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Pieces of the Vanuatu Puzzle

Pieces of the Vanuatu Puzzle: Archaeology of the North, South and Centre

Stuart Bedford
Series: Terra Australis
Volume: 23
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Pieces of the Vanuatu Puzzle
    Book Description:

    Pieces of the Vanuatu Puzzle presents the results of the most intensive and widespread archaeological investigations in Vanuatu for more than 30 years. For the first time the results of extensive excavations carried out on three islands in the archipelago are published. The sites span from the period of initial Lapita settlement through to later cultural transformations. The research has brought greater clarity to the early history of the Vanuatu archipelago and has wider implications for the region in general particularly in terms of how processes of cultural change are explained. It is an essential reference work both for those archaeologists working in the western Pacific but also for those who deal with material culture generally and pottery more specifically.

    eISBN: 978-1-921313-03-5
    Subjects: Archaeology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Foreword
    (pp. 5-6)
    Matthew Spriggs

    STUART BEDFORD was born in New Zealand in 1960. He received his BA and MA degrees from the University of Auckland in 1982 and 1994 respectively. In between he gained valuable archaeological field experience as Assistant Archaeologist with the Clutha Valley Archaeology Project, Cromwell, New Zealand and then as Archaeologist and finally Supervisory Archaeologist with the Museum of London in the UK. I first met Stuart in 1994 at the notorious World Archaeological Congress in New Delhi. He had already applied for a PhD scholarship at ANU and got the thumbs up when he returned from his Indian travels. He...

  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 7-8)
  4. Table of Contents
    (pp. 9-18)
  5. 1 Introduction and Research Design
    (pp. 1-10)

    It is now more than fifty years since Father Patrick O’Reilly and Jacques Avias (Avias 1950:131) simultaneously and independently recognised that a distinctively decorated ceramic, later to become known as Lapita, could be shown to have direct parallels over vast areas of the Pacific (Watom and New Caledonia). Since that time a full ‘cultural complex’ has been identified, the geographical spread of which has now been extended from Aitape on the north coast of New Guinea to Samoa and Tonga in the east along with many of the islands in between (Anderson et al. 2001; Kirch 1997:55).

    The 1950s and...

  6. 2 Archaeology of Vanuatu
    (pp. 11-30)

    Although the above epigraph refers to the long series of outside contacts that have occurred throughout Vanuatu’s history it also has some relevance when reviewing the history of archaeological research in the archipelago. This chapter concentrates on a chronological review of that research and in doing so attempts to place it and the current research in historical and archaeological context. The review avoids delving in the minutiae but rather highlights general research themes and results. More comprehensive discussion is included for archaeological research which has not been fully published. On the islands where this current research has been carried out,...

  7. 3 Excavated sites: plans, stratigraphy and dating
    (pp. 31-72)

    This chapter outlines in detail the various sites where excavations were carried out and includes descriptions and illustrations of stratigraphy along with site plans. Descriptions of individual layers include colour (Munsell Soil Color Charts 1975), consistency and form along with general summaries of any recovered artifacts and other midden debris. More detailed information, summary tables and discussion regarding midden remains are presented in relevant chapters and appendices. A full list of all radiocarbon dates associated with this research is presented in Appendix 1. Dates that have been interpreted as being anomalous are identified with an asterisk*.

    All of the excavations...

  8. 4 Ceramic analytical methodology
    (pp. 73-84)

    This chapter outlines the methodology used for the analysis of the recovered ceramics from the excavations in Vanuatu. Firstly, a description of the series of attributes which were selected in order to characterise the ceramics is presented. Having established the analytical parameters for the recovered ceramics the results are then outlined in detail in subsequent chapters starting with ceramic remains from Erromango (Chapter 5), then Efate (Chapter 6) and finally Malekula (Chapter 7). Chapter 8 summarises the proposed ceramic chronologies for the different islands of Vanuatu and moves onto a discussion of intra and inter-archipelagic comparisons.

    There is now a...

  9. 5 Ceramics from Erromango
    (pp. 85-104)

    A total of 8419 sherds (plain body, base, rim, decorated and carinated) were recovered from the excavations at Ponamla (Table 5.1). The vast majority of the sherds (7387) were from the areal excavation named Area A (Fig. 3.1). Of those sherds 80% were plain body sherds, leaving 1442 sherds that were classified as being diagnostic; i.e. rims (1071 [75%]), decorated sherds (371) and one carinated sherd. A total of 121 clay wasters were also recovered. The ceramics recovered from Ponamla show a high degree of homogeneity both in terms of fabric, form and decoration, reflecting the relatively short-term nature of...

  10. 6 Efate ceramics
    (pp. 105-132)

    The two sites of Mangaasi and Erueti along with their associated ceramic remains, which were excavated by Garanger (1972, 1982) on the island of Efate, have been briefly summarised in Chapter 2. The fact that the ceramics from these two sites are central to an understanding of the more recent results obtained from the Mangaasi site requires that they are further outlined in detail below.

    The establishment of the Mangaasi ceramic sequence and the definition of its distinctive decoration and form was achieved by Garanger at the culmination of an intensive period of survey and excavation on the islands of...

  11. 7 Malekula ceramics
    (pp. 133-156)

    As outlined earlier a total of fifteen cave sites (eleven of which are discussed here) and four open sites were excavated on the northwest coast of Malekula (Fig. 3.16) in line with a research strategy designed to answer a number of specific questions. All site stratigraphy and associated dates are outlined in detail in Chapter 3.

    Although results gleaned from the excavations and the later analyses went some way in addressing the archaeological terra incognita that was Malekula, substantial gaps in the archaeological sequence do remain and in many respects this research can be regarded as only very preliminary. Now...

  12. 8 Vanuatu Ceramic Sequences and Inter-regional Comparisons
    (pp. 157-192)

    The recovered ceramics from the various excavations on the three different islands have enabled the establishment of a series of chronological sequences. These are outlined in detail below by island (see also Figs 8.1–8.15). General summaries defining the broad characteristics of the various identified phases are emphasised here along with chronological information. Finer detail regarding the recovered ceramics by site is found in relevant chapters. Inter-island Vanuatu comparisons are made and these are then followed up with more general comparisons of other sites in the Southwest Pacific which have either been claimed to have links with Erueti or Mangaasi-style...

  13. 9 Non-Ceramic material culture
    (pp. 193-218)

    A wide assortment of non-ceramic artefacts (Figs 9.1–9.15) were recovered from the excavations on Erromango (Ponamla and Ifo) and Efate (Mangaasi) with smaller numbers being retrieved from Malekula. The most frequent artefact types were Tridacna sp. adzes along with armbands and rings made from a variety of shellfish species. The vast majority of the excavated artefacts came from the earliest cultural horizons and can generally be recognised as somewhat ubiquitous artefact forms associated with Lapita and immediately post-Lapita sites across the Pacific. There are a number of less common artefact forms and others which appear to be exclusive to...

  14. 10 Faunal remains
    (pp. 219-258)

    Information to date relating to the prehistoric faunal record in Vanuatu can be described as somewhat sparse or certainly lacking in detail. From his extensive excavations Garanger noted only the presence of pig bones with pottery and several fish vertebrae from a number of sites in the Shepherds (Garanger 1972:82, 86, 87) while at the Mangaasi site fishbone was described as plentiful and pig as having been present from the earliest levels (Garanger 1972:57). In a preliminary report relating to their archaeological research on Efate and the southern islands of Vanuatu the Shutlers noted large quantities of shellfish at many...

  15. 11 Discussion and Conclusion
    (pp. 259-266)

    Forty years ago when Golson (1959) summarised the archaeological prospects for the Pacific it could be accommodated within 49 pages. Since that time an extraordinary flood of information of increasing complexity and sophistication contained within a myriad of articles and books has radically changed our perceptions of the region. This more recent research into the archaeology of Vanuatu has also gone some way in both modifying earlier assertions and providing further data with which to assess a number of more recent hypotheses. The five research objectives outlined in the introduction to this thesis were as follows: 1) testing for evidence...

  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 267-278)
  17. Appendices
    (pp. 279-326)