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.
William R. Dickinson
The evolution of coastal landforms on tropical Pacific islands has been influenced jointly by changes in relative sea level and by shoreline sediment dynamics. During human occupation of Pacific Oceania, changes in sea level have reflected a monotonic hydro-isostatic drawdown in regional sea level following a mid-Holocene highstand in eustatic sea level, and varied patterns of tectonic uplift or subsidence affecting individual islands or island groups. Wave erosion has altered some bold coastlines, but the dominant trend of paleoshoreline evolution along lowland coasts has been the expansion of coastal plains by the accretion of successive beach ridges to island cores as regional sea level gradually fell. Anthropogenic impacts on island landscapes have influenced strandline sedimentation by enhancing sediment delivery to island coasts in response to inland deforestation.
Jennifer G. Kahn
This chapter explores the long-term processes whereby settlers moving into Central Eastern Polynesia (CEP) adapted to new island environments and social landscapes. Over a thousand-year period, CEP societies instigated environmental change and subsistence intensification, in addition to developing localized styles of material culture and affecting great change in their sociopolitical complexity. In comparing the cultural sequences from three CEP archipelagoes (Society Islands, Marquesas Islands, Austral Islands), the chapter demonstrates shared patterns in demographic change and shifts in subsistence and exchange, while at the same time highlighting inter-archipelago variation in terms of pathways to emerging elite power. Trends in CEP regional variation provide broad support for models positing a relationship between the evolution of social complexity in CEP chiefdoms, and the effects of island size/age and the availability of natural resources.
Dietary Opportunities and Constraints on Islands: A Multi-proxy Approach to Diet in the Southern Cook Islands
Melinda S. Allen
This chapter considers the advantages of islands as analytical units and the benefits of multi-proxy approaches to diet reconstructions. An overview of some common historical trends in Pacific Island diets is provided, followed by more detailed examination of two southern Cook Island sequences (Mangaia and Aitutaki Islands) in Polynesia, localities which were settled by closely related peoples but offered different dietary opportunities given their contrastive geographies. Archaeofaunal, archaeobotanical, and stable isotope records are used to explore dietary variability on these two islands over an approximately 750-year period. The analysis emphasizes the relationships between different dietary components (terrestrial foraging, marine exploitation, and evolving agroeconomies) and the dynamic feedback relationships that can shape dietary change.
This article addresses the question of what is the central narrative of the archaeological past in Australia and its adjacent islands. The article summarises genetic evidence that there may have been separate populations moving into the northern and southern parts of Sahul, and the linguistic evidence that there were several major language groups at the time of contact with Europeans. The diversity of languages was mirrored by diversity in material culture, ritual, and social organization. The article argues that the archaeological record is the best evidence of how this diversity emerged. It presents the evidence for initial colonization and movement within the continent. It discusses some of the evidence of the impact of humans on the environment and how people responded to the changing resource availability. Finally it summarises some of the key changes in symbolic communication as represented by the rock art and their implications.
Historical linguistics is a key witness in reconstructing the prehistory of Oceania. The extraordinary number of Papuan (non-Austronesian) language families in Near Oceania is consistent with archaeological evidence that this region was settled over 40,000 years ago. One family, Trans New Guinea, is exceptional in its wide distribution, suggesting that its expansion was underpinned by technological advances. Most Austronesian languages of Oceania fall into a single branch of the family, Oceanic, indicating that they stem from a bottleneck in the Austronesian expansion into the southwest Pacific, associated with the formation of Proto Oceanic (POc). The final stages of this formative period almost certainly took place in the Bismarck Archipelago and the subsequent rapid dispersal of Oceanic languages across the southwest Pacific can be connected with the region's colonization by bearers of the Lapita archaeological culture. The reconstructed lexicon of POc provides information about early Lapita material culture and social organization.
This chapter maps the history of historical archaeological research on Chinese people in colonial Australia and New Zealand. The discussion addresses the thematic progress of historical archaeological thought and research methodologies from its beginning, as well as suggesting new study areas and investigative techniques. Practitioners in this field of historical archaeology have obtained an understanding of the complex nature of the associated material remains. Through a multidisciplinary approach, the current levels of awareness and existing hypothesis on colonial period overseas Chinese people can be challenged to penetrate deeper into the overseas Chinese experience, obtaining a more accurate and intimate understanding of overseas Chinese history.
Prior to the arrival of the first small group of Protestant evangelical missionaries to New Zealand in 1814, there were only intermittent, occasionally violent encounters between indigenous Māori and Europeans, predominantly sojourners such as explorers and sealers. Missionaries established the first European settlement in the northern part of the country, under the auspices of a Māori fortification. In 1840, British annexation took place; subsequently Māori were subjugated by a series of land wars and subsumed by a burgeoning settler population. As elsewhere in the New World, the processes of missionization in New Zealand became associated with the later events of colonization. This chapter examines the archaeology and history of missionization in New Zealand, briefly comparing these processes with those in other localities such as Australia and North America, and the specific ways in which missions contributed to the colonization of the country.
New Guinea, inhabited for approximately 50,000 years, has been the focus of far less archaeological research compared to Australia and Polynesia, to the south and east, respectively. However, the archaeology of this island is significant to perennial archaeological topics including the development of agriculture and social complexity, the explanation and effects of human interaction, the archaeological relevance of paleoenvironmental research, and the intersection of different dimensions of human variation, linguistic, biological, and cultural. This chapter focuses on both the changing subsistence practices of New Guinean populations over some 50 millennia, and the development of interaction and social networks between and within highland and lowland populations over the same time. Although Lapita pottery, often considered a marker of Austronesian migrants, is found in relatively small quantities on New Guinea, post-Lapita ceramics, document production, and exchange systems over the last two thousand years.
Sue O'Connor and Peter Hiscock
Sahul, comprising Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea was colonized from Sunda, the enlarged southernmost extension of Eurasia, by anatomically modern Homo sapiens over 50,000 years ago. Pleistocene colonization of Sahul required watercraft to cross the perpetual island region of Wallacea, wherein populations adjusted to changing patterns of floral and faunal diversity. Once in Sahul, populations quickly adapted to the varying resources, developed regional differences in technology and culture, and likely contributed to megafaunal extinctions also influenced by environmental change. Ancient DNA and skeletal studies indicate that after colonization, Sahul was largely isolated from other populations. The earliest humans to inhabit Near Oceania, the islands northeast of New Guinea, arrived approximately 45,000 years ago. While the sophistication of their earliest navigational technology is debated, by 20,000 years ago these populations engaged in increasingly frequent voyaging, translocating New Guinea mainland fauna to the islands and moving valuable stone resources over hundreds of kilometers.
Patrick V. Kirch
The Hawaiian Islands are the most isolated inhabited archipelago in the world. Initially colonized around A.D. 1000, the environmental gradients of rainfall and island-age have influenced subsequent cultural variation and differentiation in the islands. Settlements are typically dispersed hamlets and integrated within agricultural facilities such as irrigated pondfields and dryland field systems. Populations were politically organized in idealized pie-shaped units or ahupua`a that typically encompass a cross-section of island resources. Material culture , including fishhooks, stone tools, and religious temples, is broadly similar within these units, but there is also much evidence for elite control of specialized production in some areas. The Hawaiian Islands are the archetypal chiefdom society, although based on changes in demography, monumental architecture (heiau) and royal centers, intensive agriculture, and divine kingship, the population had likely crossed the threshold of sociopolitical complexity to that of an archaic state prior to the arrival of Europeans in 1778.