Essays on the Marshallese Past

Compliance Archaeology

The archaeological sites on the Marshall Islands are limited in number and once damaged or destroyed can never be the same again. Because the prime settlement area today is the same as it was 2000 years ago a number of archaeological sites are threatened by modern development, such as commercial construction and house building. The Historic Preservation Office enforces the Historic Preservation Act and its regulations to ensure that the cultural and historical heritage of this country is not short-shifted in the face of development.

Prime settlement land is limited on the atolls of the Marshall Islands. What has been prime settlement land in the past is prime land today, leading to a superimposition of archaeological and historical sites with modern structures. The dramatically increased level of physical and infrastructure development poses the single most serious threat to the well being of the few cultural and historical resources available. Earthmoving activities in the wake of development projects regularly expose archaeological sites, sometimes as spectacular as the cemetery encountered on Majuro Island (Laura) in 1990.

To safe-guard the heritage, rules exist, which everybody has to follow. Every developer, private of corporate, needs to announce any construction affecting the ground at least 30 days in advance of construction. The Historic Preservation Office, or qualified personnel employed to do so, will then conduct a survey to find out whether archaeological sites are present or not. The team will walk over the land and will look for signs of old habitation, burials and so forth. If such sites are found, and if these sites are deemed to be significant for the heritage of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, then the Historic Preservation Office may recommend that the development be relocated away from the sites. If this is not feasible, the HPO will undertake excavations to recover most of the information contained in the site. When these excavations are completed, the development can begin.

Drawing showing an um pit (pit for an earth-oven) exposed in the side wall of an excavation for a water pipe.

[Next Page]      [Back to Table of Contents]

Bibliographic citation for this document

Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (1998). Essays on the Marshallese Past Second edition. Albury:

Dirk H.R. Spennemann, Institute of Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, P.O.Box 789, Albury NSW 2640, Australia.

select from the following...
World War II

Digital Micronesia-An Electronic Library & Archive is provided free of charge as an advertising-free information service for the world community. It is being maintained by Dirk HR Spennemann, Associate Professor in Cultural Heritage Management, Institute of Land, Water and Society and School of Environmental & Information Sciences, Charles Sturt University, Albury, Australia. The server space and technical support are provided by Charles Sturt University as part of its commitment to regional engagement. Environmental SciencesInformation Sciences

© Dirk Spennemann 1999– 2005
Marshall Islands Kosrae CNMI Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Guam Wake Pohnpei FSM Federated States of Micronesia Yap Chuuk Marshall Islands politics public health environment culture WWII history literature XXX Cultural Heritage Management Micronesian Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences CNMI German Colonial Sources Mariana Islands Historic Preservation Spennemann Dirk Spennemann Dirk HR Spennemann Murray Time Louis Becke Jane Downing Downing