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Pacific Island Heritage

Pacific Island Heritage: Archaeology, Identity & Community

Jolie Liston
Geoffrey Clark
Dwight Alexander
Series: Terra Australis
Volume: 35
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Pacific Island Heritage
    Book Description:

    “This volume emerges from a ground-breaking conference held in the Republic of Palau on cultural heritage in the Pacific. It includes bold investigations of the role of cultural heritage in identity-making, and the ways in which community engagement informs heritage management practices. This is the first broad and detailed investigation of the unique and irreplaceable cultural heritage of the Pacific from a heritage management perspective. It identifies new trends in research and assesses relationships between archaeologists, heritage managers and local communities. The methods which emerge from these relationships will be critical to the effective management of heritage sites in the 21st century. A wonderful book which emerges from an extraordinary conference. Essential reading for cultural heritage managers, archaeologists and others with an interest in caring for the unique cultural heritage of the Pacific Islands”.

    eISBN: 978-1-921862-48-9
    Subjects: Archaeology

Table of Contents

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

    • Introduction Pacific Island heritage: An overview
      (pp. 1-4)
      Jolie Liston, Geoffrey Clark and Dwight Alexander

      The conference Pacific Island archaeology in the 21st century: Relevance and engagement was held in the Republic of Palau from 1–3 July in 2009 and was attended by more than 300 local and international participants. The conference assessed how Pacific Islander culture is integral to preserving and protecting the natural and cultural resources of Oceania as both are currently threatened by rapid economic, social and environmental changes. The premier registrar of natural and cultural sites is the UNESCO World Heritage List, which currently consists of 911 properties, of which 77% are cultural, 20% natural and 3% mixed. The tropical...

  4. Prehistory and identity

    • 1 Identity and alternative versions of the past in New Zealand
      (pp. 5-16)
      Geoffrey Clark

      During the 1990s, New Zealand/Aotearoa experienced tumultuous debate over indigenous land rights, and the use of Maori culture and language, debate which was associated with the settlement of historical and contemporary grievances between the Crown and Maori. The study of New Zealand’s human past during this period became politicised and problematic because different versions of that past could be mobilised to support various agendas and cultural groupings. The redistribution of state-owned resources to Maori through the Waitangi Tribunal process and settlement negotiations with the government gave added intensity to debates about ownership and culturally appropriate use of the past, as...

    • 2 The Latte Period in Marianas prehistory: Who is interpreting it, why and how?
      (pp. 17-30)
      Rosalind L. Hunter-Anderson

      ‘We know all about the Latte Period now so there is no need to dig anymore.’ Guam government official, 2006

      Although most archaeologists familiar with Marianas prehistory would disagree with this statement, it indicates a widespread phenomenon in cultural-heritage matters, namely that many people tend to think about past cultures as composed of just a few essential elements. For some, Latte Period archaeology has already yielded all that is required.

      This paper is about the various interpretations of Latte Period archaeological findings that one can find in the public arena today, and why and how they vary – even though...

    • 3 Reinventing tradition: Archaeology in Samoa
      (pp. 31-36)
      Unasa L.F. Va′a

      It can be argued that there are two sides to the study of archaeology. One is the scientific aspect, using modern methods of excavation, accurate recording, reliable carbon dating and competent analysis. The other is a discipline subjected to the demands of ideology, that is to say, a discipline that serves the purpose of an ideology. I am talking about tradition. The problem is that when the notion of tradition changes because of new influences, however these are generated, so does the perspective. An example is that a pagan country will highlight the validity of pagan principles and lifestyle, while...

  5. Community engagement

    • 4 On cultural factors and Marine Managed Areas in Fiji
      (pp. 37-50)
      Joeli Veitayaki, Akosita D.R. Nakoro, Tareguci Sigarua and Nanise Bulai

      Marine Managed Areas (MMAs) are spreading rapidly in Fiji and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region as local communities act to protect their marine resources that are in danger of depletion and overexploitation. Customary practices are the basis of these community-based resource management activities. This creates the need to better understand both the influence of cultural roles on the effectiveness of MMAs and how traditional practices can address the challenges faced today and in the years to come.

      In Fiji, many local communities have demonstrated their commitment to manage their marine resources by using their customary rights to declare nearly...

    • 5 The Guampedia experience: Creating a community online historical and cultural resource
      (pp. 51-62)
      Shannon Murphy

      Guampedia ( is an online encyclopedia that developed as a community project. Guampedia is dedicated to creating an easily accessible, comprehensive and informational internet resource about Guam’s history, culture and contemporary issues. It debuted in April 2008 as the island’s first online encyclopedia which synthesises scholarly and indigenous considerations in a user-friendly framework (Figure 1). It is intended to spur critical thinking about the island’s complex history.

      The primary objectives of the Guampedia project revolve around preservation, access and education. Information about important events and people conveyed in accurate and well-written encyclopedia entries ensures the preservation of Guam’s history and...

    • 6 Plants, people and culture in the villages of Oikull and Ibobang, Republic of Palau
      (pp. 63-84)
      Ann Hillmann Kitalong, Michael J. Balick, Faustina Rehuher, Meked Besebes, Sholeh Hanser, Kiblas Soaladaob, Gemma Ngirchobong, Flora Wasisang, Wayne Law, Roberta Lee, Van Ray Tadeo, Clarence Kitalong and Christopher Kitalong

      Ethnobotany is the investigation of the interaction between plants, people and culture (Jones 1941; Arvigo and Balick 1998; Balick and Cox 2005). The body of knowledge and practices developed and maintained by people interacting with their natural environment over time is known as traditional knowledge. This can include information on plants used for food, shelter, medicine, tools, arts and crafts, aesthetic beauty and spiritual purposes. Due to its dynamic nature, traditional knowledge is difficult to quantify (Lee et al. 2001). The loss of traditional practices is a threat to biodiversity globally (Balick and Cox 2005) and to Palau’s communities (Palau...

  6. Heritage management

    • 7 Selecting cultural sites for the UNESCO World Heritage List: Recent work in the Rock Islands–Southern Lagoon area, Republic of Palau
      (pp. 85-100)
      Christian Reepmeyer, Geoffrey Clark, Dwight Alexander, Ilebrang U. Olkeriil, Jolie Liston and Ann Hillmann Kitalong

      In this paper, we discuss approaches and issues raised by the nomination of cultural properties in the Pacific Islands to the World Heritage List. The World Heritage Committee in 2003 acknowledged the under-representation of the Pacific region on the World Heritage List. In response, the action plan World Heritage Pacific 2009 (UNESCO World Heritage Centre 2004) was launched to build capacity in the region and encourage nomination of sites to the Tentative List through identification of properties of potential outstanding universal value (OUV), including transboundary and serial site nominations. Since 1992, Pacific cultural-heritage research has taken an active role in...

    • 8 The complexity of an archaeological site in Samoa: The past in the present
      (pp. 101-114)
      Helene Martinsson-Wallin

      This paper discusses post-colonial perspectives on archaeology and studies of materiality in the Pacific. It uses the Pulemelei investigations at Letolo plantation on Savai’i Island in Samoa as a case study, including events and activities that have taken place after the completion of archaeological research (Martinsson-Wallin 2007). These investigations shed light on the entanglement of values and actions in the performance of past and present power relations.

      Archaeology is a relatively young science in the Pacific, developed mainly in the 20th century. Extensive archaeological excavations were not initiated until the 1940s–1950s (Gifford 1951; Gifford and Shutler 1956; Emory et...

    • 9 Is a village a village if no one lives there? Negotiated histories on Mabuyag in the Western Torres Strait
      (pp. 115-126)
      Duncan Wright and Goemulgaw Kod

      Partnership (or community) archaeology has become increasingly prominent in the Australia/Pacific region (see Marshall 2002 and McNiven and Russell 2005). A community-led approach acknowledges the importance of indigenous control of the cultural-heritage process. This is designed to enable indigenous communities to ‘maintain or establish community pride, cohesion and identity’, as well as creating a ‘more nuanced and textured view of the past’ (Smith 1999; Nicholas 2000; McNiven and Russell 2005:244; Smith and Wobst 2005).

      Divergent ‘symbolic and metaphoric strategies’ in oral history and archaeology are likely to result in the creation of different histories (McNiven and Russell 2005:248). This may...

  7. Oral traditions and archaeology

    • 10 Paths to knowledge: Connecting experts in oral histories and archaeology
      (pp. 127-154)
      Karen L. Nero

      The name of the village of Ngermid on the island of Koror in the Palau Islands is derived from Remith (Ngermid in Palauan), the Yapese word meaning ‘place of hiding’. In the early 1990s, a Yapese female elder recounted this history to me, and it was then independently depicted for me in a contemporary wood carving (Figure 1) by a young member of a high-ranking Koror lineage. These oral historical and artistic performances demonstrate two of the media through which experts perform and thereby retain and transmit important histories over the centuries. The physical sites of these important encounters are...

    • 11 Dynamic settlement, landscape modification, resource utilisation and the value of oral traditions in Palauan archaeology
      (pp. 155-180)
      David M. Snyder, W. Bruce Masse and James Carucci

      In their landmark analysis of Palauan kinship, Force and Force (1972) use the symbolic metaphor of ‘Just One House’ to capture the integration of kinship in traditional Palauan culture. They realised that then-current general anthropological concepts of kinship were not consistently isomorphic with the evidence from Palau, and additionally that kinship was dynamic, both with respect to the age of individuals as they grew older, and also as a product of outside influences brought on by colonisation and assimilation. They were able to focus on the time dynamic due to the good fortune of being able to conduct research in...

    • 12 Oral tradition and archaeology: Palau′s earth architecture
      (pp. 181-204)
      Jolie Liston and Melson Miko

      The islands of Palau in the Western Carolines of Micronesia have a rich body of myths, stories and legends that are woven into every aspect of daily life. These oral traditions educate, mediate, amuse, guide and resolve issues of protocol and proprietorship to define, bond and embody Palauan heritage. They promote a continuation of norms, ideas and values from past to present, enabling members of modern communities to identify with their ancestors. Integration of these traditional narratives into archaeological history has the potential to reveal the complexities inherent to Palau’s cultural landscape to form a more comprehensive depiction of the...