Airborne LiDAR reveals a vast archaeological landscape at the Nan MadolWorld Heritage Site

Douglas C Comer, Jacob A Comer, Ioana A Dumitru, William S Ayres, Maureece J Levin, Katherine Seikel, Devin A White, Michael J Harrower

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    An airborne LiDAR survey of the Nan MadolWorld Heritage Site and adjacent Temwen Island revealed a complex, irrigated cultivation system, the first found in the Central and Eastern Caroline Islands. This informs the goals of the sustainable conservation project, funded by the U.S. Department of State Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation, that inspired the survey, and expands understanding of Nan Madol and its place in the network of Pacific island interaction and trade. Fieldwork verified the presence, across Temwen, of low, wet, cultivable areas, many of which are connected by water channels or separated by earthen berms. The berms themselves may also have been cultivated. In complexity, labor investment, and organization, the system is comparable to Nan Madol itself, the largest archaeological site in Micronesia, with structures on about 100 artificial islets built of stone and coral on a reef flat. Constructed over a millennium, Nan Madol was the seat of the Saudeleur Dynasty, which persisted from about 1200 to 1600 CE. The cultivation system appears to have been able to provide ample food for consumption, feasting, and redistribution or trade. If the landscape alteration described here proves to date to the time of the Saudeleur Dynasty, it will offer many avenues of research into the economic basis of Nan Madol's regional dominance.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-24
    JournalRemote Sensing
    Issue number2152
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


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