Archaeological Survey-Summer Job | Spotlight

Click photos for hi-res images:

  • L-r: CSULA student Amira Ainis, American Samoa guide Semi, and CSULA student William Kendig.
  • A traditional Samoan fale (house) on the island of Tutuila, American Samoa.
  • A historic hydroelectric plant that the CSULA students recorded.
  • A World War II navy era gun emplacement, identified on the ridgeline over Pago Pago harbor.
  • The view of the project area from across the bay.

A summer job takes anthropology majors
to American Samoa

CSULA students paid to conduct archaeological field work

CSULA anthropology students Amira Ainis and William Kendig were both hired this past summer by a Cultural Resource Management (CRM) firm out of Hawaii—Archaeological Consultants of the Pacific, Inc.—to conduct a four-week survey on the island of Tutuila, American Samoa.

The duo was selected for their invaluable field experience in the realm of island archaeology and based on the recommendations of CSULA Anthropology Professor James Brady, who has previously conducted field work in Polynesia. Both grad students have been involved with CSULA Anthropology Professor René Vellanoweth’s field school on San Nicolas Island for several years.

The goals of the CRM project were to identify and inventory any archaeological features in the project area—the ridgelines on top of the mountains overlooking Pago Pago harbor. Their roles included conducting archaeological surveys (identifying, mapping, and describing any archaeological remains in the project area) and writing sections of the CRM Inventory Report to be presented to the American Samoa Historical Preservation Office at the project’s conclusion.

According to Ainis, “The survey itself was some of the most physically difficult field work we had ever conducted. In order to get to the project area, we often had to hike and climb for hours through steep, slippery, muddy clay and densely canopied forests, or up friable rock faces that crumbled causing massive rocks to come falling down slope. Not to mention the danger of walking the narrow ridges—sometimes a few feet wide—with 80º slopes on both sides and a long way down.”

Kendig shared they they learned that going up was the easy part; it’s coming down that was really dangerous. He said, “Our clothes were always covered in mud at the end of a field day and soaking wet, of course, either from sweat or rain. But there was something thrilling and invigorating about getting through a rough field day that was really fun.”

“The islands of American Samoa are visually stunning and as beautiful as the rest of Polynesia is,” described Ainis. “Majestic volcanic mountains rise straight out of the sea. There’s little to no sandy beaches on Tutuila. On most of the island, you stand with steep mountains on one side and crashing waves on the other without much, if anything, in between.”

Both Ainis and Kendig noted that they have discovered many artifacts dating back to World War II, since the region was originally set up as a naval defense base. They also indicated that the Samoan people were very kind and gracious hosts.

While in American Samoa, the anthropology majors shared that they also felt like celebrities. They made the newspaper headlines twice and were interviewed a few times on the Samoa radio stations. For the two news clippings, click here: Samoan Sunday Post and Samoa News.

American Samoa islands are located in the heart of the Polynesian, with Hawaii, Rapanui (Easter Island) and New Zealand making up the three points of the Polynesian triangle.

The Samoan Islands (American Samoa and Independent Samoa) were first discovered by European explorers in the 18th Century but its islands have been inhabited for over 3,000 years.


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