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Publications by Dirk HR Spennemann

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Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (in press) Urbanisation in Tonga: Expansion and contraction of political centres in a tropical chiefdom. in: P. Sinclair, W.Mutoro and G.Abung (eds), The development of urbanism in Africa from a global perspective.

Throughout the Pacific the European colonisation had led to changes in settlement and land tenure patterns, drawing a dispersed population into villages along the shore. Such has been documented inter alia for Samoa and Fiji. In these instances the ready availability of trade goods meant that closeness to these locations of import and distribution was advantageous. Many of the inland plantations were given up, as the land use changed from self-reliance to the production of cash crops such as copra. In addition, European colonial authorities favoured clustered settlements within reach of naval vessels for ease of administration and control. Likewise, Christian missionaries found villages more conducive to teaching and religious indoctrination. This view argues that the clustering of the population along the shore is almost solely due to the influences of European colonial forces. A similar process has been argued to be at work in Tonga. But is this so, or are there other factors involved in the genesis urbanisation which facilitated European control?
In its present configuration, as a constitutional monarchy under the rule King Tafa'ahau Tupou IV, the Kingdom of Tonga is the last Polynesian chiefdom to survive into the 20th century. Today, on all islands the population lives in villages, yet all European visitors mention that the Tongan islands they visited were characterised by a pattern of dispersed settlement. No villages existed except for the capital at Mu'a and the rest of the population lived in households within well-fenced plantations.
In the early years of the 19th century the Tongan settlement pattern began to change dramatically because of the outbreak of extended civil strife, which led to the congregation of people in fortifications. Since the fighting was not continuous, but occurred in spells, the population reverted to the traditional style of living in peaceful times. By the end of the Civil War in 1852 the population had once again congregated in fortified villages. For reasons discussed below, this settlement pattern was to persist and almost all modern-day villages can be traced back to fortifications erected during the Civil Wars.
The aim of this paper is to illuminate the processes which led to this change in settlement pattern and to assess its archaeological manifestation. First we will look at the pattern of settlement before European contact. The presence, nature and location of the central places over time will be discussed. Finally we shall consider the proliferation of fortifications and locational choices involved.
This study of urbanisation in a horticulturally-based and socially well stratified society will attempt to document changes in settlement in the context of cultural changes in general. The study has wider implications in the interpretation of urbanisation in the context of Pacific countries.
Full text at: http://www.arkeologi.uu.se/afr/projects/BOOK/spenneman.htm

Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (in press) Osteologische Untersuchungen an den Tierresten aus der latènezeitlichen Siedlung von Anselfingen, Kr.Konstanz. In: Ch.Kellner, Die Latènesiedlung von Anselfingen im Hegau. Materialhefte zur Vor- und Frühgeschichte Baden-Württembergs. Stuttgart: Landesamt für Bodendenkmalpflege. Pp. @@@
Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (in press) Osteologische Untersuchungen an Tierknochenresten aus den Vicus des römischen Kastelles von Oberflorstadt, Wetteraukreis. Gleichzeitig ein Beitrag zur Fleischversorgung im römischen Südhessen. Fundberichte aus Hessen Vol. 32/33, pp. @@@@.

Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (2006) The Archaeological Manifestation of Contemporary Marshallese Burial Practices. Micronesian Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences vol. 5 no. 1/2, pp. 79-99

While prehistoric and early historic burials in Micronesia are on occasion uncovered either as a result of construction activities or due to shoreline erosion, there is no information how modern burial practices might be recognisable in the present and future archaeological record. This paper describes the observations made during exhumations and provides for some projections how modern burials might be interpretable in the future
[PDF document, Full text]


Spennemann, Dirk H. R. (2003) The road to urbanisation. Post-dicting the evolution of the road network on Tongatapu, Kingdom of Tonga. in… Jörg Eckert, Ursula Eisenhauer & Andreas Zimmer-mann (eds), Archäologische Perspektiven. analysen und Interpretationen im Wandel. Festschrift für Jens Lüning zum 65. Geburtstag. Rahden/Westfalen: Verlag Marie Leidorf. Pp. 165-178. .

The initial human settlement of the large raised limestone island of Tongatapu occurred about 1000 years before the settlement of neighbouring volcanic 'Eua. The paper describes the environmental conditions for settlement and presents radiocarbon data for the earliest site on 'Eua. A sterile layer of soil found above the initial occupation horizon is interpreted as evidence for large-scale clearing of vegetation upslope of the site, indicating massive human-induced environmental change.

Spennemann, Dirk H. R. (2003) Bones of contention. Anthropology Today vol.19 n  6, pp. 20-21. .

The Tongan Civil Wars (1799–1852) saw a dramatic change in settlement pattern, from a very dis-persed system of households located inmidst their plantations to an urbanised village structure. This paper traces the development of the road network connecting these fortifications showing that the modern network developed from the population concentrations.


Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (2002) Late Lapita colonisation of a high island in Western Polynesia: The case of 'Eua Island, Tonga. The Artefact vol. 25, 26-32.

The initial human settlement of the large raised limestone island of Tongatapu occurred about 1000 years before the settlement of neighbouring volcanic 'Eua. The paper describes the environmental conditions for settlement and presents radiocarbon data for the earliest site on 'Eua. A sterile layer of soil found above the initial occupation horizon is interpreted as evidence for large-scale clearing of vegetation upslope of the site, indicating massive human-induced environmental change.

O'Halloran, Charmain & Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (2002) Wave Action Impact on Archaeological Sites in a Freshwater Reservoir at Lake Hume, New South Wales. Australian Archaeology vol. 54, pp. 6–12

During periods of strong demand the level of water storage is reduced in the Hume Dam Reservoir, exposing Aboriginal heritage sites to wave action. The paper discusses the effects of wave action on normally submerged sites at the bot tom of the reservoir.

Spennemann, Dirk H. R. (2002). Nineteenth Century Observations on Contact sites on Suwarrow Atoll, Northern Cook Is. Archaeology in New Zealand vol 45 n  4, pp. 297-308

The paper describes a series of observations on archaeological remains made by Handley Bathurst Sterndale (1829–1878) while establishing a trading station on Suwarrow Atoll. An interpretation of Sterndale’s findings is given.


Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (2000). A 19th century excavation of a burial mound on Penrhyn (Tongareva), Cook Islands. Archaeology in New Zealand 43(2), pp. 139-143.

Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (1999) Zu einer neolithischen Kulturerscheinung Polynesiens - Ein Beitrag zum Kulturwandel der Lapita-Kultur. in: F.-R.Herrmann (ed.), Festschrift für Günter Smolla. Materialien zur Vor- und Frühgeschichte von Hessen nª 8 Wiesbaden: Landesamt für Bodendenkmalpflege. Vol II., pp. 679-696.

The chapter discusses the initial human settlement on Samoa and Tonga and argues that after an initial phase of settlements near the shore line, people developed the horticultural potential of the hinterland and, over time, moved inland. [As the manuscript for the paper had been submitted in December 1982 much of the paper content is outdated, largely proven correct and supplanted by the findings of my own PhD thesis in 1990).

Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (1999) No room for the dead. Burial practices in a constrained environment. Anthropos 94(1), pp. 35-56.

The amount of land available on the atolls of the Marshall Islands is very limited and fertile land is few. Traditionally, the land was not enough to permit the interment of all dead and so the less important commoners were afforded a burial at sea. With the onset of Christianisation everybody was afforded a burial on land, leading to cemeteries being erected at marginal locations, today often eroding into the sea. The paper reviews the available information on prehistoric, traditional and modern burial customs and discusses the implications of current population growth on the present and future burial needs of the Marshallese population.


Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (1998) "Nothing is more permanent than a posthole" or: A contribution to the archaeology of the Common or Garden hole. in: Martin Schmidt (ed.), "Geschichte heißt: So ist's gewesen! abgesehen von dem wie `s war. Geburtstagsgrüße für Günter Smolla. Archäologische Berichte vol. 11. Bonn: Rudolf Habelt. Pp. 1-40.

Based on several excavations, this paper reviews the archaeological evidence for house structures on Tongatapu. The only indisputable evidence for houses was encountered on Pangaimotu, where it seems likely that an oval-shaped building without central posts, as well as a rectangular building (fale fakafefine or fale fakafuna), can be documented.
The excavations at Ha'ateiho yielded a large number of circular discolourations which do not align into discernible patterns. Some of these discolourations are postholes, while most are planting holes. Based on the distribution of the density of the holes, it seems likely that some buildings existed to the southeast of mound TO-At-85 and to the north and northwest of mound TO-AT-86. However, this study shows that trying to distinguish between postholes and planting holes in the non-mounded area is fraught with problems. Despite a range of approaches taken, no distinction could be made which was valid beyond reasonable doubt.
However, the excavations at TO-At-85, albeit unintentionally, have helped to understand matters I did not intend to find out: that the average Tongan yams planting hole is 53 cm deep, has a diameter of 30.5 cm, possesses a bowl- or basin-shaped bottom, has no slant, and is filled with soils of rather varied compactness.


Spennemann, Dirk H.R. & Wal R. Ambrose (1997) Sea-borne obsidian transport and its implications on the interpretation of Pacific prehistory. Antiquity 71, pp. 188-193.

A piece of pumice encountered among other drift material on Nadikdik Atoll, Marshall Islands, was found to have a large chunk of obsidian attached to it. As the atoll had been devastated by a typhoon and associated storm surge in 1905 the deposition of the piece must have occurred by sea-borne transport in the last 90 years. The paper discusses this and similar incidence of raw material distributed by ocean drift. While occurrence of obsidian in far-flung places is likely to have been caused by human transport, sea-borne dispersal cannot be excluded offhand.

Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (1997) German colonial observations on walls and house sites in the interior of Upolu, Samoa. Archaeology in New Zealand 40(2), pp. 134-135.

Paper presenting extracts from a German German colonial newspaper report on the agricultural productivity of Upolu, Samoa, which contains observations on walls and house sites in the interior of the island.



Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (1996) Gifts from the waves. A case of marine transport of obsidian to Nadikdik Atoll and the occurrence of other drift material in the Marshall Islands. Johnstone Centre of Parks, Recreation and Heritage Report Vol. 23. Johnstone Centre of Parks, Recreation and Heritage, Charles Sturt University: Albury, NSW
Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (1996) Ein javanisches Zeremonialbeil (candrasa) mit Fundortangabe Waldalgesheim, Rheinland-Pfalz, Deutschland: ein Beitrag zur Typologie und Chronologie. TRIBUS 45, 95-118.

Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (1995) Review of Matthew Spriggs (ed.), Lapita Design, Form and Composition. Proceedings of the Lapita Design Workshop, Canberra, Australia-December 1988. (Occasional Papers in Prehistory Nº 19). Department of Prehistory, Research School of Pacific Studies, The Australian National University, Canberra. 1990. In: Canberra Anthropology
Spennemann, Dirk H.R. and Bernd Franke (1995) Decomposition of human bodies and the interpretation of burials in the tropical Pacific. Archaeology in Oceania 30, 66-73
Spennemann, Dirk H.R. and Bernd Franke (1995) Archaeological techniques for exhumations: a unique data source for crime scene investigations. Forensic Science International 74(1), 5-15.
Spennemann, Dirk H.R. and Bernd Franke (1995) Decomposition of buried human bodies and associated death scene materials on coral atolls in the tropical Pacific. Journal of Forensic Sciences 40 (3) 356-367.



Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (1994) On the diet of pigs foraging on mudflats on Tongatapu: an investigation in taphonomy. Archaeology in New Zealand 37(2), 104-110.
Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (1994) Excavations of a prehistoric cemetery on Majuro Island, Majuro Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands. The Johnstone Centre for Parks, Recreation and Heritage Report No 13- The Johnstone Centre for Parks, Recreation and Heritage, Charles Sturt University, Albury, NSW., 1994.
Spennemann, Dirk H.R. & Bernd Franke (1994) On the dark stains observed in some Tongan burials. Archaeology in New Zealand. 37 (1), 35-43.
Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (1994) Review of: G.F.Ijzereef, Bronze Age Animal Bones from Bovenkarspel. The Excavation at het Valkje. Project Noord-Holland 1. Nederlandse Oudheden 10. Rijksdienst vor het Oudheidkundig Bodemonderz^k, Amersfoort 1981. In: Fundberichte aus Hessen 27/28, 1987/88 (1994), 179-181.

Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (1993) Cowrie shell tools: fact or fiction? Archaeology in Oceania 28(1), 40-49.
Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (1993) Ark shell netsinkers: fact or fiction? Archaeology in New Zealand 36(2), 75-83.
Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (1993) The Exhumation of Human Bodies on Mejatto Island, Kwajalein Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands Narrative and Documentation. Case report prepared for the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Washington/USA & Heidelberg/Germany as part of the Plutonium in Bone Study, Rongelap Resettlement Project. Pacific Cultural Resources Management Case Reports. Albury, NSW, Australia: Pacific Cultural Resources Management.

Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (1992) 'Ata 'a Tonga mo 'ata 'o Tonga: Early and Later Prehistory of the Tongan Islands . 4 Vols. UMI 92-13735. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University Microfilms International.
Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (1992) Differential representation of human skeletal remains in eroded and redeposited coastal deposits: A case study from the Marshall Islands. International Journal of Anthropology 7 (1), 1-8.

Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (1991) Don't forget the bamboo. On recognising and interpreting butchery marks in tropical faunal assemblages, some comments asking for caution. In: S.Solomon, I.Davidson & D.Watson (eds.), Problem solving in taphonomy. Archaeological and palaeontological studies from Europe, Africa and Oceania. Tempus. Archaeology and Material Culture Studies in Anthropology. Volume 2, 1990 (1991). St.Lucia, Queensland: Anthropology Museum University of Queensland. Pp.108-134.
Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (1991) Quo vadis Lapita? Oder: vom Aufstieg und Niedergang der Lapita-Kultur auf Tonga. Ein Beitrag zu Siedlungsmuster und geographischer Umwelt der Lapita-Kultur. In: B.Ilius & M.Laubscher (eds.), Circiumpacifica. Festschrift für Thomas S. Barthel. Band II: Ozeanien, Miszellen . Frankfurt am Main, Peter Lang Verlag. 1990 (1991).Pp. 227-256.
Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (1991) The role of pigs and dogs in the taphonomy of archaeological assemblages from Tonga. In: S.Solomon, I.Davidson & D.Watson (eds.), Problem solving in taphonomy. Archaeological and palaeontological stuides from Europe, Africa and Oceania. Tempus. Archaeology and Material Culture Studies in Anthropology . Volume 2, 1990 (1991). St.Lucia, Queensland: Anthropology Museum University of Queensland. Pp.101-107.
Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (1991) Selektion menschlicher Skelettreste in ausgewaschenen Grabstätten: eine Fallstudie von den Marshall-Inseln. Archo/ooologische Informationen 14(1), 1991, 32-40.
Spennemann, Dirk H.R. and Sarah Colley (1991) Fire in a pit: effects of burning on faunal remains. Archaeozoologia III,1/2 1989 (1991), 51-64. 1990
Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (1990) Zu Produktion und Funktion einiger mittelbronzezeitlicher und r^mischer Knochengero/oote aus Heldenbergen, Main-Kinzig-Kreis. Hanauer Geschichtsblätter 30, 1988 (1990), 37-54.
Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (1990) Osteologische Untersuchungen an den tierischen Resten aus einer Siedlung der mittleren Bronzezeit bei Nidderau-Heldenbergen, Main-Kinzig-Kreis. Hanauer Geschichtsblätter 30, 1988 (1990), 7-36,

This document forms part of the hypertext curriculum vitaeof Dr. Dirk H.R. Spennemann (Charles Sturt University, Albury, Australia). If you arrived at this page through a search engine you may wish to call up http://csusap.csu.edu.au/~dspennem which will link you to the top of the frame-based CV.