Monuments, boundaries, and chiefly competition in the development of the Tongan state

Author(s): Travis Freeland

Year: 2017


The principal Tongan island of Tongatapu was the epicentre of a hierarchical and geographically integrated society which some archaeologists contend reached the level of archaic state by AD 1300–1400. Dynastic chiefs affirmed their power and rights to land through monumental construction and a dispersed settlement pattern that fully occupied their inherited territories with lower-ranking members of their kin-based corporate groups. Recent archaeological survey, aided by LiDAR, reveals the surviving totality of monumental and community-level construction on Tongatapu. Thousands of mounds and other features, products of some 1,000 years of funerary behaviour, chiefly competition, and conflict, are highly structured in their arrangement on the landscape. In this paper, I describe this new, detailed understanding of community-level and monumental architecture on Tongatapu, with a focus on the form and distribution of earthen mounds, the latter suggesting a demarcation of territories and boundaries with significant time depth. I consider the utility of the peer-polity model for understanding chiefly interaction during the development and consolidation of the Tongan state. I argue that monumentality, whether in the context of ritual, residential, or funerary architecture, is significant as a visual reminder of inter- and intra-group relations and the maintenance/reconfiguration of the social order.

Cite this Record

Monuments, boundaries, and chiefly competition in the development of the Tongan state. Travis Freeland. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431784)


Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16349