Diet and Human Mobility from the Lapita to the Early Historic Period on Uripiv Island, Northeast Malakula, Vanuatu

R.L. Kinaston, Stuart Bedford, Michael Richards, Stuart Hawkins, A. Gray, Klervia Jaouen, Frederique Valentin, Hallie R Buckley

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Vanuatu was first settled ca. 3000 years ago by populations associated with the Lapita culture. Models of diet, subsistence practices, and human interaction for the Lapita and subsequent occupation periods have been developed mainly using the available archaeological and paleoenvironmental data. We test these models using stable (carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur) and radiogenic (strontium) isotopes to assess the diet and childhood residency of past communities that lived on the small (<1 km2) island of Uripiv, located off the northeast coast of Malakula, Vanuatu. The burials are from the initial Lapita occupation of the island (ca. 2800-2600 BP), the subsequent later Lapita (LL, ca. 2600-2500 BP) and post-Lapita (PL, ca. 2500-2000 BP) occupations, in addition to a late prehistoric/historic (LPH, ca. 300-150 BP) occupation period. The human stable isotope results indicate a progressively more terrestrial diet over time, which supports the archaeological model of an intensification of horticultural and arboricultural systems as local resources were depleted, populations grew, and cultural situations changed. Pig diets were similar and included marine foods during the Lapita and PL periods but were highly terrestrial during the LPH period. This dietary pattern indicates that there was little variation in animal husbandry methods during the first 800 years of prehistory; however, there was a subsequent change as animal diets became more controlled in the LPH period. After comparison with the local bioavailable 87Sr/86Sr baseline, all of the Lapita and LPH individuals appeared to be 'local', but three of the PL individuals were identified as "non-local." We suggest that these "non-locals" moved to the island after infancy or childhood from one of the larger islands, supporting the model of a high level of regional interaction during the post-Lapita period.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)e104071-e104071
    JournalPLOS ONE (Public Library of Science)
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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