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New precise dates for the ancient and sacred coral pyramidal tombs of Leluh (Kosrae, Micronesia)
Abstract and Figures
Monumental tombs within ancient civilizations worldwide hold precious clues for deciphering the architectural skill, acumen and industry of prehistoric cultures. Most tombs were constructed from abiotic materials —stone, soil and/or clay predominately—and were built to permanently inter royalty or high status individuals. On the island of Kosrae in the central Pacific, monumental tombs were constructed with scleractinian coral and were confined to the prehistoric island capital of Leluh, where they served as temporary mortuary processing points. Like other prehistoric tombs, the Leluh tombs were dated by association - from the remnants of the temporarily interred. Here we present new dates for three sacred tombs using high-precision U-Th dates from 24 corals collected directly from the structural materials. The results suggest the tombs were built about 700 years ago during the 14th century, approximately three centuries earlier than previously reported. The new dates redefine the peak occupation of Leluh and place its ruling paramountcy at the leading edge of the developing trans-oceanic political hierarchies, and the social and economic systems that dominated the civilizations in this part of the world.
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