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Archaeology and the emergence of customary resource management in southern Vanuatu

by Mark Horrocks last modified 2023-05-15 02:15 PM

Flexner JL, Bedford S, Valentin F, Williams R, Horrocks M, Philp, I, Elena D, Kuautonga T. In: Sustainability in ancient island societies: Global archaeological perspectives (eds) Fitzpatrick SM, Erlandson JM, Gill KM. Society and Ecology in Island and Coastal Archaeology Series. Gainesville, University Press of Florida.


Over the last 3000 years, the ancestors of contemporary Ni-Vanuatu developed a variety of adaptations to their island environments, managing soils, water, and vegetation in gardens, and marine resources in the sea. They did so using diverse strategies including seasonal or periodic resource restrictions, complex exchange networks, and a chiefly political economy focused on redistribution and sharing of resources. Archaeology offers a valuable perspective on the emergence of these adaptive systems, as it can provide a long-term sense of when particular practices emerged (or in the case of pottery production in southern Vanuatu, disappeared), and how they changed through time. This paper will bring together a variety of data from excavations in southern Vanuatu, including stratigraphy and radiocarbon dates, surveys of agricultural systems, plant microfossils, and zooarchaeology focusing on shellfish remains, primarily from the small islands of Aniwa and Futuna. These sources of information reflect systems of environmental management, learning, and adaptation that remain vital for the continued lives of Ni-Vanuatu today and into the future.

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