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Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month

Dinay Village, Rull Municipality, Federated States of Micronesia, Yap

 

[photo] Dinay Village
Photo courtesy Yap Historic Preservation Office


Dinay occupies an area roughly 300 meters by 200 meters in size, or nearly 15 acres, and is located within an inland mountain stream drainage on the “island” of Yap, which actually consists of four continental islands united by a common coral reef, and is part of the Caroline Islands of the western Pacific Ocean. Yap was settled in a series of ancient migrants from New Guinea, the Malay Peninsula, the Indonesian Archipelago, and the Solomon Islands, and today is a state of the Federated States of Micronesia.  Imperial Germany took control of Yap in the late 19th century, and held it until September, 1914, when the Japanese conquered the island.  The United States military administered the islands after World War II, and it became a Trust Territory until 1986, when, Yap, Truk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae formed the independent nation of the Federated States of Micronesia, which is under a Compact of Free Association with the United States. The Dinay Village in Yap village stretches from the base of the drainage to barren ridge top savannahs, and varies in elevation from 30 to 75 meters. Most of the village is located on the western slope of the drainage; this portion of the village is virtually intact, with a modicum of alterations resulting from later, traditional and historic era use of the site. That portion of the village on the eastern slope of the drainage has been heavily altered by farming activity, as well as road and housing developments; it has been excluded from this nomination and has not been included in either the area or acreage determination.


[photo] Dinay Village
Photo courtesy Yap Historic Preservation Office

Little is known about the early history of Yap. Information gleaned from scattered oral histories, a small number of historical eyewitness accounts, and the few archaeological investigations that have taken place provides precious little beyond a sketchy outline of events since the arrival of the founding population early in the first millennium B.C. Most of the archaeological and historical work on the island has concentrated on traditional sites representing later periods of occupation, often within the last 1,500 years. Very few earlier archaeological sites have been the subject of systematic inquiries, perhaps because later period sites have the advantage of a more extensive body of oral history associated with them, as well as a living population that often still uses the sites. For Yap, one of the most basic features of any history, a defined chronology, has yet to be completed in full. What is known is that sometime early in the first millennium B.C., the founder population arrived on the island. From whence they came is one of those unknowns, but which is alluded to through the oral histories of settlement. According to these oral histories, this is the period when both spirits and humans walked the earth together. This was also the time when the traditions of Yap coalesced. 34 villages existed at this time; all of them were located in the mountainous interior of the four islands that make up Yap Proper.

[photo] Dinay Village
Photo courtesy Yap Historic Preservation Office


Dinay can be considered the place from which a significant and important part of Yapese culture and traditions emerged; few other villages can make this claim. There is no other site like it in the assemblage of archaeological sites on-island; and, it is certainly one of the very few earliest settled sites to be systematically investigated and documented. With less than 0.01% of the site excavated, Dinay still harbors a wealth of information about this period in history, as well as information on the development of one of the most important industries on the island. The site consists of 13 daf (household) complexes, a pottery oven, stone paths, bathing pools, stream crossings, irrigation channels and other features of a well-integrated hydrological management system, a central meeting place or plaza complete with a community well, sitting/meeting and resting platforms, and a semi-pyramidal grave structure. Stone is the principal building material used at the site.


[photo]Dinay Village
Photo courtesy Yap Historic Preservation Office

One final feature present in Dinay is a semi-pyramidal grave complex, located near the uppermost boundary of the village. Its presence raises some questions as to the timing of its presence. Does it indicate Dinay was at one point in its history a low-caste village, and therefore a potential recipient for burials? Did Dinay maintain a high- or medium-caste status with the graves belonging to some high chief within the village? Altogether, there are four graves clustered together. Each is semi-pyramidal in shape, with two visible tiers in three of the structures, along with standing stones placed at the corners and roughly in the center of each side (many of these, however, have collapsed). Construction techniques used on the graves is somewhat different from that used throughout the rest of the village. Flatter, more fitted stones were used in the construction, with some indication that the stones were slightly shaped to provide a more accommodating fit. Today the jungle has engulfed Dinay, which has at least in part protected it from the sundry forces of degradation. But it also means that many plants, particularly fast growing plants common as pioneering species, have taken root in the walls, foundations and stone paths.

[photo] Dinay Village
Photo courtesy Yap Historic Preservation Office


Dinay has no precedence. It is an exceptional site in the archaeological record of Yap as it represents the earliest period in Yap's history, the era of Exploration and Settlement. It is also testimony to the compatibility of oral history and archaeology. The documentation of Dinay was the inaugural project of the Historic Preservation Office's archaeological program geared toward locating, recording and documenting the 34 earliest settled sites according to oral history. Using the information collected from oral history, the Yap Historic Preservation Office set out to locate Dinay, the village described as the place where fire and pottery was introduced to the people of Yap by the gods. Not only was the village located in the general area described in oral histories, but a reconnaissance survey and exploratory excavation demonstrated it to be virtually intact, with a network of daf (household) complexes woven together by well-built stone paths, with resting platforms, sitting and meeting platforms, a well, irrigation channels, bathing pools, stream crossings, and at least two architectural features which places Dinay in a unique position on Yap and in the region a pottery oven and the antecedent to tribute dais. The condition and integrity of Dinay is generally good, although the forces of nature and successive episodes of jungle growth have left their mark through distorted alignments, erosional channels and soil formation hat has buried many features.


[photo]Dinay Village
Photo courtesy Yap Historic Preservation Office

One of the most significant features in Dinay is a pottery oven, for which there is no parallel in the region. The pottery oven is essentially a pit kiln, which would have served at the center of an industrial level production system, where pottery could be mass-produced to meet the growing demands for new cooking pots from every segment of the ancient society. The other feature which distinguishes Dinay from other villages is a rounded tribute dais like the pottery oven; it too has no precedent in the island's archaeological inventory. It appears to be the forerunner of later; Traditional era raised stone table or presentation platforms, which are generally square to rectangular in shape. The site too has an extensive, intact subsurface deposit from which at least four different kinds of pottery were recovered. Two of these pottery types are new to the archaeological record of Yap and confirm the presence of an earlier and very different pottery tradition than is currently reported for the archipelago. Both of the new pottery types were located at the base of the excavation; both too have correlates in other parts of western Micronesia. The first, a blackware, appears similar to some of the earliest pottery in Palau (dated roughly 500-800 BC); while the second, a thin dense redware appears similar to the earliest pottery in the Marianas (dated roughly between 1000 and 1,500 BC.).

[photo] Dinay Village
Photo courtesy Yap Historic Preservation Office


From oral history accounts, the site is one of the earliest 34 settled villages in Yap, which places the site within the era of Exploration and Settlement. Elsewhere in Western Micronesia, that would place initial occupation at least within the first millennium B.C., an association made all the more probable by the recovery of pottery similar in style, shape and composition to the earliest pottery types in the Marianas and the Palau archipelago. Continuous occupation, or at least use, of Dinay is indicated in the archaeological record, with the occurrence of visible alterations to the site structure and landscape made during the Traditional era, a vaguely defined period that coincides with the time frame covered by oral history. However, by that time Dinay's role in the development of Yapese material culture was the stuff of legends; the village had lost its status and was treated as a low caste village. Large raised garden beds associated with Traditional era occupation not only represent a more intensive use of the land within village boundaries, but are visibly scattered throughout daf complexes, often overlapping existing features. Abandonment of the village is estimated as A.D. 1600 at the latest. This places final occupation sometime before the arrival of Europeans and is in keeping with another feature of local history: Dinay Village is a site beyond the limits of oral history; in the vernacular, it is a place before time, 'before the before.' Status as a 'site before time' is further reinforced by another custom in Yap where every house platform has a name which is associated with the estate of a particular lineage.

The oral histories of Yap are legion. They cover all manner of traditional custom, political organization, hero stories, and stories detailing the mythic world of spirits and people. There are, for instance, a host of stories that describe the 34 earliest settled village sites on the island, outlining their importance in the developing history of Yap as well as their interactions with one another. The oral histories associated with Dinay Village are no different. The most prominent story describes Dinay as the place where pottery and fire were introduced to the people of Yap by the gods. The first systematic archaeological investigation at Dinay occurred in 1999, when the Yap Historic Preservation Office inaugurated an archaeological reconnaissance and survey program geared toward locating, recording and documenting the 34 earliest settled sites according to oral history. The program began by collecting a few oral histories related to each of these sites; predominately, collected histories focused on the location and composition of the sites. Dinay was the first village on the list to be investigated. Dinay Village was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on April 14, 2004.

Extracted from the National Register nomination prepared by Dr. Felicia R. Beardslev

URL: http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NRHP/Text/04000276.pdf
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URL: http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NRHP/Photos/04000276.pdf


Dept of Anthropology, University of California

 

 

 

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