Matthew Napolitano

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Oregon, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9710

Approve Date

October 5, 2018

Project Title

Napolitano, Matthew F., U. of Oregon, Eugene, OR - To aid research on 'Colonization on the Island of Stone Money: Archaeological Investigation on Yap, Western Micronesia,' supervised by Dr. Scott M. Fitzpatrick

Preliminary abstract: Human migrations across Remote Oceania, an expanse in the Pacific Islands that includes some of the most isolated landmasses in the world, involved incredible feats of long-distance voyaging. Recent collaborative interdisciplinary research focused on the timing, drivers, and complexity of these voyages has led to an increased understanding of these movements, but many questions still remain unanswered. This is especially true in the case of Yap–a group of four small islands situated between Palau and the Mariana Islands in western Micronesia. Multiple conflicting lines of evidence, stemming largely from a lack of archaeological research, have resulted in major discrepancies that place the colonization of Yap between 3300-2000 years ago. Even less is understood about the original homeland of the first Yapese. Tentative, but provocative evidence suggests that Yap was reached from New Guinea or the Bismarck Archipelago and was possibly affiliated with the Lapita culture. Recent preliminary excavation at the site of Pemrang in southern Yap has found evidence that extends the date of early human settlement by four centuries, but subsurface testing was halted by encountering the water table. This study proposes to discover even earlier archaeological evidence for Yap’s settlement by conducting excavation below the water table on Yap and to continue collecting data on past environmental conditions from nearby wetlands that might contain well-preserved plant remains that can be used to verify early human activity. In doing so, this study will help identify or rule out a point of origin for Yap’s colonization and expand our understanding of settlement patterns that will allow us to test models of the dispersal and dynamics of Pacific Island colonization.


Napolitano, Matthew, et al.  2019. Footprints of the Ancestors. University of Oregon