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date: 20 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

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.

Keywords: Melanesia, New Caledonia, archaeological history, Lapita, cultural change, Kanak, pre-colonial

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