Cave Dwellers Cave Dwellers

Cave Dwellers

Around AD 900 the expansion of Polynesian exploration saw migrants arrive in Mangareva the largest of the Gambier Islands in what is now French Polynesia. Originating from the Marquesas and Society Islands, their seafaring skills and search for high-quality stone for adzes took them further east to Henderson and Pitcairn Island.

Cave Dwellers Mini SheetHenderson, sited 160km north east of Pitcairn and 650km east of Mangareva, could not supply the stone but had an abundance of produce. Seafood, green turtles, seabirds and their eggs and red feathers from Henderson’s parrot, fruit dove and tropicbird were in demand and a small settlement of hardy inhabitants followed.

It was however marginal for human existence with no freshwater streams and limited soil pockets. Even transportation was limited with available trees too small to fashion canoe hulls. Those that did stay survived on a diet of fish, seafood seabirds and natural crops such as coconuts, bananas and ti shrub. Dr Marshall Weisler*, a New Zealand archaeologist proved this unique form of existence in his recent excavations on Henderson. Evidence of primitive construction was also found but cave dwelling was predominant. Some garden patches were found in the north-east of the Island with taro and introduced crops possibly grown. Pigs were also kept to a limited degree.Cave Dwellers FDC

Of significance was the discovery of imports. Dr Jared Diamond in his book “Collapse” writes: “Numerous objects excavated at Weisler’s sites on Henderson could immediately be identified as imports because they were made of materials foreign to Henderson: oyster shell fish hooks and vegetable peelers, volcanic glass cutting tools and basalt adzes and oven stones”** The source of these items was subsequently traced back to Pitcairn and Mangareva. Trade was not only in materials but also saw marriage partners and craftsmen arrive. The reliance on natural resources and trade with Mangareva and Pitcairn enabled the cave dwellers to survive until around AD 1600 when environmental damage on all three islands led to the collapse of their structures and inter-island trade.


Early Civilisation Part l  - Cave Dwellers of Henderson
Please Note: All prices are in New Zealand Dollars

Miniature Sheet with 4 stamps

$6.30
First Day Cover with 4 stamps $7.30
Please note: Stamps on First Day Cover have been removed from the miniature sheet.

Technical Details

Designer :
Lucas Kukler, Amsterdam, The Netherlands Pitcairn Stamps
proudly brought
to you by:
Bounty Post
Printer : Wyatt and Wilson, Christchurch, New Zealand
Process : Offset Litho
Stamp Size : 42.27mm x 30.23mm
Format : Mini sheet only  with 2 horiz. and 2 vert. stamps
Mini Sheet Size : 196mm x 83mm horizontal
Perforation Gauge : 13.2.x 13.2
Sheet Configuration : 4 stamps contained within each miniature sheet
Denominations : Stamps 60c, $1.20, $2.00 and $2.50
Paper : Chancellor Litho Gummed Stamp paper
Period of Sale :
30 August 2006 for a period of 2 years

* The Pitcairn Islands Philatelic Bureau would like to thank Marshall Weisler for helping make this issue possible.

** Diamond, Jared (2005) Collapse. Penguin Group, New York.