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Pacific cities much older than previously thought

Date:
April 10, 2024
Source:
Australian National University
Summary:
New evidence of one of the first cities in the Pacific shows they were established much earlier than previously thought, according to new research. The study used aerial laser scanning to map archaeological sites on the island of Tongatapu in Tonga, showing Earth structures were being constructed in Tongatapu around AD 300.
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New evidence of one of the first cities in the Pacific shows they were established much earlier than previously thought, according to new research from The Australian National University (ANU).

The study used aerial laser scanning to map archaeological sites on the island of Tongatapu in Tonga.

Lead author, PhD scholar Phillip Parton, said the new timeline also indicates that urbanisation in the Pacific was an indigenous innovation that developed before Western influence.

"Earth structures were being constructed in Tongatapu around AD 300. This is 700 years earlier than previously thought," Mr Parton said.

"As settlements grew, they had to come up with new ways of supporting that growing population. This kind of set-up -- what we call low density urbanisation -- sets in motion huge social and economic change. People are interacting more and doing different kinds of work."

Mr Parton said traditionally, studying urbanisation in the Pacific has been tricky due to challenges collecting data, but new technology has changed that.

"We were able to combine high-tech mapping and archaeological fieldwork to understand what was happening in Tongatapu," he said.

"Having this type of information really adds to our understanding of early Pacific societies.

"Urbanisation is not an area that had been investigated much until now. When people think of early cities they usually think of traditional old European cities with compact housing and windy cobblestone streets. This is a very different kind of city.

"But it shows the contribution of the Pacific to urban science. We can see clues that Tongatapu's influence spread across the southwest Pacific Ocean between the 13th and 19th centuries."

According to Mr Parton, the collapse of this kind of low-density urbanisation in Tonga was largely due to the arrival of Europeans.

"It didn't collapse because the system was flawed; it was more to do with the arrival of Europeans and introduced diseases," he said.

"This is just the beginning in terms of early Pacific settlements. There's likely still much to be discovered."

The study has been published in the Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory.


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Materials provided by Australian National University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Phillip Parton, Geoffrey Clark. Low-Density Urbanisation: Prestate Settlement Growth in a Pacific Society. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 2024; DOI: 10.1007/s10816-024-09647-8

Cite This Page:

Australian National University. "Pacific cities much older than previously thought." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 April 2024. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2024/04/240410234253.htm>.
Australian National University. (2024, April 10). Pacific cities much older than previously thought. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 28, 2024 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2024/04/240410234253.htm
Australian National University. "Pacific cities much older than previously thought." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2024/04/240410234253.htm (accessed May 28, 2024).

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