White House Ruin, Canyon de Chelly

The Big Picture Portfolio, #11

Of all the cliff dwellings in the American Southwest, the White House Ruin of Canyon de Chelly is one of the most iconic. Set deep in a canyon below a soaring overhang of streaked sandstone it inspires you to wonder what life would have been like here when it was built almost 1,000 years ago, during an age when it was a good time to be a pueblo builder.

FACT:

Where: Canyon de Chelly, Navajo Nation, Arizona, U.S.A.

What: Ancient pueblo, composed of both upper (within the cliff) and lower (on the canyon floor) ruins

Depth below canyon rim: ~600 feet

Cultures: Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi), Historic Hopi and Navajo, Navajo

Date construction began: AD 1070s

Wall composition: Core-and-veneer, ashlar masonry; adobe masonry

Size: Approximately 20 rooms (upper) and 60 rooms (lower)

 

MYSTERY:

The mystery that hangs about a place like White House concerns less its establishment, and more its “abandonment.”

Several lines of evidence tell us when it was built. The best, and most specific, comes from the wood incorporated during its construction. While the pueblo is built primarily of stone, local wood was used for features such as windowsills and mantels above the doorways.

By analyzing tree rings in wood (the first core taken for such purposes was collected at White House in 1923) an exact range of calendar years that a tree lived can often be pinpointed, and can inform the age estimates of the structure it was subsequently built into (see dendrochronology).

Based on dating wood in this way, White House Pueblo (including its upper and lower sections, probably connected by ladders!) was built in the AD 1070s.

But by who?

 

Pottery offers clues as to who built and lived in White House. Sherds recovered in association with the pueblo are linked to a succession of related cultures known as ancestral Puebloan.

In the early part of the first millenium, early Puebloan peoples were building larger, community based structures – exactly like this – that included ceremonial spaces like kivas and increasing agricultural capabilities. Archaeologists generally refer to this as the Pueblo II era (not so original, I know).

 

Excavations at White House suggest that the pueblo was built and then continuously occupied until perhaps to as late as AD 1300. One well-known archaeologist – Alfred Kidder – reported on evidence (an intense burning event and human remains) of what he interpreted to be an “abandonment ritual” within one of the kivas.

Other areas of the pueblo – linked by their design and construction type to Chacoan culture – were also extensively burned. Was the pueblo burned and rebuilt? By who and why? It is not clear.

 

One thing is for sure. The beauty of Canyon de Chelly doesn’t wear off with time. Although change has visited the canyon more than a time or two, people have never stopped calling it home, or coming for a visit.

Today, Canyon de Chelly is managed by the National Park Service together with the Navajo Nation.

The modern name, White House, is derived from a Navajo appellation – Kiníí’ Na’ígai, “house with white streak across.” The site holds particular importance in Navajo culture, who moved into the American Southwest around AD 1400 and have been there ever since.

 

An ultramarathon (34 mile trail race) started in the canyon in 2013, which was when I had the chance to visit and photograph the ruins.

Watching the event (I did not compete) was the perfect reminder of how sites like White House Pueblo don’t exist in isolation, they are inseparable from the setting and the times that they occupy – both in the past and present.

 

PERSPECTIVE:

The good news is that you don’t need to go back in time to meet people who call Canyon de Chelly home. The Navajo who live in and around the canyon today are well connected to the past in this place, and are ready to share it with people who make the journey.

One of the most famous photographic visitors to Canyon de Chelly is Ansel Adams, who photographed White House Ruins in 1942, and who in turn referenced an image made by Timothy O’Sullivan in 1873.

I’d seen both images, but not recently before hiking into the canyon myself. Looking at them all now, I find it interesting that Adams eliminated the lower ruins by carefully hiding them behind vegetation, although during the 1910s a large portion of the lower structure was lost to erosion – perhaps he viewed them as less intact.

One should be warned that there is a rather sizable fence and signage around the ruin today – good luck hiding those behind vegetation!

To dig deeper into the archaeology of Canyon de Chelly, see this paper by F. Michael O’Hara III and Christian Downum (my undergraduate advisor at Northern Arizona University, go Jacks!)

There’s also a summary here that summarizes the “archaeological” investigations made at Canyon de Chelly since the Spanish first encountered it in the late 18th century, although a great deal of activities listed – as pointed out – are more akin to looting than to any kind of scholarship. When you visit, be sure to enjoy and to leave no trace.

 

Al Khazneh (The Treasury), Petra

The Big Picture Portfolio, #10

The Treasury, Petra

A doorway that effortlessly blends reality with fiction. Deep in the sandstone canyons of Jordan at Petra, monumental carvings are around every corner. Thanks to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, this particular one – known as Al Khazneh or The Treasury – is easily the most iconic. But here’s the thing – this magnificant facade is only the tip of the iceberg, and I’m not (just) talking about the Holy Grail.

FACT:

Where: Petra, Jordan

What:  Temple carved from solid sandstone, in the side of a cliff, at the bottom of a canyon

Height: Over 40 m (130 feet) – roughly a twelve story building

Founders: Nabateans (during the reign of Aretas IV Philopatris)

Date carved: 1st Centuary AD

Purported Function: Funerary (mausoleum/crypt)

Date of “rediscovery”: 1812 (by Johann Ludwig Burckhardt)

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MYSTERY:

Legend has it that pirates hid their treasure here, hence the name it’s known by today.  But then again maybe that was just a convenient excuse for an itchy trigger finger (note the bullet marks in the urn up top). Whatever the case, the truth of the matter is that The Treasury has more than a few stories that go along with it.

Part of Al Khazneh’s real treasure is its location.

The near walls in the image above mark the very end of a slot canyon known as the Siq. Audaciously narrow, nervously deep, and suitably long, there is no getting in and out of the Siq – only through it. At one end lies an open desert, and on other the fabled lost city itself. The perfect gateway and a very grand entrance.

As you navigate the final throes of the Siq a sliver of Al Kazneh emerges into view, the masterpiece in worked stone still framed by its parent material. With every step, the visibility of the monument increases and so also its scale in relation to you. Whether alone or in a crowd (both possible) it’s an experience not easily forgotten.

The Treasury was at least partially designed, placed, and protected for the purpose of impressing people. We’ll never know who exactly walked, trotted, or rolled down the Siq and how they felt upon seeing this building in the stone for the first or fiftieth time, but we can be pretty sure they were looking.

Don’t miss it for yourself.

PERSPECTIVE:

In front of the Treasury you will be confronted with a desire that you may not yet know you harbor – the urge to ride a camel. Panicked, I shunned this urge and distracted myself otherwise. I’m still not sure whether to be: a) proud of resisting; or, b) shameful of squandering such an opportunity.

Locomotion in Petra is actually a fascinating subject. Various beasts of burden (you’re the burden) and their masters make a roaring trade (one can pay handsomely for the honor) out of specialized kinds of movements all around the place.

Horses try to snag you at the very beginning, to take the “Indiana Jones” way into Petra by riding the escarpments to get a first look of the city from above. Camels bask in front the Treasury and cruise the canyon floors and valley bottoms beyond, counting on your innermost dromedarian desires. Mules and donkeys are rather more opportunistic, often popping up in places of topographic difficulty like the climb up to the Monastery – “Helicopter ride to the top, Sir?”

Not opposed to dropping a dinar or two if the time was right, I imagined enjoying a horseback approach one of my mornings, or a camel cruise some late afternoon after a long day of playing pedestrian.

It didn’t work out quite that way and despite traipsing around the desert for kilometers on end I ended up sticking to my own two feet. As I got to know my way around I started to become rather proud of the fact that I’d done it all on my own, inwardly spurning the thought of ever taking out my wallet for the dubious privilege of tottering around on high, a hapless tourist stranded on the back of some ass.

On my last afternoon in Petra I lingered as I had every day, enjoying, watching, and shooting the sunset. I had a sneaky plan in mind to leave the lost city by a different route that night. As everyone else walked one way up and toward the Siq, I walked another. My smugness quickly wore off, however, when an hour later deep pools of water made my more creative canyon route impassable. I was well prepared for it all, but the development definitely meant an extended and indirect walk back to Wadi Musa.

I shouldered my pack, got moving again, and had resigned myself to a very late dinner when I heard the click and clack of hoof on stone. I turned, and the dark outline of a donkey and his master appeared from under the stars before me.

I rode the damn helicopter out.

South Shore Petroglyphs, Oʻahu

The Big Picture Portfolio, #9Buy the PrintWatch the Film


With all the modern sights to see, it’s easy to buzz right by this spot on the southeastern coast of O’ahu. Yet tucked quietly within wild geologic formations, killer fishing spots, and crashing waves, there is evidence of what people were seeing a long time ago.

FACTS:

Where: O’ahu, Hawaiian Islands
What
:  Petroglyphs carved into a slab of volcanic tuff within a sea cave
Who
: Ancient Hawaiians
Petroglyphs carved: AD 1100-1810
Last known volcanic activity: 7,000 years ago

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MYSTERY:

How long will they last? The natural forces of surf, wind, and rain more or less rage on this spot, which no doubt is constantly changing. The petroglyphs themselves are somewhat protected, tucked away in a small sea cave, but they also have the destructive tendencies of modern people to contend with.

You can see what is left of fewer than a half dozen petroglyphs at this spot. It is said that there used to more petroglyphs in the cave, that the panel containing what is left was much larger not so long ago. While much of it may have succumbed to more natural fates, at least one section was chiseled out and carried off quite recently.

Petroglyphs are the personal traces of people that naturally transcend time. There’s a difference between knowing that people were merely around an area in ancient times, and seeing the evidence that someone was there – in an exact spot – with your own two eyes. Plus, petroglyphs are always fun to find, often require a bit of hunting around.

In that spirit, I’ll pin the best parking area from which to set off finding them if you decide to go see for yourself! Just park there, scramble down to the coast, and take a good look around in that bay and you should find them. In any case, a wander along this coast is beautiful (just watch your step, and stay well away from the surf as this is a notorious area for people getting swept off ledges!)

ASIDE:

Thanks for reading, and thanks to Bob, Hiroko, and Padraic for a great day out (visiting from American Samoa)!

Hadrian’s Wall, England

The Big Picture Portfolio, #8 Buy the PrintWatch the Film

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Ever feel like you should have known better? Before moving to Newcastle and encountering the remains of a very old wall I would have been hard-pressed to tell you much about what a certain Roman Emperor named Hadrian did almost two thousand years ago. But what he did is most definitely worth knowing.

FACTS:

Where: Northern England (south of the English/Scottish border)
What
:  The remains of a 73 mile (120 km) long coast-to-coast wall
Who
: Emperor Hadrian of the Holy Roman Empire (and probably a few other guys)
Built
: AD 122 to ~ AD 128
Occupied: By the Romans until ~ AD 409

 

MYSTERY:

Hadrian's Wall Badge, Should Be Digging

The Romans conceived of and built it and that’s amazing. Yet, what almost interests me more is has happened after that. They “only” used it for about 287 years. That means it’s been doing other things for 1,602 years and counting.

It’s fragmentary these days – you can still “walk the wall” coast to coast but there are many breaks. Much stone was pilfered long ago for the building of newer structures and roads. Yet if we could trace those original stones that have moved on surely we’d find them in some peculiar places – far cries from the crumbling, in situ remnants which persist such fangled Roman origins.

Of course what remains of the wall itself is completely fascinating. Lost in the outskirts of Newcastle, wandering through the middle of small countryside villages, and dramatically on guard above natural features like Crag Lough in the shot above, it is a continuous, constant thread that regularly resurfaces and stitches together a composite fabric of landscape. You may not be able to see over the horizon, but when you move over it yourself you are assured that this wall will always extend – in one form or another – before your very eyes (though this can require some real looking).

For those who find themselves at the mercy of geography, a digital stroll across its contours on Google Earth/Maps can also be worthwhile (if equally arduous in its own quiet ways).

Quite naturally life is still built upon and around this wall. Sheep are herded along its preserved faces, the winds whip through its fallen gatehouses, and movie intros are shot in trees that are laughably young in comparison to the ancient wall itself (but quite old and majestic to a mere human mortal).

As seen in the video, in 2010 an event called Illuminating Hadrian’s Wall was staged. With thousands of people turning up to see and take part in the lighting of torches from coast to coast, it literally shed a great quantity of light on how real this thing remains in the lives of many people today. Someday the wall be gone. Today it’s still here. It’s all relative, I suppose. What would Emperor Hadrian say?

ASIDE:

Eggs Benedict – now that’s a good way to start the weekend! Not to mention seeing old friends down at Longhi’s… Watching the USNS Mercy cruise by was a nice touch. Enjoy your Saturday!

Motu Akea Well, Tokelau

The Big Picture Portfolio, #7 Buy the PrintWatch the Film


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Not a single person lives on this little islet. It’s mostly a quiet place. Yet in the middle of the tiny island is this – a shallow well lined with coral slabs. The water is brackish (a mixture of salt and fresh water), but one could be very glad to know about this indeed. Drinkable water is key for people to live anywhere, and on Pacific atolls it is often challenging to find.

FACTS:

Where: Motu Akea, southernmost islet of Nukunonu
What:  An excavated depression, lined with coral slabs on all four sides
When: Origin precedes contemporary memory
Getting there: 30-45 minutes by boat from Nukunonu Village
Water: Brackish, best at low tide

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MYSTERY:

Surviving in an environment like this is no small task. It makes for a pretty postcard but don’t wish yourself straight there just yet.

Atolls are more of the ocean than they are of the land. Fresh water, accordingly, can be tough to find. There are no rivers or streams, indeed no surface water at all unless it’s salty (in which case it is truly abundant). Drinkable water – except if it’s been shipped in from outside – can be found sparingly in two places: the sky and the ground.

Yet archaeology indicates that people survived – or even thrived – here for hundreds of years. During that time they must have obtained water, and regularly. This well is perhaps one such place, where a freshwater lens sits not far below the surface.

Other tricks included hollowing out the base of a coconut tree and carving channels into the trunk to collect rainwater. You still see ’em around on some of the motus (though the first one had to be pointed out to me). Ingenious.

ASIDE:

Got a haircut today. Never gave instructions, just kinda nodded a few times. She knew exactly what to do. Big fan of the University of Hawai’i at Manoa campus barber shop!

Polishing Facets, Leone, American Samoa

The Big Picture Portfolio, #6


The last light fades away on the ancient foaga of Tutuila, coastal polishing facets near the Tataga-Matau stone quarry site in American Samoa. Leone Bay quietly darkens in the background, while saltwater pools reflect fading light and passing clouds. This is a series of foaga, or polishing facets, formed by people in final step of making stone tools (primarily adzes or matau) hundreds or even thousands of years ago. A long stretch of this coastline is covered by these unique and quiet features, this being one of many impressive areas.

FACTS:

Where: The island of Tutuila, American Samoa, 53 square miles
What:  A natural shelf of volcanic rock, basalt, into which basins have been worn over the years by people working stone on stone
When: From as early as 3,000 years ago
Close to: Tataga-matau Prehistoric Quarry, on the National Register of Historic Places
How many: Hundreds of basins (thousands of adzes?!)
Where Tutuilan adzes have been found:  Chemical analyses show trade/movement from here to Manu’a, Western Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, and the Cook Islands

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MYSTERY:

I kept coming back to this place the several months I lived on Tutuila, and I’ll go back when I return. The late light, the worn stone, the waves. Deep thoughts may come and go, but then there’s a simpler kind of question that you really can’t help but wonder, “how long would it take me to grind out a basin like ONE of these?”

I reckon I’d be there a long, long time. Even though the production line has long been abandoned, when you recognize where the material came from (mostly a massive quarry in a nearby valley), how it was initially shaped (a reduction sequence using other stone tools), where it was polished up and finished (right here on the water), and where it eventually went (all over the Pacific), you gain an appreciation for those people of so long ago. You are seeing one of the ways that they were – literally – shaping their landscape.

If you have to labor away grinding stone on stone, this is one hell of a place to do it. Yet work being work, what kind of “office dynamics” were going on here? As I stumble about looking for a place to watch the sun sink into the water I conclude that there is more than one preferential seat in this house, and finding them all is going to require many more visits.

ASIDE:

The summer is long gone, and I’ve finished this post from a desk back in Honolulu! Good to be home but the South Pacific ain’t so shabby.

LINKAGE:

The Adze Quarries of Tutuila. John Enright (2001), CRM.

Buy this Print from the Should Be Digging Shop on Etsy

Pulemelei Mound, Samoa

The Big Picture Portfolio, #5 Buy the PrintWatch the Film


Though it’s absolutely covered in vegetation these days, this photograph shows the surface of the rock platform or mound known as Pulemelei – often lauded as the largest example of pre-European architecture in the whole of the Pacific – sloping off into the surrounding jungle.

FACTS:

What: Rectangular monumental mound or platform built from volcanic rock
Where: Off the south coast of the island of Savai’i, Samoa
Known as: The largest ancient (pre-European) structure in the Pacific
How: Local materials, three phases of construction
When: AD 1100-1300
Context: Part of a large complex, Pulemelei is immediately surrounded by over 60 other features, and central to a regional pattern of settlement
Possible Functions: Chiefly residence, pigeon snaring (elite activity), religious/ceremonial foundation, inter-island dynamics with Tongans and/or other Polynesians

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MYSTERY:

Out there on Savai’i, the jungle is swallowing the Pulemelei site. Again.

In the colorful shot above one might think the scene to be just a clearing in the jungle, but what’s pictured is actually the top of a massive ancient platform built out of thousands of dry laid stones, sloping away to the south and the sea, now covered by vegetation. The Google Maps satellite imagery shows that the site was recently cleared (probably ~2004 when archaeological excavations were carried out, see below).

The big things in the archaeological record – like Pulemelei – can almost sometimes seem a protest to our logic, a blow to our intelligence, as people and as archaeologists. So much effort spent, so obviously important, but why?

Lost in time, as they say, places like these persist from past lives, cultures, and dynamics yet they do not hold all the answers. While any question may be asked, only certain questions may be addressed. There is a limit to what we can know.

But wondering is not always a bad thing. It illuminates the limits of our knowledge and pushes us towards understanding what we can. Seeing the archaeological record is a constant process of accumulating observations and experiences that eventually can provide new insights themselves.

The roots grow deeper, pushing rocks this way and that, collapsing walls, and channeling water. Pulemelei is a good reminder that archaeological sites – even those made of stone – will not last forever. They have finite lives and will only be seen by a finite number of people. How do we treat them?

Time waits for no man, and the jungle for no site.

ASIDE

I’m pulling together this post on my last day here in the South Pacific, this time around at least. It’s been an incredible four plus months down here working on several different archaeological projects, meeting loads of remarkable people, and getting a good first look at this part of Oceania.

It’s back to Hawai’i tonight, and then onward to Arizona tomorrow for a quick visit. Suze and I are setting up shop in Honolulu for the next stretch looking forward to maybe – just maybe – a little more peace and quiet.

Yeah right.

LINKAGE

2007  Martinsson-Wallin, Wallin, and Clark. The Excavation of Pulemelei Site 2002-2004. Archaeology in Oceania 42 Supplement:41-59.

Nukunonu Atoll, Tokelau

The Big Picture Portfolio, #4 Buy the PrintWatch the Film

Mulifenua Point, Nukunonu Islet, Tokelau

One of the most remote atolls in the Pacific, and Polynesians found it!  When exactly? We are trying to figure it out! But in the meantime, this is a view back onto the islet of Nukunonu (a name that also refers to the nearby village, and the atoll itself), which are all part of Tokelau.

FACTS:

Location: Mulifenua Point, Nukunonu Islet, Tokelau

Time of Settlement: Prehistoric, radiocarbon dates posit a maximum of ~1,100-600 cal. before present (~850-1350 AD) for Tokelau

Mode of Transport: Double-hulled or outrigger canoes

Closest Major Island: Savai’i, Samoa – 500 kilometers of open ocean to the south

Stuff People Brought: Volcanic stone (e.g. basalt), plants (e.g. pandanus), and animals (e.g. pig, dog, chicken, and rat, at various times)

Population Today: ~400 (Nukunonu Village)

 

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MYSTERY:

The distant past of Tokelau remains largely to be discovered. With remarkable natural and cultural beauty on tap, the idea that Pacific peoples both found and settled these most remote banks of coral well before Christopher Columbus ever sailed across the Atlantic only heightens the amazement of setting foot in such a place.

Each atoll is composed of many small islets, which when seen from the air appear as a coral ring upon the surface of the ocean, defining and creating a sheltered lagoon from the surrounding depths. It is possible that – despite their remoteness – these small landmasses were important stepping stones for early Polynesian voyagers who went on to settle distant places to the east like Hawai’i, Rapa Nui, and New Zealand.

Today, each atoll has only one village, each generally on the western side of its lagoon. Prehistoric layers exist under each modern settlement, but it remains possible that the very first people to arrive on Tokelau made their base(s) elsewhere. On Nukunonu the elders will tell you that once upon a time there were four separate villages!

Archaeological investigations continue with the major questions of who got here first, and when, still up for debate. No matter what, just finding this place remains a feat in 2011, just as surely it was hundreds of years ago.

ASIDE:

Will I leave at the end of this week? Over the weekend, or early next week? Or maybe not until mid-month?

That is the way the game is played here – the servicing of these islands by the ships responsible is pretty spotty. They get here regularly enough in the end, but the fact that they sometimes have the audacity to publish and distribute a schedule borders on the hilarious. You leave when the ship leaves, not when you want (or think) you will!

So, another week or three here and then it’s back to Samoa. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to check out a site or two on Savai’i, and I’ll do my best to get something on here if I do. Happy trails!

Music performed by Alatua.

2009 Addison et al. Archaeology of Atafu, Tokelau: Some Initial Results from 2008. Rapa Nui Journal 2009:5-9.

1988 Best, Simon. Tokelau Archaeology: A Preliminary Report of an Initial Survey and Excavations

 

The Traveling Moai, Rapa Nui

The Big Picture Portfolio, #3

The Traveling Moai, Rapa Nui (Easter Island) near Rano Raraku
Known as the “traveling” moai, its stoic expression and permanent appearance hides a secret. First it was quarried and moved out of that crater in the background, but more recently it has literally toured the world. A real rolling stone!

FACT:

What: A moai, or stone statue carved to resemble a human head and torso

Where: The island of Rapa Nui (also known as Easter Island) in the South Pacific Ocean

Notable Date(s): ~

Culture(s): Polynesian

Seen As: Artifact, landscape

 

MYSTERY:

You’d think artifacts of this size would be pretty easy to keep track of, but that’s not quite the case.

Heyerdahl (I think on his 55-56 trip to the island with Skjolsvold and buddies) was working a bunch at Anakena.  But Skjolsvold may have been doing some work at Tongariki.  Heyerdahl decided over at Tongariki that he’d try moving a moai “refrigerator style”… that is “walking” a moai.  So he used the traveling moai (one of many that was just heaped up at the site).  His experiments worked, but also did some damage to the statue (I think if you look closely you can see rope marks on the head and belly).

Some time after that (maybe 1960’s-ish) the Japanese (working with Chile, and maybe Poland??) were restoring Ahu Tongariki.  The Japanese made a huge investment by bringing a crane to the island for the restoration (crane is still there and used today).  In return, the island sent the traveling moai with the Japanese to go on display during the World’s Fair at Osaka (1970, i think).  Subsequently, the moai was returned to Rapa Nui.

I’m not real sure on this one, but it may be the ONLY moai that has ever left the island for display in another country and actually returned to Rapa Nui.

That’s from Britton Shepardson, an archaeologist who’s done a significant amount of work on Rapa Nui over the past decade or so and also been busy on the educational side of things. Interesting stuff.

ASIDE:

It appears that I’ve been Should Be Digging for a long time, even if I didn’t have this blog. This particular shot comes from a field season spent on Rapa Nui in the summer of 2005.

As far as photography and archaeology goes, Rapa Nui has got to be one for the best places on the face of the planet to combine the two. The sheer magnitude of the archaeological record, coupled with the landscape of such a remote island and special people, is really all too much to be able to put into words. But don’t take my word for it.

A special place, in the past and in the present.

 

Fatu-Ma-Futi, American Samoa

Big Picture Portfolio, #2

Lovers Turned to Islands, Futu Ma Futi, South Pacific
These rocks, or “sea stacks,” rise up out of the ocean on the southern coast of Tutuila in American Samoa near the entrance to the stunning Pago Pago harbor. Folks have been sailing by for a long time and at some point a legend was born around these rocky spires in the surf, which their name reflects today.

 

FACT:

What: Fatu-Ma-Futi, two small offshore islands (Fatu pictured) associated with an ancient coastal village and an oral legend

Where: Off the southern Coast of Tutuila, American Samoa, South Pacific

Notable Date(s): Episodic coastal presence from ~ 1400 BP

See Addison et al. (2008)

Culture(s): Polynesian

Seen As: Prominent place, landscape, seascape

 

MYSTERY:

A legend says that Fatu and Futi were lovers who tried to sail to Tutuila (modern day American Samoa) from Upolu (modern day Independent Samoa). They almost made it, but their boat floundered and they expired in the waves just before making it ashore.

Turned to rocks where they passed, their remains stand in the surf and the swell to this day, highly visible from both the coastal road as well as on the way in and out of magnificent Pago Pago harbor.

ASIDE:

This is a special place on Tutuila for me, for a reason considerably less awe-inspring than the legend above. It’s special because it is along this stretch of coast that one can get away from the dogs!

Dogs sometimes seem like they’re everywhere on this island, doing their thing, and they can interfere with your thing if you’re not careful. A walk is a better idea with a big stick (or rocks at a minimum) in hand, and running… well running is often not such a good idea.

But along this glorious coastline, the dogs do not interfere. A fine route with seasalt for the face and breezes for the hair, Fatu-Ma-Futi glorious in most any conditions.