Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)




Jennifer Kahn

Committee Member

Martin Gallivan

Committee Member

Neil Norman


This thesis investigates shell tool use in the Society Islands. Shell scrapers are widely recognized artifacts in Polynesian archaeology and are strongly associated with vegetable scraping. However, ethnohistorical sources describe Pacific Islanders using shell scrapers for a wider range of activities. This thesis demonstrates that shell scrapers had more diverse functions than is attributed to them by archaeologists. This study includes research using ethnohistoric sources to better understand the ways in which shell was used by Pacific Islanders, including their use as expedient tools. An experimental use-wear program is implemented to investigate the development of use- wear patterns on Turbo shells when used as scrapers on various contact materials. Finally, the experimental use-wear analysis results are used as a proxy to analyze possible use-wear patterns on 23 potential Turbo scrapers excavated from archaeological sites in the Society Islands to determine if these shells were used as tools. The overarching goals of this thesis is to demonstrate that Turbo shells were used as scrapers and to refine our ability to identify and interpret expedient technology in the Society Islands.



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