Rock images within a Polynesian settlement landscape. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 70:107-128.

2004. Facts and fantasies: the archaeology o
f the Marquesan dog. In Behaviour Behind Bones. The zooarchaeology of ritual, religion, status and identity. Sharyn Jones O’Day, Wim Van Neer and Anton Ervynck (eds.). Oxbow Books. Oxford, UK.

2004. Gravures rupestres et archéologie de l’habitat de Hatiheu à Nuku Hiva (Iles Marquises, Polynésie francaise. Service de la culture et du patrimoine. Ministère de la Culture de Polynésie française. MTI-TFI 2004.

2003. Polynesian rock art review. Rock Art Studies. News of the World 2. Developments in Rock Art Research 1995-1999. Paul Bahn and Angelo Fossati (eds.). Oxbow Books, UK.

2003. Bilan de la recherché archéologique en Polynésie française 2001-2002. Service de la Culture et du Patrimoine. Punaauia. Tahiti, French Polynesia.

2003. P. V. Kirch, S. O’Day, J. Coil, M. Morgenstein, K. Kawelu, and S. Millerstrom. The Kaupikiawa rockshelter, Kalaupapa Peninsula, Molokai’i: New Investigation and reinterpretation of its significance for Hawaiian prehistory. People and Culture in Oceania 19:1-27.

2002. P. V. Kirch (ed.), J. Coil, L. Holm, J. Holson, S. Kailihiwa, K. Kawelu, s. Millerstrom, and S. O’Day. From the ‘Cliffs of Keolewa’ to the Sea of Papaloa’; An Archaeological Reconnaissance of Portions of the Kalaupapa National Historical Park, Moloka’i, Hawaiian Islands. Oceanic Archaeology Laboratory Special Publication No. 2. Archaeological Research Facility, University of California at Berkeley.

2002. S. Millerstrom and P. V. Kirch. History on Stones: A Newly-Discovered Petroglyph Site at Kahikinui, Maui. Hawaiian Archaeology. Volume 8:3-12. Honolulu: Society for Hawaiian Archaeology.

1998, S. Millerstrom and E. Edwards. Stone Sculptures of the Marquesas Islands (French Polynesia). Proceedings from South Seas symposium, Easter Island in the Pacific Context, Albuquerque, New Mexico, August 6-9, 1997.

1998, S. Millerstrom and H. Baumgartner). Archaeological Art on Mo’orea, French Polynesia: An Overview. Rapa Nui Journal 12(2).

1997. Carved and Painted Rock Images in the Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia. Archaeology of Oceania 32(3). Sydney.

1995. S. Millerstrom and E. Edwards. Peintures rupestres de la vallée de Eiaone a Hiva Oa. Bulletin de la Société des Etudes Océaniennes, Vol 23, 267(5):5-17. Tahiti, French Polynesia.

1992. Report on the Marquesas Islands Rock Art Project. The Journal of the Pacific Arts Association; Pacific Arts
No. 6.

1990. Marquesas Rock Art Project. Rapa Nui Journal 4(1).

1989. The Social Significance of Pigs in the Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia: Archaeological Evidence and Contemporary Use. Pig Times 2(8).

1989. Experimental Archaeology in Rock Art. Rapa Nui Journal 3(2).

1988. G. Lee, S. Millerstrom, and A. Davis-Drake. Trouble in Paradise; Problems in Polynesian Rock Art Conservation. Rapa Nui Journal 2(3).

1988. Rock Art in the Marquesas Islands. Rapa Nui Journal 2(2).

1985a. Up-date on Marquesan Rock Art. La Pintura, American Rock Art Research Association Newsletter 12(2).

1985b. Rock Art in the Marquesas Islands; a Preliminary Report. La Pintura, American Rock Art Research Association Newsletter 12(1).
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