Towards a Further Understanding of Samoan Star Mounds: Considering the Intersection of Ecology, Politics, and Ritual in Ancient Samoa
Star mounds, named for their star-like shape, have been an enigmatic feature class in the Samoan Archipelago. Researchers have posited several potential functions for these monumental architectural features, including grave and territorial markers, but their primary function appears to have been as surfaces for pigeon catching. But, excavations of these features have been few and data limited. Here, we review old as well as recent data on star mounds relating to their physical attributes (size, shape, and materials), distribution, and chronology to identify patterns of similarity and variability. In so doing, we provide a more robust understanding of their relationship to the landscape and their role in ancient Samoan society, notably politics and ritual. We argue that when placed within a ritually charged context, the "sport" of pigeon catching provided an avenue for the demonstration of mana and prestige. In Polynesia, such demonstrations were important for legitimizing and substantiating status, both individual and group (the higher the rank of the individual, the larger the group represented). Star mounds thereby served as arenas for status competition, potentially taking the place of warfare. The distribution and form of star mounds is the outcome of ecological reasoning, ritual logic, and political maneuvering.
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Towards a Further Understanding of Samoan Star Mounds: Considering the Intersection of Ecology, Politics, and Ritual in Ancient Samoa. Seth Quintus, Jeffrey Clark. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429659)
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min long: 111.973; min lat: -52.052 ; max long: -87.715; max lat: 53.331 ;
Abstract Id(s): 13220