The complexity of monumentality in Melanesia: Mixed messages from Vanuatu

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    This paper revisits the concept of monumentality through the lens of grand communal ceremonies on three separate islands, with contrasting chiefly systems, in the archipelago of Vanuatu (Figure 5.1). One is the island of Malakula in the north where substantial stone structures associated with a range of ceremonies can be found right across the landscape. Further south on Efate the use of stone is limited but grand ceremony and monumentality is spectacularly demonstrated in the archaeological record. Lastly, large ceremonies involving thousands of people occur on a regular basis on the island of Tanna in the south, yet the material remains of such events are almost completely absent (Bonnemaison 1994). This striking variance across a single archipelago leads to some questions regarding the whole concept and significance of monumentality (Ballard and Wilson 2014) and particularly to its importance in relation to processes of social transformation in the Pacific. However, it needs to be emphasised that the wider debate is somewhat handicapped by the fact that the study of monumentality across the broader Pacific is extremely uneven in its coverage, at least in archaeological focus, in terms of both even basic information and a lack of targeted research.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationArchaeologies of Island Melanesia: Current approaches to landscapes, exchange and practice (Terra Australis 51)
    Editors Mathieu Leclerc and James Flexner
    Place of PublicationCanberra Australia
    PublisherANU Press
    ISBN (Print)9781760463021
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


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