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Islands of Inquiry

Islands of Inquiry: Colonisation, seafaring and the archaeology of maritime landscapes

Geoffrey Clark
Foss Leach
Sue O'Connor
Series: Terra Australis
Volume: 29
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Islands of Inquiry
    Book Description:

    This collection makes a substantial contribution to several highly topical areas of archaeological inquiry. Many of the papers present new and innovative research into the processes of maritime colonisation, processes that affect archaeological contexts from islands to continents. Others shift focus from process to the archaeology of maritime places from the Bering to the Torres Straits, providing highly detailed discussions of how living by and with the sea is woven into all elements of human life from subsistence to trade and to ritual. Of equal importance are more abstract discussions of islands as natural places refashioned by human occupation, either through the introduction of new organisms or new systems of production and consumption. These transformation stories gain further texture (and variety) through close examinations of some of the more significant consequences of colonisation and migration, particularly the creation of new cultural identities. Afinal set of papers explores the ways in which the techniques of archaeological science have provided insights into the fauna of islands and the human history of such places. Islands of Inquiry highlights the importance of an archaeologically informed history of landmasses in the oceans and seas of the world.

    eISBN: 978-1-921313-90-5
    Subjects: Archaeology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[viii])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [ix]-[xii])
  3. Introduction

    • 1 Atholl John Anderson: No ordinary archaeologist
      (pp. 1-30)
      Foss Leach

      Atholl Anderson first ventured into serious archaeological research in 1966, when he carried out an extensive survey of archaeological sites in the Tasman Bay area at the northern end of the South Island of New Zealand. The main objective was ‘a complete coverage of all the sites of prehistoric settlement, including mapping, stratigraphical analysis, and sampling of contents’. The completed study was submitted to the Geography Department at Canterbury University as a thesis for the MA degree in 1966 (Maori occupation sites in back beach deposits around Tasman Bay). This was a bold initiative for a budding archaeologist, aged 23,...

  4. Modelling seafaring and colonisation

    • 2 Getting from Sunda to Sahul
      (pp. 31-46)
      Jim Allen and James F. OʹConnell

      The level of intentionality in the behaviour of early modern humans is a continuing debate that we have had with Atholl over the years. For our part, we argue that the cognitive abilities of early modern humans, reflected in the patterns of the late Pleistocene archaeological records, are qualitatively different from their predecessors and not vastly different from our own. This being the case, we feel able to assume purpose in past human behaviour that Atholl does not. Presented with evidence that is often meagre, indirect or ambiguous, Atholl counters with explanations that require little or no intent on the...

    • 3 Seafaring simulations and the origin of prehistoric settlers to Madagascar
      (pp. 47-58)
      Scott M. Fitzpatrick and Richard Callaghan

      How and when islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans were colonised by Austronesian speakers has been of great interest to archaeologists for decades. Few people, however, have gone to such great lengths to answer the questions from so many different methodological and theoretical perspectives as Atholl Anderson. Atholl probably also has the distinction of having stepped on more islands in the Pacific than any other archaeologist and his efforts to understand Oceanic prehistory have influenced and will continue to inspire future generations of archaeologists. Given that his research has been so varied and spanned several oceans, dozens of islands...

    • 4 Friction zones in Lapita colonisation
      (pp. 59-74)
      Geoffrey Clark and Stuart Bedford

      A landscape can be conceived as composed of aggregates of factors that either impede or facilitate the movement of living organisms (Lee 1996). Landscapes that are hostile, fragmented, unfamiliar or difficult to reach are resistant to settlement and are colonisation ‘friction zones’, while those that are familiar, continuous, easy to reach and resource rich support species establishment. In this paper, we examine Lapita colonisation using the ecological concept of friction landscapes (i.e. Joly et al. 2003). We begin by reviewing the major points in the Lapita distribution where colonisation is argued to have been negatively impacted by the properties of...

    • 5 Flights of fancy: Fractal geometry, the Lapita dispersal and punctuated colonisation in the Pacific
      (pp. 75-86)
      Ian Lilley

      Atholl Anderson has long been interested in the big questions surrounding pre-European population movement in the Asia-Pacific. For the most part, though, his publications have concentrated on the initial settlement of Remote Oceania, and particularly Polynesia, rather than either the Austronesian progression through Southeast Asia or the Lapita spread through Near Oceania. In this chapter, I would like to return to his 2001 consideration of Lapita mobility, where he asked (Anderson 2001:21) whether the large-scale pattern of episodic movement he identified in Remote Oceania could be linked at a processual level with the Lapita spread through already-inhabited parts of Melanesia...

    • 6 Demographic expansion, despotism and the colonisation of East and South Polynesia
      (pp. 87-96)
      Douglas J. Kennett and Bruce Winterhalder

      The Pacific Islands were some of the last habitable places on earth to be colonised by humans. Current archaeological evidence suggests these islands were colonised from c. 35,000 BP, and the expansion to increasingly remote islands and archipelagos was episodic rather than continuous; with bursts of migration followed by longer periods of sedentism and population growth (Anderson 2001a). The last phase of colonisation into East and South Polynesia occurred rapidly at c. 1000 BP, after a 1600-year hiatus in colonisation activity (Spriggs and Anderson 1993; Anderson 2001a, 2003).

      We argued in an earlier paper (Kennett et al. 2006) that the...

    • 7 The long pause and the last pulse: Mapping East Polynesian colonisation
      (pp. 97-112)
      Tim Thomas

      Maps are rarely neutral depictions of space. They encode, simplify and abstract human experiences of landscapes according to particular needs and histories. More often than not, they are arguments – about how we should perceive the world in particular contexts (Wood 1992). Accordingly, maps are socially and culturally embedded. European maps, for example, have been identified as embodying the post-Cartesian Enlightenment project – a means of inquiry, examination and control, promoting the ‘rational’ utilisation of space (Tilley 1994:21) and thus a tool of imperialist and colonial practice (Carter 1987). In contrast, Marshall Islands navigation charts are more personal, indexing wave...

  5. The maritime dimension in prehistory

    • 8 Be careful what you ask for: Archaeozoological evidence of mid-Holocene climate change in the Bering Sea and implications for the origins of Arctic Thule
      (pp. 113-132)
      Susan J. Crockford

      The last great migration of people into Arctic North America involved the Thule, a highly mobile group that spread rapidly from northern Alaska to the islands of the Canadian Arctic and northwest Greenland about 1000 years ago (Schledermann and McCullough 1980; McGhee 2005). Archaeological investigations in Siberia and Alaska have so far failed to identify where and when the most basic elements of Thule culture developed. The fact that Thule used whale skeletal elements as architectural material in the construction of their semi-subterranean houses has led many researchers to characterise them as primarily subsistence whalers (e.g. Schledermann 1976, 1979; Dawson...

    • 9 Ritualised marine midden formation in western Zenadh Kes (Torres Strait)
      (pp. 133-148)
      Ian J. McNiven and Duncan Wright

      Marine subsistence specialisation is a central theme in the archaeology of Oceania. Shell middens provide the main material evidence for marine specialisation through food remains (e.g. bones and shells) and technology (e.g. fishhooks). For the most part, middens are considered domestic refuse deposits and the byproduct of people living their daily lives. In contrast, sites such as houses and ritual structures are considered part of the built domain and architecture of settlements. Over the past decade or so, the role of refuse deposits as secular byproducts of society has been challenged by the concepts of ‘ritual rubbish’ and ‘ceremonial trash’...

    • 10 Sailing between worlds: The symbolism of death in northwest Borneo
      (pp. 149-170)
      Katherine Szabó, Philip J. Piper and Graeme Barker

      The Niah Caves complex in northwest Borneo is best known for its early Homo sapiens remains, but the various Niah entrances and nearby caves also contain a wealth of archaeological deposits from later time periods. The rich metal-age record (from c. 2000 years ago) of Niah is nearly exclusively represented by burials, and while some attention has been directed to understanding the West Mouth cemetery zone (e.g. B. Harrisson 1967; Zuraina 1982), other deposits have received less attention. Kain Hitam was one of the last sites in the Niah area to be excavated by Tom and Barbara Harrisson, and only...

    • 11 Land and sea animal remains from Middle Neolithic Pitted Ware sites on Gotland Island in the Baltic Sea, Sweden
      (pp. 171-184)
      Helene Martinsson-Wallin

      Prehistoric bone material from Gotland Island situated in the centre of the Baltic Sea (Figure 1) is remarkably well preserved due to the island’s limestone substrate. Archaeological research and excavation has been ongoing on the island since the beginning of last century (Wennersten 1907; Nihlén 1927; Stenberger et al. 1943), and the use of traditional farming methods has spared many prehistoric sites from destruction. The numerous archaeological excavations have resulted in a large and well-documented sample of human and animal bone material from Mesolithic and Neolithic sites. The bones occur both as food residue in occupation areas and as human...

    • 12 A cache of one-piece fishhooks from Pohara, Takaka, New Zealand
      (pp. 185-202)
      Janet Davidson and Foss Leach

      More than 40 years ago, Atholl Anderson carried out his first major archaeological fieldwork in Tasman Bay, in the northwest of the South Island (Anderson 1966). This paper describes an important cache of fishhooks found recently near Takaka in Mohua (Golden Bay), immediately to the west of Tasman Bay. We offer the paper to Atholl in recognition of his pioneering archaeological work in Te Tau Ihu (the top of the South Island) and his life-long commitment to the study and practice of fishing. In his MA thesis in geography, Atholl acknowledged the help of Don Millar, who provided him with...

    • 13 Trans-oceanic transfer of bark-cloth technology from South China–Southeast Asia to Mesoamerica?
      (pp. 203-210)
      Judith Cameron

      Scholars have long recognised the important role bark cloth plays in articulating status in Polynesian societies. In life (and death), Polynesian chiefs were traditionally presented (or shrouded) with copious quantities of bark cloth, the precise number of strips contingent on status. The considerable economic expenditure required to produce such large quantities reflects the significance of this item of material culture in its cultural context, as well as the importance of hierarchy in traditional Polynesian societies. Kleinschmidt’s unforgettable drawing (Figure 1) of a Fijian chief wearing more than 180 m of tapa during a ceremony to mark the conclusion of 100...

  6. Island environments:: Theory, biological introductions and transformations

    • 14 Are islands islands? Some thoughts on the history of chalk and cheese
      (pp. 211-226)
      Matthew Spriggs

      I append these two quotations to show that, in island archaeology at least, there is nothing new under the sun. They provide a rich source of tropes that remain with us as theoretical postulates of island singularity: the contrast with more complex continental situations, climatic and ecological variability, isolation through distance and navigational limitations that prevent ‘external influences’, evidence of cultural conservatism and/or loss, small populations and clear variations in social structure – all within a context of historical relatedness.

      The first quotation, dating from 1813, shows that we can go back long before Darwin’s account of his visit to...

    • 15 No fruit on that beautiful shore: What plants were introduced to the subtropical Polynesian islands prior to European contact?
      (pp. 227-252)
      Matthew Prebble

      The introduction of plants to Remote Oceania has been a subject alluded to throughout the development of Pacific botany (e.g. Seemann 1865–73; Guppy 1906; Ridley 1930; Brown 1935; Merrill 1946) and is important given the potential overlapping roles of natural dispersal (e.g. Carquist 1996) and human introduction in shaping island floras. In recent ethnobotanical treatments of Remote Oceania (e.g. Kirch and Yen 1982; Whistler 1991) and in a number of floral compendiums of island archipelagos (e.g. Wagner et al. 1990; Florence 1997, 2004), there has been a tendency for the introduced botanical status of plant species to be given...

    • 16 One thousand years of human environmental transformation in the Gambier Islands (French Polynesia)
      (pp. 253-264)
      Eric Conte and Patrick V. Kirch

      Landscapes and their biodiversity result, to be sure, from natural processes (geological, biological), but also from the actions – direct and indirect – exercised by humans on their habitat over time. It is important, therefore, to take into account this historical dimension of the interactions between humans and their habitat, to better understand contemporary situations, and hopefully, to gain information which might aid in the better management of resources.

      The islands of the eastern Pacific, distant from continental influence and settled very late by humans (during the past 3000 years or fewer), offer ‘model systems’ (Kirch 2007a, 2007b) where it...

    • 17 Stora Karlsö – a tiny Baltic island with a puzzling past
      (pp. 265-280)
      Rita Larje

      In the middle of the Baltic Sea, about 75 km from the Swedish mainland, lies the Swedish island Gotland. On its west coast are three small islands, the two Karlsö islands and the Västergarn islet. The largest island, Stora Karlsö, is 6.5 km from the west coast of Gotland, and is a nature reservation owned by a non-profit shareholders’ association, the Karlsö Hunting and Animal Protection Association, founded in 1880 on the initiative of Willy Wöhler, a farmer from Gotland. The island is about 2.5 km² in size and about 1 km wide (north-south) and 2 km long (east-west), with...

    • 18 East of Easter: Traces of human impact in the far-eastern Pacific
      (pp. 281-300)
      Iona Flett and Simon Haberle

      Building on the work of Atholl Anderson and other Pacific archaeologists, this paper describes the methodologies employed and some preliminary results in an ongoing investigation of pre-European human impact on far-eastern Pacific Islands. Which islands in the far-eastern Pacific would Polynesian sailors have encountered if they ventured east of Easter Island? And if pre-Columbian South American explorers travelled west into the Pacific, would they have managed to reach the same islands? How would signals of human impact on these islands differ from signs of natural environmental variability? These questions form the basis of an investigation of the role played by...

    • 19 Subsistence and island landscape transformations: Investigating monumental earthworks in Ngaraard State, Republic of Palau, Micronesia
      (pp. 301-324)
      Sarah Phear

      Monumental earthworks in Pacific islands have always attracted attention, from ethnographers visiting the islands in the 19th and 20th centuries (e.g. Krämer 1917), through to archaeologists in the modern day (e.g. Osborne 1966; Parry 1984; Liston 1999). The earthworks of the Republic of Palau, Micronesia, have not escaped attention. When asked by Andrew Cheyne (1864) in the 19th century, local Palauan people attributed the terraces to work of the gods, or the actions of the sea during the great flood (Parmentier 1987:30). These landscape features have been the focus of several archaeological investigations over the past five decades (Osborne 1966,...

    • 20 Historical significance of the Southwest Islands of Palau
      (pp. 325-338)
      Michiko Intoh

      Micronesia occupies the northwestern corner of Oceania. Most of the islands are scattered in the northern hemisphere, except for Kiribati. The Southwest Islands of Palau are located at the southwestern corner of Micronesia. The area is adjacent to the islands in Melanesia, Indonesia and the Philippines and forms a significant locale to identify human movements around, and particularly into, Micronesia.

      While the Southwest Islands of Palau are relatively isolated compared with other island groups in Micronesia, there are a number of coral islands scattered throughout Micronesia whose inhabitants developed various living strategies to enable them to survive in a resource-limited...

  7. Ethnohistory, cross-cultural contact and archaeology in Australasia and the Pacific

    • 21 The historical archaeology of New Zealandʹs prehistory
      (pp. 339-350)
      Matthew Campbell

      This paper began life as a review of A Companion to Archaeology (Bintliff 2006), a book intended as a broad overview of the discipline, though largely from a British perspective. The first section is called ‘Thinking about archaeology’ and contains two contrasting theoretical papers: one by Stephen Shennan (‘Analytical archaeology’); and one by Julian Thomas (‘The great dark book: archaeology, experience, and interpretation’). The most intriguing thing about reading these papers was that the theoretical concerns of these two British scholars did not seem particularly relevant to the archaeology that I do, and that Atholl Anderson does, the archaeology of...

    • 22 Trans-Tasman stories: Australian Aborigines in New Zealand sealing and shore whaling
      (pp. 351-366)
      Nigel Prickett

      Soon after the establishment of the English convict settlement at Sydney in 1788, New Zealand’s first sealers landed at Dusky Sound in 1792 (Smith 2002:11), alerted to the presence of seals there by the journal of Captain Cook who visited in 1773 during his second voyage to the Pacific (Beaglehole 1961:135). The first sealing on Bass Strait islands took place in 1798 (Ling 1999:327). Exploitation of subantarctic islands began in 1804 at the Antipodes group (Smith 2002:12). Everywhere, big early catches soon declined. Nonetheless, seal numbers in southern New Zealand were sufficient to maintain an industry into the early 1830s...

    • 23 Maori, Pakeha and Kiwi: Peoples, cultures and sequence in New Zealand archaeology
      (pp. 367-380)
      Ian Smith

      Archaeologists have generally constructed culture-history sequences within either a prehistoric or a historic time frame. As Lightfoot (1995) noted, this has constrained examination of the interface between these two periods. What is argued here is that this has also limited archaeology’s contributions to understanding the modern world. Cultural interfaces and their dynamics dominate the 21st century world, yet archaeology generally deals only distantly, if at all, with the key elements of this. For example, the people typically identified as ‘Polynesian’ in modern New Zealand are not the descendants of the ‘Polynesian settlement’ of the country studied by archaeologists. The former...

    • 24 Translating the 18th century pudding
      (pp. 381-396)
      Helen Leach

      As Atholl Anderson has showed throughout his career, cross-cultural comparisons can improve our understanding of the origins and subsequent history of Pacific cultures. Comparative material can be sourced from within the Pacific basin, or from as far afield as Scandinavia and northern Europe. In this exercise in historical anthropology, offered in celebration of Atholl’s valued contributions to cross-cultural studies, the comparison throws light on a feature of Polynesian and British culinary cultures in the 18th century: the pudding. I will argue that Captain Cook and his scientists’ translation of dishes like the Tahitian mahi popoi as ‘puddings’ was not a...

    • 25 Boat images in the rock art of northern Australia with particular reference to the Kimberley, Western Australia
      (pp. 397-410)
      Sue OʹConnor and Steve Arrow

      Boats are a recurring motif in the rock art of northern Australia, particularly in the Northern Territory and the Kimberley region of Western Australia. They include Macassan praus, European vessels and a variety of smaller craft, which may be of local or Southeast Asian origin. Recent assessments of watercraft in rock-art assemblages have been undertaken for areas of Arnhem Land in the NT (including Groote Eylandt) and for the Kimberley, WA (Figure 1). These reviews indicate marked regional variation in the types of craft depicted, the style of depiction and the association of people with boats. For example, in Groote...

    • 26 The shifting place of Ngai Tahu rock art
      (pp. 411-422)
      Gerard OʹRegan

      As Ngai Tahu’s pre-eminent archaeologist, Atholl Anderson’s contribution to southern Maori archaeology and historical research is well recognised, but less widely acknowledged is his involvement in the shaping of modern heritage-management directions within his tribe. During the early 1990s, Anderson was a founding member of Komiti Tuku Iho, the tribe’s heritage committee, that among other things, articulated a tribal policy statement on human remains. This has resulted in the return to tribal care of all the relevant skeletal remains from museums within New Zealand (see O’Regan 2006). He was a primary author of Ngai Tahu’s policy on the management of...

  8. Archaeological science and taphonomy

    • 27 Phosphates and bones: An analysis of the courtyard of marae Manunu, Huahine, Society Islands, French Polynesia
      (pp. 423-434)
      Paul Wallin, Inger Österholm, Sven Österholm and Reidar Solsvik

      The investigations at marae Manunu (Figure 1) were part of an archaeological project called ‘Local development and regional interactions’, a collaboration between the Kon-Tiki Museum, B.P. Bishop Museum, Oslo University, and the Service de la Culture et du Patrimoine, Tahiti, French Polynesia. The project was conducted from 2001 to 2004 on the island of Huahine in the Society Islands. One team from the B.P. Bishop Museum in Hawai’i, led by Dr Y.H. Sinoto and E. Komori, investigated a submerged coastal habitation site on the base of the slope of Mata’ire’a hill behind Maeva Village. Another team from the Kon-Tiki Museum,...

    • 28 The physical and mineralogical characteristics of pottery from Mochong, Rota, Mariana Islands
      (pp. 435-452)
      Foss Leach, Janet Davidson, Graeme Claridge, Graeme Ward and John Craib

      In a reflective paper about the relationship between archaeometry and archaeology, Atholl observed that ‘whereas most archaeological data arise from direct observation or the use of simple equipment, archaeometrical data are characteristically created by complex machinery, the use of which is sometimes taken as a rule-of-thumb guide to the limits of the subject’ (Anderson 1987:3). He identified a gulf between the two disciplines which is only briefly bridged when archaeologists themselves colonise one attractive new methodological patch created by archaeometrists before moving on to the next (ibid:13). We hope that Atholl will appreciate our attempt here to occupy a new...

    • 29 The dry and the wet: The variable effect of taphonomy on the dog remains from the Kohika Lake Village, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand
      (pp. 453-474)
      Graeme Taylor and Geoffrey Irwin

      Since the mid 1980s, there have been several detailed taphonomic studies on New Zealand faunal assemblages, summarised by Allen and Nagaoka (2004:207–209), and these, not surprisingly given the breadth of his zooarchaeological publications, have included a contribution by Atholl Anderson (Anderson et al. 1996). However, most of these studies have been concerned with bones recovered from dry-land sites, whereas bone preserved under very different conditions in wetland archaeological sites has received little consideration.

      This paper examines the dog-bone assemblages recovered from the site of Kohika V15/80 during three Auckland University excavations between 2005 and 2007. Kohika was a 17th...

    • 30 Taphonomic analysis of the Twilight Beach seals
      (pp. 475-498)
      Lisa Nagaoka, Steve Wolverton and Ben Fullerton

      Taphonomic studies have become an integral part of zooarchaeological research over the past 30 years. Understanding the processes that led to the samples of animal remains found in archaeological sites is crucial for evaluating the validity of interpretations of these datasets (Klein and Cruz-Uribe 1984; Lyman 1994a). It is important to recognise that taphonomic analysis, ‘as the science of the laws of embedding or burial’ (Lyman 1994a:1), is not done for its own sake, but to solve problems in zooarchaeological research (e.g. Gifford-Gonzalez 1991; Lyman 1994a; Stiner 2005). The purpose of this paper is to highlight the importance of taphonomic...

    • 31 A new genus and species of pigeon (Aves: Columbidae) from Henderson Island, Pitcairn Group
      (pp. 499-510)
      Trevor H. Worthy and Graham M. Wragg

      An extensive fossil record of birds has now been described from many islands in the Pacific, as comprehensively reviewed by Steadman (2006a). In recurrent cases across the breadth of the Pacific, up to half the birds are extinct (Steadman 2006a) – for example, extinct-bird remains have been found in New Caledonia (Balouet and Olson 1989), Fiji (Worthy 2000, 2001), the Tongan and Cook Island groups (Steadman 1989a, 1993, 1995), Samoa (Steadman 1994), Niue (Steadman et al. 2000), Society Islands (Steadman 1989a), Marquesas (Steadman 1989a; Steadman and Rolett 1996), Hawaii (James and Olson 1991; Olson and James 1991), and Easter Island...