Shards of Meaning: Archaeology and the Melanesia-Polynesia Divide

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    The primary divide between Melanesians and Polynesians, according to Dumont d'Urville, was due to the two groups having separate origins and arrival times in the Pacific. Anthropologists and ethnologists, along with the first archaeologists to work in the West Pacific, saw pottery as a fundamental marker of an early expansion of Melanesian peoples, while non-pottery-using Polynesians were seen as more recent arrivals. Although later archaeological work altered important aspects of this sequence, the concept of a Melanesian expansion has been retained through the creation of a ceramic entity known as the incised and applied-relief tradition, which has a distribution congruent with Melanesia. This paper argues that the attempt to make Melanesia a coherent culture area in prehistory provides an overly simplistic and logically flawed explanation for the region's human diversity.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)197-215
    JournalJournal of Pacific History
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2003


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