A radiocarbon chronology for Sāmoan prehistory

Timothy M. Rieth, Terry L. Hunt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


The corpus of radiocarbon dates for Sāmoan archaeology has grown exponentially since the pioneering work of Green and Davidson in the 1960s, enabling us to re-analyze the archipelago's cultural chronology. A reliable and valid radiocarbon chronology forms the basis for describing and explaining cultural variability and change in the central Pacific. Towards that end, in this paper we compile the available radiocarbon dates from published and unpublished ("grey literature") sources. We critically evaluate 236 radiocarbon dates following a chronometric hygiene protocol to identify the most secure and reliable age estimates. We accept 147 dates (62.3%) as a means of addressing two significant issues for Sāmoan prehistory: (1) the chronology of settlement and human expansion across the archipelago pre-2000 cal BP, which relates to issues of Lapita colonization, and the effect of island geomorphology on settlement; and (2) analysis of the so-called "Dark Ages" (ca. 1500-1000 cal BP), a period relevant to issues of social complexity and East Polynesian settlement. Our research highlights the need for a rigorous sampling protocol for radiocarbon dating.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1901-1927
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Chronometric hygiene
  • Colonization
  • Lapita
  • Polynesia
  • Radiocarbon
  • Sāmoa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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