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Radio New Zealand: New research sheds more light on ancient Pacific site

New research has pinpointed the date construction started on an ancient abandoned city in the Federated States of Micronesia and could eventually help shed light on other societies in the region.

Radio New Zealand covered the research discovery of SMU archaeologist Mark D. McCoy. The new uranium series dating on the stone buildings of the ancient monumental city of Nan Madol suggests the ancient coral reef capital in the Pacific Ocean was the earliest among the islands to be ruled by a single chief, McCoy found.

The article, “New research sheds more light on ancient Pacific site,” published Oct. 26, 2016.

McCoy led the discovery team. The discovery was uncovered as part of a National Geographic expedition to study the monumental tomb said to belong to the first chief of the island of Pohnpei. McCoy deployed uranium series dating to determine that when the tomb was built it was one-of-a-kind, making it the first monumental scaled burial site on the remote islands of the Pacific.

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Radio New Zealand
The 98 man-made islets of Nan Madol on Pohnpei housed the tombs and ceremonial centre of the island’s Saudeleur rulers hundreds of years ago.

The 83 hectare site, which received UNESCO World Heritage status in July, is made up of impressive stone monuments linked by a network of canals in a lagoon on the south-east side of Pohnpei.

One of the researchers involved in the study, archaeologist Mark McCoy, said advances in technology enabled the team to date the architectural stone and coral from the tomb of the first chief of the entire island.

“What I was able to do with this particular research was to be able to say quite precisely that the major monumental burial at the site of Nan Madol dates to around 1180 to 1200 AD which makes it the earliest construction of its type by at least a century for the Pacific islands.”

Using x-ray fluorescence technology, the team tested the chemistry of the massive stones and discovered it came from the opposite side of Pohnpei.

Different technology was used to date the tonnes of crushed coral also used in construction.

Dr McCoy said Nan Madol’s exact engineering was still a mystery but he said the stones were probably dragged around the island from their source.

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Culture, Society & Family Fossils & Ruins Researcher news SMU In The News

Wall Street Journal: Archaeologist Binford Dug Beyond Artifacts

The Wall Street Journal noted the passing of noted SMU archaeologist Lewis Binford, widely acknowledged by his peers for transforming scientists??? approach to archaeology and earning him the legacy as the “most influential archaeologist of his generation,” according to Scientific American

Wall Street Journal reporter Stephen Miller interviewed SMU archaeologist David J. Meltzer for the obituary.

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By Stephen Miller
Wall Street Journal

Lewis Binford led the “new archaeology” movement that sought to reorient the discipline from describing artifacts to describing prehistoric ways of life.

Mr. Binford, who died Monday at age 79, helped cast new light on the past by studying the living and applying his findings to the remains of prehistoric societies.

Within archaeology, Mr. Binford was known as a contentious advocate for his ideas.

“One needs to know something about what the world is like before trying to explain what one imagines it to be like,” he wrote in 2002.

While an assistant professor at the University of Chicago in 1962, Mr. Binford wrote an article, “Archaeology as Anthropology” challenging archaeologists to study cultural dynamics and change instead of concentrating on catalogs of artifacts.

“Lewis Binford led the charge that pushed, pulled and otherwise cajoled archaeology into becoming a more scientific enterprise,” said David Meltzer, professor of prehistory at Southern Methodist University. “Much of how we conceptualize and carry out archaeology in the 21st century is owed to Lew’s substantial legacy.”

Raised in Virginia, Mr. Binford served in the Army and learned to speak Japanese in Gen. MacArthur’s headquarters at the end of the Korean War. He said he first became interested in anthropology while acting as translator for a group of U.S. social scientists helping resettlement efforts in Japan.

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