Ancient Tongan rock carvings may shed light on pre-Polynesian voyagers

February 2nd, 2009 - 3:53 pm ICT by ANI  

Wellington, Feb 2 (ANI): Archaeologists have found over 50 ancient rock engravings in Tonga, which may shed some light on the pre-Polynesian Lapita peoples who voyaged across the Pacific.

The petroglyphs, including stylised images of people and animals, were found emerging from beach sand at the northern end of Foa Island, late last year, the Matangi Tonga newspaper reported.

Artist Shane Egan called in archaeologist Professor David Burley, from the Simon Fraser University in Canada, to investigate and document the site.

The site on Foa Island is an amazing piece of artwork, with over 50 engraved images. Having an average height of 20 to 30cm, there are very nicely stylized images of men and women, turtles, dogs, a bird, a lizard, as well as footprints and some weird exotic combinations, he said.

According to Egan, the images were close in form to some found in ancient Hawaii and dated to between 1200 and 1500AD.

If similar dating was found for the latest carvings, it would raise a question about direct long distance voyages between Tonga and Hawaii in that era.

The Foa rock engravings are on two large slabs of fixed beach-rock that were apparently exposed by erosion.

The rock engravings were first sighted by visiting friends Richard Whelan and Janelle Johnston from Melbourne.

Tongas previously reported rock art has been limited to simple geometric engravings, though there is also a single engraved outline of a foot on a stone at a royal tomb.

Petroglyphs have been found throughout eastern Polynesia, especially in the Marquesas, Tahiti and Hawaii. (ANI)

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