Pacific Monumentalism

Christopher Ballard, Meredith Wilson

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    This paper calls into question the status of the category of monument in the Pacific, and proposes that the transfer to the Pacific of Western European notions of the form and significance of the monumental has masked a range of local historical possibilities and interpretative opportunities. Monumental constructions in stone have long fascinated Western visitors to the Pacific, inspiring familiar colonial reveries of lost civilisations, nostalgic tropes of cultural degeneration, and elaborate diffusionist narratives centred on megalithism. Drawing on research for two recently inscribed World Heritage cultural landscapes from Melanesia – the Kuk Early Agricultural Site in Papua New Guinea and Chief Roi Mata’s Domain in Vanuatu – we call for a broader frame of reference for Pacific monumentalism. In the place of a conventional archaeological or heritage equation of the monumental with massive and highly visible construction at distinct sites, we suggest that Pacific monumentalism is more often located in the elaboration of cosmologies, which are mapped across entire landscapes or seascapes, and which may or may not incorporate what we commonly define as ‘monuments’.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationStudies in Global Archaeology no. 20
    Editors Helene Martinsson-Wallin and Timothy Thomas
    Place of PublicationUppsala, Sweden
    PublisherUppsala University
    ISBN (Print)9789150624106
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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