1996 to 2003, IARII conducted archaeological survey, data recovery, and
monitoring investigations in support of construction of the Compact Road
on the island of Babeldaob, Republic of Palau. Work on the 85 km long road
encircling this island in the Western Carolines of Micronesia was under
the auspices of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Oral history documentation and paleoenvironmental coring supplemented
the project’s field investigations. Gathering the stories and histories
of mythological, symbolic, and ancestral significance to sites in the
road corridor preserved some of Palau’s rich oral traditions. Eight
wetland cores were examined to obtain information concerning past environmental
conditions (both climate and vegetation) and prehistoric settlement, agriculture,
and land use.
most conspicuous prehistoric sites along the road corridor are the massive
earthworks sculpted from ridges and hills. Construction of these ubiquitous
and morphologically complex earthworks began slightly more than 2000 years
ago. Terraces were primarily symbolic markers of power, but they also functioned
as agricultural fields, defensive sites, burial grounds, habitation locations,
and religious centers.
in the road corridor are abandoned traditional villages characterized by
stonework architecture. At the center of the village’s stone platforms,
paths, water wells, bathing places, and docks is the men’s meeting
house or bai.
Only in the case of the bai does stonework form a foundation
for a superstructure; the majority of the platforms served as burial places
for high-ranking clan members.
with villages, terraces, as well as strewn along ridgelines are scatters
of prehistoric pottery sherds. Whole pots, some painted with wide orange
bands, are occasionally unearthed.
Stone heads, such as this one in Melekeok village, are
usually located in the hills away from the villages. When they were made
and their purpose is unknown.
IARII’s Palau Compact Road Project.
International Archaeological Research
Institute, Inc. ©2003-2016