A 1980 Attempt at Reviving Ancient Irrigation Practices in the Pacific: Rationale, Failure, and Success
The author was project leader on an attempt to revive ancient irrigation practices on Aneityum Island (Vanuatu, S. Pacific) in 1980, based on his archaeological and ethnoarchaeological research on the island. Here he tries to reconstruct the context and his rationale for instigating such a project. While successful in a technical sense—abandoned irrigation systems were indeed brought back into use as planned—the project was set up in the absence of a defined market and marketing policy. Inevitably it soon collapsed when the taro that was produced remained unsold. But all was not lost after all and a seed was sown. Recent reports from participants in the original project suggest that the ancient techniques that were re-taught to a wide section of the Island’s community in 1980 have not been forgotten. These productive techniques are increasingly being reapplied on Aneityum in a time of rapid population growth.
Ethan E. Cochrane
Like the other archipelagos of Remote Oceania, Fiji was colonized by Lapita voyagers approximately 1000 b.c. Over the subsequent three millennia, Fijian populations underwent considerable change, resulting in the unique cultural, biological, and linguistic characteristics that differentiate Fiji from populations in both Polynesia to the east and Melanesia to the west. This essay summarizes the Lapita archaeology of the archipelago and later culture history including change in ceramic horizons, the spatial scale of interaction within the archipelago, and potential migrations into Fiji from other island groups. The rise of Fijian chiefdoms is also examined with these polities closely linked to increasing competition, fortifications, and defendable agricultural resources. Finally, artifactual, linguistic, and biological data characterizing Fijian populations are examined, and it is concluded that the generalization of Fiji as “not quite Melanesian, not quite Polynesian” can best be explained within a cultural transmission framework that separates analogous and homologous similarity.
New Caledonia is the southern-most archipelago of Melanesia. Its unique geological diversity, as part of the old Gondwana plate, has led to specific pedological and floral environments that have, since first human settlement, influenced the ways Pacific Islanders have occupied and used the landscape. This essay presents some of the key periods of the nearly 3,000 years of pre-colonial human settlement. After having presented a short history of archaeological research in New Caledonia, the essay focuses first on the Lapita foundation, which raises questions of long-term contacts and cultural change. The second part details the unique specificities developed during the “Traditional Kanak Cultural Complex,” during the millennium predating first European contact, as well as highlighting the massive changes brought by the introduction of new diseases, in the decades before the colonial settlement era. This leads to questions about archaeological history and the role of archaeology in the present decolonizing context.
Ethan E. Cochrane and Terry L. Hunt
The archaeological record of Oceania stretches over one-third of the earth’s surface with the first humans entering Oceania 50,000 years ago and with the last major archipelago settled approximately a.d. 1300. Oceania is often divided into the cultural-geographic regions of Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia, but these divisions mask much variation, and they do not always accurately characterize the historical relationships among Oceania’s populations. Since the 1950s, archaeological researchers have investigated Oceania’s human and environmental past and have focused on colonization chronologies and the origins of different populations, the intensity and spatial scale of interaction between groups, and changes in social complexity through time and space with a particular concern for the development of chiefdoms. Oceanic archaeologists often use historical linguistics, human genetics, and cultural evolution models to structure their research on ancient Pacific island populations.
Terry L. Hunt and Carl Lipo
The public and scholarly fascination with Rapa Nui or Easter Island has stimulated research on this isolated island since the late nineteenth century. In the last twenty years such research has contributed greatly to knowledge of the archaeological record, as well as prehistoric agriculture, community structure, settlement patterns, and the carving and transport of roughly 1,000 anthropomorphic statues or moai. Although the popularized story of Rapa Nui is one of self-inflicted population devastation through destruction of the environment—ecocide—this research suggests that decentralized social systems, including those related to moai carving, and innovative subsistence practices within a marginal environment contributed to the ultimate survival of the Rapa Nui people.
J. Stephen Athens
A great deal of archaeology has been conducted in the Eastern Caroline Islands during the last thirty-five years. This chapter provides an overview of these investigations and accomplishments. The discussion is framed in terms of the ethnographic present (what is known about traditional societies) to contextualize the archaeological findings. The focus is primarily on the two high islands of Pohnpei and Kosrae, though other islands/archipelagos are touched upon as relevant. Major themes are initial settlement of the islands, cultural florescence as represented by megalithic architecture, and the so-called breadfruit revolution. Review of these topics touches upon many aspects of prehistoric studies, including the paleoenvironment, linguistics, artifacts, subsistence, sourcing of basalt, oral history, botany, and others.
Stuart Bedford and Matthew Spriggs
The more than 1,000-kilometer stretch of eighty-two inhabited islands comprising the Vanuatu archipelago is centrally situated in the southwest Pacific. These islands were first settled in the late Holocene by Lapita colonists as part of a rapid migratory event that travelled as far east as Tonga. Over three millennia Vanuatu has transformed into an extraordinarily diverse country both linguistically and culturally. The challenge to archaeology is to explain how such diversity has arisen. This chapter addresses a range of themes that are central to the definition and understanding of the timing and nature of initial settlement, levels of interconnectedness, cultural transformation and diversification, human impact on pristine environments, and impacts of natural hazards on resident populations. Vanuatu research contributes to regional debates on human colonization, patterns of social interaction, and the drivers of social change in island contexts.
Scott M. Fitzpatrick
Western Micronesia encompasses several major archipelagos and islands, including the Marianas, Yap, and Palau. Language and human biology suggest Western Micronesia was most likely colonized from Island Southeast Asia in a complex process, possibly involving multiple population movements from different areas during prehistory. A key archaeological question concerns the variable timing of this colonization, which could be as early as 4,500 years ago according to paleoenvironmental data or up to 1,000 years later when considering artifact-associated dates. Although sometimes perceived as similar, Micronesia’s western archipelagos comprise varying cultural sequences with, for example, the region’s earliest pottery, Achugao Incised and San Roque Incised, and megalithic stone structures, or Latte, in the Marianas, complexly constructed earthworks covering much of the main islands of Palau, and extensive prehistoric and historic exchange systems, such as the sawei, centered on Yap.
Lesley Head, Harry Allen, Tim Denham, and Richard Fullagar
This article examines the archaeology of Australasia. It explains that Australasia comprises Australia, New Guinea, and New Zealand and it conflates geographical, colonial, and national boundaries and delineations in ways that on the face of things have little to do with prehistoric lifeways. This article discusses the nature of environmental change relevant to occupation, the dating of initial colonisation, and the human impacts associated with colonization. It also compares colonization and the impacts of debate in Sahul and New Zealand and discusses the archaeological cultural sequence in New Zealand.
Timothy Rieth and Ethan E. Cochrane
Colonization of Remote Oceania resulted in the discovery of thousands of islands spread across an enormous area of the Pacific Ocean. Beginning as early as approximately 3500 cal. B.P. in Western Micronesia, populations began an expansion westward eventually settling East Polynesia over two millennia later. Although this general pattern is well-established, the reliability of colonization chronologies for particular islands and island groups varies significantly. This chapter synthesizes and critiques current interpretations of radiocarbon and other dating estimates for colonization of the major islands across the region and provides recommendations for future research and chronology building, highlighting the potential for Bayesian analyses. Estimates for the colonization of Hawai'i are presented as a case study.