Scientist is exploring Polynesian settlement in Tooele

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IOSEPA, Utah (AP) -- Using old maps and monuments, an anthropologist has identified a Utah settlement where Polynesians lived from 1889 to 1917, west of the Stansbury Mountains in Tooele County.

Benjamin Pykles, an assistant professor at State University of New York in Potsdam, recalled hearing about the settlement when he was a student at Brigham Young University. Now he's leading other students at the site, hoping to learn more about a community that lasted just 28 years.

Last summer "we were able to re-establish the location of the town on the ground once again using old surveyors' maps and original surveyors' monuments placed in 1908," Pykles said.

With help from the county surveyor's office, wooden stakes were placed at the corners of about a dozen lots.

"The goal (next) summer is to resurvey the entire town so that every lot will be marked," Pykles said. "Ever since the town was abandoned and the last survivors passed away, nobody has really known where the town was on the landscape."

Iosepa, which means Joseph in Hawaiian, was named for Mormon church founder Joseph Smith.

The residents were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who responded to the church's call to gather in Utah before the turn of the 20th century.

Most returned to Hawaii or other islands in 1917 when the LDS church announced the building of a temple in Hawaii. All that's left are a cemetery and a few visible foundations.

Pykles said a long-range plan for the project could include signs explaining the history of Iosepa. But that would be up to property owners, the Ensign Group.

Cory Hoopiiaina, treasurer of the Iosepa Historical Association, said there are some concerns about how human remains would be treated if discovered by Pykles' team.

"Do we have a right to stop it? No, not as long as he's got permission of the landowners," Hoopiiaina said.

Pykles said Iosepa will be treated with great care.

"We're not out there to desecrate the land, or to harm the land or its people in any way," he said. "It's sacred, and the project is an attempt to help us understand better those people."


Information from: Tooele Transcript-Bulletin

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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