Visit to ancient quarry a revelation

By Galumalemana Steven Percival 17 May 2024, 6:00PM

A group of people with an interest in stones were accompanied by heritage artists from Samoa and American Samoa on a journey to an ancient stone quarry that provided a glimpse into a rich cultural heritage.

“The Tataga Matau quarry is located in a pristine rainforest and is not easy to get to,” reflects Professor Moore who made the journey with students from the University of New England in Australia.

“The quarry is thickly covered with vegetation but if you look down you will see evidence of adze-making on a massive scale. The forest floor is littered with stone flakes.”

The stone at Tataga Matau is Oceanic Basalt and has properties making it a valuable resource that was highly sought after in the archipelago and beyond. Geochemical fingerprinting traces adzes found in many Pacific islands to this particular quarry.

“There is a goldilocks zone for what makes for good adze-making basalt, and the Tataga Matau stone was formed in that zone” explains Professor Moore. “Basalt is an extrusive igneous rock that is brought to the earth’s surface through volcanic eruptions. If the magma cools too slowly it partially crystallises, which is not good for flaking. And if it cools too quickly, it can become too glassy to use as an adze. But if it cools at the right rate, the result is a hard, dense stone that can be flaked into a very useful tool.”

While the stone adze was used in preEuropean contact Samoa for millennia, it has only taken one generation for the cultural memory to be erased once steel tools were brought into the archipelago.

Quarry sites such as Tataga Matau were quickly abandoned but this does not mean that we have to also forget the rich heritage that once made Leone famous throughout the region.

The visit to Tataga Matau has been made possible with support under the ACP-EU Programme Enhancing capacity for the sustainability of the cultural and creative industries in the Pacific and a report on this visit will be among the matters discussed at a Symposium to be held at the Tiapapata Art Centre on International Museum Day, 18 May 2024, and at a Workshop on World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development on 21 May 2024.

By Galumalemana Steven Percival 17 May 2024, 6:00PM
Samoa Observer

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