AsPr Stuart Bedford


Research activity per year

Personal profile


The fieldwork focus of my research over the last twenty years has been the islands of Vanuatu, in the southwestern Pacific. Research issues that have been addressed at both a local and regional level have included origins, timing and strategies of colonisation, settlement pattern, levels of social interaction, cultural transformation, environmental impact and human responses to natural disasters. Other areas of interest include the archaeologies of Empire, Colonialism and Contact.

Research interests

My current research is focused on the archaeology of Malakula in the north of Vanuatu and the archaeology of the islands of southern Vanuatu. The Malakula project is funded by Max Planck (Jena) (it started as an ARC funded Future Fellowship) and titled "Investigating monumentality in Melanesia: the archaeology of ritual architecture on the islands of Malakula, Vanuatu". The aim of this project is to inject renewed impetus into understanding general processes of social transformation in the wider Pacific. It focuses on the archaeology of monumental and ritual architecture, cultural manifestations long recognised as indispensable in identifying prehistoric sociopolitical change. The study will provide rare comparative data from the Melanesian region, namely the islands of Malakula in Vanuatu, which can then be assessed against the long-established models of socio-political change generated for much of Polynesia and to a lesser extent Micronesia. Contemporary concerns such as population growth, land and food security are also addressed.

The Southern Vanuatu project started in 2016 (ARC funded project) with colleagues James Flexner and Frederique Valentin, looking at the 3000 year histories of human habitation there.

From 2008-2012 my research (as an ARC QEII Fellow) revolved around an ARC funded project titled "Persistence and transformation in Ancestral Oceanic Society: the archaeology of the first 1500 years in the Vanuatu archipelago". It involved a series of large-area excavations being conducted at a number of key Lapita and immediately Post-Lapita (dating to between 3000-1500 years ago) settlements and cemeteries across the archipelago; see the ANH Current Projects page for more information. The aim is to examine the internal settlement layout and social structures of the initial colonising groups, and their transformations and/or persistence during the first 1500 years of settlement of Vanuatu. In this way archaeology will contribute to further elucidation of what has been labelled Ancestral Oceanic Society, from which much of the diversity in present-day Pacific Island cultures derives. I am currently supervising six PhD students.

Career highlights

Archaeologist, Clutha Valley Development Scheme, Central Otago, New Zealand (1982-1985); archaeologist, London Museum, London 1988-1990; Regional Archaeologist New Zealand Historic Places Trust, Auckland New Zealand (2000-2005); ARC Postdoctoral Fellowship (2005-2007); ARC QEII Fellow (2008-2012). ARC Future Fellow (2013-2017).


BA and MA (Auckland), PhD (ANU)

External positions

Associate, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology


Expertise Areas

  • Archaeological Science
  • Archaeology of New Guinea and Pacific Islands (excl. New Zealand)
  • Maori Archaeology


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