Lapita subsistence strategies and food consumption patterns in the community of Teouma (Efate, Vanuatu)

Frederique Valentin, Hallie R Buckley, Estelle Herrscher, R.L. Kinaston, Stuart Bedford, Matthew Spriggs, Stuart Hawkins, K. Neal

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    The subsistence strategies of the Lapita populations (3100-2800 BP), the first colonisers of the pristine environments of the islands of Eastern Melanesia and Western Polynesia, have been a matter of ongoing debate for decades. Opinions have ranged between the two extremes of Lapita colonisers being either characterised as highly mobile foragers to fully horticultural communities. To further address the question, this paper presents stable carbon and nitrogen isotopic data obtained from analyses of human and animal collagen samples from the site of Teouma (Efate, Vanuatu) dated to between c. 3000-2500 BP. The isotopic signatures obtained from 28 samples (23 human and 5 animal), interpreted in combination with isotopic information from several coastal and insular environments, suggest a diet primarily made up of terrestrially derived animal protein with lesser contributions from vegetable produce and inshore marine species. Comparisons linking the isotopic data gleaned from the Teouma individuals and Lapita subsistence patterns reconstructed through archaeozoological and archaeobotanical remains support the hypothesis of a mixed economy, that included terrestrial foraging, inshore marine exploitation and a low level of food production for at least some of the earliest Lapita colonists in Vanuatu.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1820-1829
    JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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