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Collecting Oral Histories in Preparation for Archaeological Fieldwork: Pragmatic Planning and Engaging the Community

By: Published: 2018 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 1
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In Micronesia, where the modern population is directly descended from the population that settled in these islands, archaeology often makes use of local oral histories as context in the preparation for fieldwork. The collection of oral histories requires a systematic and methodical process. Presented here is an example of one archaeological project where the authentication of a local oral history on the island of Kosrae, Micronesia, became the focus of project work. The author was asked to locate and document the physical site location described in a key oral history known as the King’s Revenge, where a tyrant king had been ambushed and murdered by the people from the village of Finol Tokosra. The following pages outline the research design developed and used to collect various versions of this story through interviews with local community members, including the challenges encountered and the strategies used to identify physical features in the stories that could be used for archaeological ground-truthing fieldwork. Preparation for the interviews is discussed, including development of basic contextual questions, along with the problems of note-taking in an environment with limited resources, issues related to language barriers, the value of community engagement, and preparations for ground-truthing the oral history using archaeological methods. Ultimately, the author and her local crew identified the physical remains of what was thought to be Finol Tokosra, the ancient village site of the King’s Revenge story.

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Methods Map

Oral history research

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