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  • Tiouandé: Archéologie d'un Massif de Karst du Nord-Est de la Grande Terre (Nouvelle-Calédonie)
  • Patrick V. Kirch
Tiouandé: Archéologie d'un Massif de Karst du Nord-Est de la Grande Terre (Nouvelle-Calédonie). Christophe Sand, ed. Les Cahiers de l'Archéologie en Nouvelle-Calédonie, Vol. 12. Noumea: Département Archéologie, Service des Musées et du Patrimoine, 2001. 136 pp., B&W photos, line drawings, tables. ISBN 2-9509311-8-9.

The building blocks of regional prehistory are the detailed, data-rich monographs that provide a permanent record of excavated sites and their stratigraphy, along with the pottery, portable artifacts, faunal remains, and other materials recovered from them. There is much talk, at present, that the archaeological monograph will shortly be superceded by digital or web-based "publications" and databases; this remains to be seen. For the time being, archaeologists such as Christophe Sand should be congratulated for continuing to bring out the rich details of their research in timely monographs such as Tiouandé.

The toponym "Tiouandé" applies to a river valley on the northwest coast of New Caledonia (Grande Terre), as well as to an indigenous Kanak tribe who have traditional rights to this region. In 1999, the Tiouandé tribe granted permission to Sand and his team, including Kanak archaeologists J. Bolé and A. Ouetcho, to carry out a program of site inventory and test excavations in their traditional territory. In 1952, the pioneering team of E. W. Gifford and R. Shutler Jr. had excavated at a large coastal midden site in Tiouandé (their Site 50), and at another midden (Site 6) at Baye (Poindimié), slightly southeast of Tiouandé, obtaining evidence for nearly two millennia of occupation. The attraction for renewed archaeological research in the Tiouandé region was the discovery of several rockshelters in karst terrain inland of a large mangrove estuary. This monograph describes sixteen new sites recorded in 1999, as well as the results of four "sondages" or test excavations. Together with a reanalysis of the Gifford and Shutler results, they provide the basis for a regional chronology and cultural sequence for the northwestern part of La Grande Terre.

Chapter 1 describes the sites, which for the most part are concentrated on and around a limestone hill. The sites include rockshelters, such as the large EHI013 shelter, which has hand-outline designs in red ocher on the walls and well-stratified occupation deposits. There are also house mounds and platforms, human burials, agricultural features (yam mounds), and a post-contact-period cemetery. The excavations are detailed in Chapter 2, which begins with a reanalysis of the stratigraphy of sites EHI050 and EHI051 excavated by Gifford and Shutler. The 1999 excavations focused primarily on the large EHI013 rockshelter, with three 1-m2 test pits; a fourth pit was excavated in site EHI022, a smaller shelter associated with a circular house mound. The EHI013 shelter has deep, well-stratified deposits, with numerous charcoal and ash lenses, while the EHI022 shelter exposed several earth ovens.

No less than 25 radiocarbon age determinations were obtained by Sand and his colleagues, both from the new excavations and from samples excavated by Gifford and Shutler in 1952 (these samples were curated in the P. A. Hearst Museum of the University of California, Berkeley). These dates, reported in full in chapter 3, provide a strong basis for a regional chronology, which, as Sand notes, covers virtually the entire time span of human occupation of New Caledonia (p. 39). The initial occupation of Tiouandé dates to ca. 800– 750 cal B.P., which is toward the end of the Lapita period, itself quite short-lived in New Caledonia, as Sand has demonstrated in other work.

The 1999 excavations yielded large quantities of pottery and lesser but not insignificant numbers of nonceramic artifacts, all of which are described and extensively [End Page 406] illustrated in chapter 4. The ceramic sequence begins with an early form of paddle-impressed ware characteristic of the late Lapita period, continues with "intermediate" period ceramics marked by vessels with inturned rims, and ends with classic Oundjo tradition ware. The nonceramic artifacts include a number of shell beads, rings, and...


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