Samoa’s first archeological, historical places database

By Elizabeth Ah-Hi ,

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HISTORY OF SAMOA: A.F.C.P. student researchers from N.U.S standing on the starmound at Vailoa.

HISTORY OF SAMOA: A.F.C.P. student researchers from N.U.S standing on the starmound at Vailoa.

Samoa now possesses a central database of archeological sites or historic places thanks to the work of archeology students from the National University of Samoa (N.U.S.).

The Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation Project (A.F.C.P.), which is the documentation of Samoan Archeological and Built Heritage Places and Associated Oral Traditions Project by the Centre for Samoan studies, began two years ago. 

It was completed earlier in the year after students surveyed significant archeological sites from both Upolu and Savai’i. 

The database will not only assist the university with the teaching of archeological and cultural heritage, but it has the potential to bring about legislation that will preserve Samoa’s cultural heritage and also help develop and promote cultural tourism.

Project Manager, Dionne Fonoti, said in a presentation in February that in addition to all the benefits that come with finally having such a database, it was perhaps the increase of interest and enrollments of students in the archeology programme that the University was most impressed with.

“The most exciting thing for us at N.U.S. is the way that our numbers of students studying archeology have quadrupled,” said Ms. Fonoti. “The interest in archeology and interest cultural heritage has basically multiplied exponentially.

“Three years ago we had no more than 10 students in our classes and now we have numbers over 40 up to 50 students who are enrolled and involved in this research. And I think it’s certainly because we now have the special opportunity to study Samoa’s past and to literally walk in it. That’s what the database represents for us.”

Having no central database of archeological sites or historic places, presented a significant disadvantage for the protection, conservation and management of Samoa’s archeological and historic heritage.

However Project Director, Professor Meleisea Leasiolagi Malama Meleisea, pointed out in a presentation in February that while there was still more work to be done, the project had sparked the community’s interest again in preserving and protecting their cultural heritage.

“This project has fostered tremendous interest among the community. There is potential for community involvement in this kind of work and the preservation of the cultural heritage and perhaps promoting tourism. 

“We are working with colleagues from the New Zealand High Commission who are here to help the S.T.A. with the promotion of Samoan tourism. There’s a lot of potential and we look forward to using the funds to continue the work we have done so far.”

The A.F.C.P. project was funded by the United States Department of State through the U.S Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation. The project aimed to include G.P.S. mapping, the creation of G.I.S. database of over 700 sites from across the country and the collection/preservation of oral histories. 

The Centre for Samoan Studies plans to continue the work by embarking on initiative to survey all the villages in Samoa.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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