New archaeological data from the abandoned island of Alofi (Hoorn archipelago, Western Polynesia)
The Hoorn Archipelago in Western Polynesia, comprising the islands of Futuna and Alofi, was in May 1616 the place of the very first long encounter between European navigators and Polynesians in the Central Pacific. The potential consequences of the two week stop of the Dutch sailors J. Lemaire and W. Schouten in Leava Bay have been a neglected topic of study until today. No proper consideration has been given to the possible introduction of foreign diseases during the close contacts and consequently to the hypothesis of a severe demographic impact well before the end of the 18th–19th centuries. In order to study the long-term demographic history of the archipelago, an archaeological research program was started on the island of Alofi. New archaeological surveys and spatial studies fulfilled in different parts of Alofi in 2019 have started to show the diversity and concentration of surface remains, testimony of a former dense settlement pattern. This paper highlights the main results of the first field season, allowing us to test the hypothesis of a massive depopulation on Alofi following first contact in 1616.