UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

A dietary isotopic study at Nukuleka, Tonga Wong, Megan Barbara


The aim of this project is to investigate Lapita-age human and faunal remains recovered from the 2007 excavation of Tonga’s founder site of Nukuleka (2838+/-8 BP) using stable carbon and nitrogen analysis. Results were then used to evaluate the two main Lapita subsistence theories: the strandlooper hypothesis, which states that Lapita people focused primarily on easily foraged marine and terrestrial resources (Groube 1971), and the horticultural hypothesis, which states that Lapita people migrated with a transported landscape, indicating a reliance on horticultural activity (Burley 1998). Unfortunately, after human remains selected for this research were isotopically analyzed, it became apparent that the vast majority of the samples were poorly preserved and none of the samples were suitable for use in this project. Only one of the fourteen samples yielded viable collagen and it had a δ¹³C signature of -16.0‰ and a δ¹⁵N signature of 10.4‰. Upon review of Burley et al.'s (2010) Nukuleka excavation report it was found that this sample was likely historic in nature and was rejected for use in this project. In consideration of the poor collagen preservation of sampled human remains, environmental factors that may have lead to the degradation of the Nukuleka samples are discussed, as well as potential approaches archaeologists could use in future isotopic investigations. To continue with the goal of this project, previous dietary isotopic research in the South Pacific is reviewed, and used as a comparison tool in the evaluation of Nukuleka subsistence strategies. Based on evidence from sites in Remote Oceania, it is likely that Lapita settlers at Nukuleka were employing a subsistence strategy consistent with Groube’s (1971) proposed strandlooper hypothesis.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada