Buried in the Sand: Investigations at Ucheliungs Cave, Palau, Micronesia


Remote Oceania was one of the last major regions colonized by humans prehistorically. While there has been an increasing amount of archaeological and genetic research in the region in recent years, many parts are sorely un- or understudied. This is particularly true of Micronesia, where many questions remain as to how and when these early inhabitants settled and adapted to the area. The Palauan archipelago, which comprises hundreds of smaller uplifted limestone "Rock Islands," hosts identified mortuary sites dating back to between ca. 3000 – 1500 BP, with some occasionally used as camps to harvest marine resources. To expand our understanding of Rock Island cave use over the last three millennia, we present the results of new test excavations at Ucheliungs Cave, a site that had been previously identified as an early burial cave containing purported small-bodied humans. In contrast to previous research—which reported only human remains and few artifacts—our results indicate that there is an abundance of faunal material and artifacts present. New radiocarbon dates suggest long-term use of the cave for both mortuary activity and small scale marine foraging that is contemporaneous with or even slightly before the earliest accepted known human occupation of Palau.

Cite this Record

Buried in the Sand: Investigations at Ucheliungs Cave, Palau, Micronesia. Jessica Stone, Scott Fitzpatrick, Matthew Napolitano, Connor Thorud. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429821)

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Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: 111.973; min lat: -52.052 ; max long: -87.715; max lat: 53.331 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15387