‘Until the history of archaeology reflects a better understanding of the historical events that shape archaeological research, the subject will only ever be useful as an introduction. Unlike the wide-sweeping histories of archaeology traditionally accepted by archaeologists, in-depth research on the historical context of archaeology is still wanting.’ Amara Thornton ().

In histories of world archaeology the Pacific and Island Southeast Asia are essentially absent. Trigger’s monumental History of Archaeological Thought () has a paragraph or two on New Zealand and Australia as representing colonial settler states, but no mention of Hawaii as a third example in the region. Polynesia barely rates a mention, and Melanesia only in relation to the use of ethnographic analogies emanating from there. Island Southeast Asia receives no mention at all. Diaz-Andreu’s more recent treatment () has a very similar topography but gives some attention to Southeast Asia. Trigger included Australia and New Zealand only because some investigation had occurred into the history of archaeology in these countries, admittedly usually by historians, and in Australia primarily by archaeologist John Mulvaney, whose initial academic training and post-retirement career were in history. The best Australian work of this kind is by a historian, Tom Griffiths, whose Hunters and Collectors: the antiquarian imagination in Australia () has justly garnered a range of awards. It was this work that introduced me to the concept of ‘collective biography’ and directed my thinking towards researching a comparable Pacifichistory, and how that reflects back upon the Australian situation.

The only notable work to date by an archaeologist to consider the history of Pacific archaeology in a broad sense is the first chapter of Kirch’s textbook On the Road of the Winds (). Kirch constructs a broad-ranging outline of the subject, but one inevitably limited in detail and which foregrounds particularly the work of the Bishop Museum in Honolulu and other American research. There has been other piecemeal work on the history of Pacific archaeology, but it has been usually limited to biographies of individuals. It has tended to be parochial in focusing on single countries rather than the wider networks in which scholars participated, or has failed to engage sufficiently with the on-the-ground archaeology that actually took place. There is no ‘centre’ where such research is routinely carried out. The first session at an international archaeological conference on the subject was only held in January 2014 at the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association Congress in Cambodia. Articles in regional and international journals are few and far between.

The Collective Biography of Archaeology in the Pacific (CBAP) Project seeks to create a new sub-field within Pacific archaeology: the serious study of its history from beginnings in the speculations of early European and American explorers on the origins of Pacific peoples, to its growth spurt and professionalisation following World War II. Pacific archaeologists, stewards of a third of the world’s archaeology, have forgotten so much of that history that our discipline is in a serious conceptual crisis. The present stalemated theories about the origins of Pacific peoples are dependent on inadequate conceptualisations ultimately derived from unacknowledged late 19th and early 20th century arguments between evolutionists and diffusionists. They are thus linked to outmoded and often racialised ways of argumentation. At the same time as our ideas about the Pacific past have become ossified, they are also becoming internalised in nationalist discourses among indigenous Pacific Islanders. We are therefore in need of the critical self-consciousness that has been mostly lacking outside of New Zealand. That nation’s bicultural ideology has been reflected in lively discussions of archaeology’s history there. A somewhat similar discourse has taken place in Australia, though only with regard to Aboriginal archaeology (; ) and not to archaeological understandings in the wider region. A similar decolonisation is long overdue in the Pacific.

Conceptual framework

The approach to be used is collective biography pace Griffiths (). It is a way of investigating cultural and intellectual history that leaves room for complexity and contingency, at the same time as revealing influential inter-generational patterns and influences. Also important will be institutional biographies of the universities, museums, societies, journals and conference series with which the various scholars engaged. I have previously used this approach in a study of the sources for Marx, Engels and Morgan’s knowledge of Indigenous Australians ().

The research program also grades into prosopography, which has been defined as ‘the investigation of the common background characteristics of a group of actors in history by means of a collective study of their lives’ (; cf. ). This latter approach, involving construction and interrogation of a standardised biographical database, has not to my knowledge ever been attempted in studies of the history of archaeology, although Sarah Scott’s recent study of publishing and the dissemination of knowledge in British archaeology 1816–51 is very pertinent in this regard (). The approach has great potential for further elucidation of general trends, examining for instance: educational background versus particular viewpoint adopted; popularity of various topics over time based on number of publications; and who is citing whom, as an aid to establishing networks of influence.

The approach is mindful of theoretical developments within the history of archaeology over the last 20–30 years, such as the shift from ‘internalist’ accounts that saw archaeology as an accumulation of ‘successes’ as in Glyn Daniel’s earlier formulations, to generally ‘externalist’ ones, explaining developments within archaeology on the basis of their social, political and economic context (as summarised by ). At the same time we are also conscious of calls for a more nuanced theoretical turn based on Latour’s actor-network theory (), postcolonial theory () or cosmopolitan theories ().

We are cognisant of and sympathetic to approaches developed in related areas in Pacific and Colonial studies exemplified by Ballantyne (, ) and the papers in Douglas and Ballard (; see also ). Research on particular ‘ethnographic’ collectors in the Pacific (; ; ) and on broader anthropological histories (; ; ) has also helped identify lines of enquiry. Particular note has been taken of works on early German anthropology’s New Guinea entanglements such as Buschmann () and Germany’s further liaisons with Orientalism ().

The Pacific is defined broadly in CBAP to include the conventional sub-divisions of Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia, and adjacent areas of Island Southeast Asia. Australia is also included, to the extent that its archaeological records have been compared to or derived from adjacent Oceanic areas. The period under consideration starts with the observations and speculations of the earliest European explorers in the 1500s CE and continues to the present.

The issues that CBAP particularly seeks to address relate to the historiography of Pacific archaeology, the international linkages between scholars, the entwined early history of both Pacific anthropology and archaeology, providing a broader context for Australian archaeology, examining the other national and linguistic traditions in Pacific archaeology, now-forgotten early excavations, ideas about Trans-Pacific contacts, and the neglected role and significance of women and indigenous scholars in the field.

The historiography of Pacific archaeology

The current arguments in Pacific and Island Southeast Asia (ISEA) regarding the role of external migration in the development of indigenous pottery-using Neolithic societies, including those labelled the Lapita culture in the Western Pacific, have reached an impasse. There are entrenched positions on both sides (for recent surveys see ; ; ; ; ). The problem is an inadequate theorisation of the spread of archaeological material cultures, of the linking of these material cultures to language family distributions, and of the measurement of difference and similarity used in comparing archaeological assemblages. But we have been here before in the history of the disciplines of archaeology, linguistics/philology and ethnology/anthropology in the Asia-Pacific region. The now largely forgotten debates surrounding local and independent evolution, diffusion and migration were an integral feature of the master narratives of the pre-World War II period. Generational change and the very different post-War zeitgeist led almost inevitably to their decline as strongly championed theories among Pacific and ISEA researchers.

Instead, the first sustained archaeological programs to develop cultural sequences for particular islands and island groups took over as a more empirically-framed methodology during the 1950s and 1960s. This approach was greatly aided by the invention of radiocarbon dating in the late 1940s (). In many areas sequence-building continues to this day as the dominant mode of research, albeit often dressed up to attract funding with a veneer of borrowed theoretical sophistication. The 1970s saw a so-called ‘new master narrative’ of Austronesian expansion developed by scholars such as Bellwood (; ) and Shutler and Marck (). Although framed in a novel terminology and underpinned by increasingly powerful chronometric and linguistic sub-grouping, it was not actually new at all. It was a return to an earlier migrationist explanation for the distribution and spread of material cultures. In inevitable reaction, the other theoretical components were then re-conjured by its opponents, resulting in the holy trinity: migration, diffusion and independent invention.

Archaeology in the Pacific region clearly needs to move on from this situation. It cannot do so unless the discipline understands its past; not only the nature of earlier debates over process but their genealogy, particularly their foundation in the increasingly racialised thought of the 19th and early 20th centuries about human origins and dispersals (see ; ; ). Our current ideas on the origins of Pacific cultures seem at an impasse between a sterile processualism (a re-run of 19th century evolutionism, but linked to a modern version of diffusionism) versus stronger and weaker forms of migrationism. The need is to be jolted out of these outmoded ways of thought, in order to develop a more theoretically nuanced and self-aware practice (cf. for Australia).

A much deeper knowledge of the history of our ideas about the settlement of the ISEA-Pacific region has the power to change the entire discourse of the discipline in radical and liberating ways. For instance, many social evolutionary theories used in Euro-American archaeology were developed by comparing the lifestyles and supposed histories of populations in our region (as critiqued by ). Understanding the history of this theorising will offer insights into contemporary political discourses about indigenous peoples, including within Australia (cf. ). It will change perceptions of the seemingly much more thoroughly researched history of socio-cultural anthropology, not only on a regional but also a world scale, given the foundational importance for the entire discipline of the development of fieldwork methods in the Melanesian context (; ).

Australia and New Zealand punched well above their demographic weight on the world archaeological stage during the final years of the 19th and throughout the 20th century. A collective biography of the pioneering scholars is an integral part of these nations’ cultural and intellectual history. The following is a non-exhaustive listing of Australians of significance. John Dunmore Lang (1799–1878) was famous and infamous for many things (see ), among them his championing of the idea that the Polynesians had settled the Americas (; ). Thomas G. Thrum (1842–1932), who was born in Newcastle, New South Wales (NSW) but who spent much of his life in Hawaii, was a pioneer recorder of Hawaiian heiau or temple sites and translator of oral traditions. Grafton Elliot Smith (1871–1937) from Grafton, NSW was one of the world’s top anatomists of his day and the leading exponent of ‘hyper-diffusionism’, the idea that all the features of civilisation found around the world originated from Egypt and spread thence, including into and across the Pacific (see ). John F.G. Stokes (1875–1960), also from Newcastle, was the first person in Hawaii to be employed primarily as an archaeologist, by the Bishop Museum. F.E. Williams (1893–1943), a South Australian who became the Government Anthropologist of Papua, undertook five archaeological excavations in the Territory prior to World War II. Frederick McCarthy (1905–1997) was a pioneer Australian archaeologist dubbed ‘the ethnological pope of NSW’ (cited in ), and a strong proponent of Melanesian and Indonesian influences on Australian cultures. He also conducted pioneering excavations with Dutch colleagues on Sulawesi in Eastern Indonesia. Jack Golson (born 1926) has been a key figure both for New Zealand and Australia. English-born Golson took up the first full-time teaching post in Australasia in Pacific archaeology at Auckland in 1954 and was subsequently Foundation Professor of Prehistory in the Research School of Pacific Studies at the ANU. A similar list could be made of key New Zealand-based scholars and those to be investigated would include Julius von Haast, Henry Devenish Skinner, Peter Gathercole, Susan Bulmer, Roger Green and Janet Davidson, among many others.

Forgotten networks of influence

The genuinely international networks in which these scholars participated have largely been forgotten. Their professional recognition was inseparable from what Tony Ballantyne () has described as the ‘webs of empire’ linking both countries back to the metropoles in Europe, to each other, and to other colonies or former colonies. There are the obvious links between the Australasian region and the American-and UK-centric Anglophone world, where the name of Alfred Cort Haddon (1855–1940) looms large at the centre of a vast network of relevant researchers. But CBAP will also include a particular focus on the importance of French, German-speaking and Iberian scholars in the creation of Pacific archaeology. Of course, scholars from other nations were involved and also need due consideration: Italy’s Enrico Giglioli (1845–1909) is one such significant figure (see ).

Forgotten links in the histories of Pacific anthropology and archaeology

The invisibility of the Pacific in world histories of archaeology is in complete contrast to the history of anthropology. The iconic status of Haddon’s Torres Strait Expedition, the work of W.H.R. Rivers (1864–1922) on kinship in Vanuatu and the Solomons, and the Trobriand Islands fieldwork of Bronislaw Malinowski (1884–1942) ensure a major consciousness of the Pacific’s role (; ; ). Both archaeology and social anthropology in our region developed out of ethnology, loosely glossed as the study of the origins and movements of peoples. Their disengagement took place gradually in the Interwar period, spurred on by the functionalist turns in anthropology of Malinowski and A.R. Radcliffe-Brown (1881–1955) that were dominant particularly after World War II.

A further corrective is needed to the deficiencies in current histories of socio-cultural anthropology. The regional ethnologists at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries were as much ‘proto-archaeologists’ as they were ‘proto-anthropologists’. Haddon, Rivers, C.G. Seligman (1873–1940) and even Malinowski are as much our intellectual ancestors as they are those of present-day anthropologists (). But one seeks in vain in current histories of anthropology for recognition of this. Indeed archaeology has been air-brushed out of the early history of anthropology to the point where an important chapter in that story no longer makes any real sense – the battle for the soul of anthropology between the ‘hyper-diffusionists’ active between the Wars and the various forms of functionalism. We need to inject an archaeological component into that story to recover its proper historical significance and re-join the links between anthropological and archaeological histories.

The wider context of Australian archaeology

A wider context to the story of Australian indigenous archaeology was very much created by the diffusionist discourse of scholars such as F. McCarthy, D.S. Davidson and W.W. Thorpe, and was also promoted by anthropologists such as A.P. Elkin and Catherine and Ronald Berndt (). But it is today almost forgotten and certainly misunderstood by a generally inward-looking Australian archaeology that almost never includes consideration of New Guinea, to which Australia was physically joined for the vast majority of its prehistory. Neither Hiscock’s standard textbook () nor that of Mulvaney before (; ) acknowledge this physically-shared history. It is only to be found in White and O’Connell’s () now rarely referenced alternative to Mulvaney’s master narrative. This is now the time to revisit the wider connections of Australian archaeology that have been largely ignored for over 50 years. Even Griffiths’ () very fine treatment of the rise of archaeology in Australia fails to address these wider links. In fact it could be argued that earlier Pacific scholars saw their field as encompassing the entire region, including Australia and Southeast Asia, even if they were not extreme ‘hyper-diffusionists’. There was a truly international and co-operative enterprise operating prior to World War II. Many scholars were literate in several languages, read each others’ national journals and carried on a lively correspondence. There was also a remarkable amount of travelling, not least when the entire British Association for the Advancement of Science decamped to Australia in 1914 to hold their conference.

New Guinea was a major focus of the work of early archaeologists, anthropologists and linguists and such international networks are perhaps most clearly revealed by a detailed study of the development of theories about its history and settlement. The eastern half of the island and the Bismarck Archipelago formed Australia’s only two significant sized colonial entities – the Territories of Papua and of New Guinea. Australia’s imaginings of that history are implicated in the processes of its colonial rule and in popular Australian perceptions of New Guinea to the present day.

Other traditions

German-speaking and French scholars were particularly active in the development of Pacific archaeology, not least because their own ‘webs of empire’ stretched into the Pacific. The Germans and Austrians were particularly busy in New Guinea before World War I, but their interest continued long after through the analysis of the major collections of both archaeological and anthropological objects in their museums. They had their own diffusionist school (the Kulturkreis School) developed by Fritz Graebner and Wilhelm Schmidt in the early 20th century from the earlier ideas of Friedrich Ratzel and others, but also influenced by both ‘moderate’ diffusionists such as Haddon and the ‘hyper-diffusionism’ of Elliot Smith, Perry and Rivers in the UK (). The culmination of this sort of armchair archaeology was undoubtedly Alphonse Riesenfeld’s monumental The Megalithic Culture of Melanesia (); but also its swansong. The French were much more ‘on the ground’ in the Pacific after World War I, working in their colonial possessions in southern Melanesia, western and eastern Polynesia. I can find no detailed analysis of their role and networks (but see ; ; and see for a parallel discussion in relation to French physical anthropology and the colonial empire).

Early excavations

The historian Kerry Howe presented an extremely useful history of discussions about the origins of the Maori and of Pacific Islanders more generally in The Quest for Origins (; rev. 2008). But in reading this work one is struck by the absence of any real archaeological component. He takes his lead here from Kirch who, though acknowledging ‘continued excavations in New Zealand’, nevertheless opined that ‘virtually all Pacific archaeology prior to World War II was restricted to surface survey, and to the description and classification of material culture’ (; see also ). His cited source, however, Te Rangi Hiroa (), was writing exclusively about Polynesia.

Even there, stratigraphic excavation had taken place prior to the Second World War. While Kirch does mention J.F.G. Stokes’ work on Kaho’olawe, he overlooks other sites in Hawaii, as well as those excavated by Katherine and William Scoresby Routledge on Easter Island. Once one broadens the remit to include Melanesia and Micronesia, one can identify significant early excavations, beginning at Nan Madol on Pohnpei in the 1870s where at least seven separate excavations are recorded before WWII (), and including work at Wanigela in Papua by both British/Australasian and Austrian scholars in 1904-5 (; ), Father Otto Meyer’s excavations of the Lapita site on Watom off New Britain () and at least five excavations carried out by the Government Anthropologist of Papua in the 1920s and 30s (). The Japanese had been excavating in the northern Marianas, as well as on Pohnpei and Palau between the Wars (), and there had been additional excavations on Guam (). Further examples could be cited from the former Dutch New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu and elsewhere, and additional research will doubtless reveal more.

There would seem to be a great opportunity to re-assess the field notes and museum collections from these forgotten expeditions to bring them back into the mainstream of archaeology (cf. ). Shining examples include the work of Pam Swadling () on New Guinea mortars and pestles in museum collections, and more recent work on carved shells and tanged obsidian tools from museum collections (; ). Much more can be done with these old collections, as the studies carried out so far have not really addressed how these objects have been implicated in past theories of Pacific settlement (but see for the carved shells).

The American connection

A topic with a surprisingly long history – Howe () traces it back to an 1803 publication but there are indications it is even longer – is that of trans-Pacific contacts, either with Polynesians originating in South America as claimed in 1803 and most notably by Thor Heyerdahl () of Kon-Tiki raft fame, or with the Polynesians contributing to the settlement of the Americas, as argued by Elliot Smith, among others. As this topic has become popular again (), it requires a critical eye as to why it is such a hardy perennial. Who have been the proponents, what archaeological evidence have they adduced, what were the context and their motives for proposing such long-distance connections and, not least, how might debate proceed more productively rather than just seek evidence to support entrenched positions?

Neglected contributors: women and indigenous scholars

It will be of no surprise to anyone to find that the role of women archaeologists in the Pacific has been almost entirely overlooked (cf. ; ), with Jo Anne van Tilburg’s () biography of Katherine Scoresby Routledge (1866–1935) being a notable exception. As professional archaeologists before the 1960s their numbers are small. Apart from Routledge, only the Micronesian and Fijian specialist Laura Thompson, active in the 1930s and 1940s, immediately springs to mind. There were, however, prominent women researchers in the Pacific folklore field and their work impacted on the development of archaeology in the first half of the 20th century when oral traditions and genealogies guided much of the research agenda. Martha Beckwith, Teuira Henry, Queen Lili’uokalani, Katherine Luomala, Mary Kawena Pukui and Lahilahi Webb are examples. In material culture studies we also have Ruth Greiner and Helen Roberts in the 1920s and husband and wife teams such as Ernest and Pearl Beaglehole, E.S. Craighill and Willowdean Handy, and Hans and Gertrude Hornbostel active in the same era. Then there are the unsung partners of male archaeologists whose intellectual and often physical labour were key to the success of many Pacific projects into the 1960s and beyond. Their hidden history also requires examination.

And what of the indigenous interlocutors and participants in the development of Pacific archaeology? The most prominent was surely the Maori scholar, Peter Buck or Te Rangi Hiroa (1877–1951), already the subject of a biography (). But there were many guardians of tradition who were the sources of oral traditions linked to particular sites, notably in Hawaii and New Zealand, but also in relation to the sites in what is now the World Heritage property of ‘Chief Roi Mata’s Domain’ in central Vanuatu, which were excavated by the French archaeologist José Garanger in the mid-1960s (). Early indigenous Hawaiian archaeologists such as Henry E.P. Kekahuna (1881–1969) made their own original contributions to survey and mapping. On Easter Island, as van Tilburg () has pointed out in her biography of Katherine Routledge, Juan Tepano and others were vital sources of information for her work and for the later Franco-Belgian Expedition of 1934–5. Several of the notable women folklorists mentioned above were themselves indigenous Pacific Islanders and, as noted, were extremely significant for the development of Pacific archaeology in the early-to mid-20th century.

Project specifics

The CBAP Project has been funded for the period 2015-March 2020 within the Australian Research Council’s (ARC) Laureate Program, supported with additional significant resources from The Australian National University. These funds provide for a five-year Professorial level Research Fellowship for the author and funding for a research assistant/project manager (Catherine Fitzgerald), two Postdoctoral Fellowships (Emilie Dotte-Sarout and Hilary Howes) and three PhD scholarships (Andrea Ballesteros-Danel, Eve Haddow and Victor Melander), as well as fieldwork, workshop and conference funding. All positions were filled at the commencement of the project and a further PhD scholar, Michelle Richards, recruited on an Australian Postgraduate Award. CBAP is also developing a network of Affiliates and Project Associates within Australia and internationally who share interests in the history of Pacific and Australian archaeology. Notable among the former are the Russian-language Pacific scholar Elena Govor who joined the project during 2015 and Pacific historian Bronwen Douglas who joined us in March 2016. The Project maintains a Blog site (relevant addresses can be found at the end of the paper) and is developing an online Asia-Pacific History of Archaeology Network (APHAN) that also reaches out to scholars working on the history of Asian archaeology, particularly of the East, Southeast and South Asian regions.

CBAP constitutes a uniquely sustained effort to examine the history of archaeology in Australia and the Pacific region. It takes a determined multi-national and multi-linguistic approach in order to overcome the tyranny of monolingualism in academic discourse, and has sought to engage indigenous Pacific Islands’ scholars in the enterprise from the planning stages. It will culminate in an innovative, devolved but simultaneous exhibition in up to 50 museums across the world, linked by an overarching catalogue, a web site and a series of linked events in different centres, all with the aim of putting the history of Pacific archaeology ‘on the map’ in Australia and internationally. Positive responses to this plan have so far been received from curators and/or exhibition staff of seven museums in Australia, two in the United Kingdom, The Vanuatu Cultural Centre and the Fiji Museum.

As the project develops we anticipate recruiting the remaining institutions in Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, the United States, Asia and Europe. The scale of each individual exhibition will be small, usually no more than one or two display cases, but together they will constitute a major presentation of aspects of the history of Pacific archaeology, usually linked to particular individuals with an association to the museum concerned. Thus at the Nicholson Museum, University of Sydney, the concentration would be on Grafton Elliot Smith and his out-of-Egypt ‘hyper-diffusionism’ to and across the Pacific, while at the Australian Museum (also in Sydney) the work of Fred McCarthy and his pioneering excavations in collaboration with Dutch scholars on the island of Sulawesi in Eastern Indonesia could be examined. In Cambridge the obvious focus will be Haddon, but in relation to his archaeological rather than anthropological networks, while in Oxford it will be F.W. Christian and his work on Pohnpei in 1896 () and the Routledges and their expedition to Easter Island in 1914–15 ().

Research Fellows. The author is concentrating initially on a range of key Australian-and New Zealand-born or –resident scholars who have had a major influence on the development of Pacific archaeology and on their networks back to Europe and the Americas. A second focus is the seminal role of UC Berkeley scholar, Edward Winslow Gifford (1887–1959), excavator in 1952 of the eponymous site of Lapita in New Caledonia () but whose Pacific work bridges the period both before and after WWII; the contribution of his wife Delila will also form a focus. Emilie Dotte-Sarout and Hilary Howes will address the French and German-language contributions of scholars to the history of Pacific archaeology, conducting archival fieldwork in Europe and, in the case of Dotte-Sarout, in significant archives held at various institutions in New Caledonia and Vanuatu. Linguistic divisions have encouraged the compartmentalisation of expertise and the project aims to overcome this and re-establish a truly international discourse in the field.

PhD Scholars. Eve Haddow’s project addresses the contribution of Protestant missionaries to the development of ideas about the origins of Pacific peoples, in part through their collecting practices and engagement with photography in the region. Andrea Ballesteros-Danel’s PhD project will address the extensive literature on trans-Pacific contacts with a particular focus on the relevant literature in Spanish. Archival and museum collections in Spain, Central and South America will be examined. Victor Melander will look at the origins of Thor Heyerdahl’s interests in the Pacific and his engagement with contemporary Pacific scholars. He will utilise the very extensive archives in Norwegian and English associated with Thor Heyerdahl, held at the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo. Michelle Richards’ PhD will seek to gain new traction from old museum and archival collections. Her project will illustrate the value of combining historical research with the reanalysis of such collections using modern techniques such as geochemical sourcing of materials through the use of non-destructive portable X-Ray Fluorescence (pXRF) techniques – a pXRF machine has been bought for the CBAP Project – to compare with previous functional and typological studies. Early foci for her work have been Routledge’s Eastern Pacific research and F.W. Christian’s work at Nan Madol in Micronesia. We still seek a PhD student to contribute a detailed case study on New Guinea and its salience both to Australia and to the rest of the Pacific as a putative origin for the spread of cultures and peoples. Archival research would take place in PNG and in the UK.

While some fieldwork has already been carried out by the team in Australia, Denmark, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, United States, United Kingdom and Vanuatu, further major archival and museum research, particularly for the PhD students, is planned for 2017. Spriggs and Dotte-Sarout organised a session on the history of Australian and Pacific archaeology at the Australian Archaeological Association Conference in December 2015 in Fremantle, Western Australia, which has just been published as a special issue of Journal of Pacific Archaeology, and Howes and Spriggs organised a follow-up session at the organisation’s December 2016 conference at Terrigal, NSW. Dotte-Sarout worked with Francophone colleagues to set up workshops in France and Canberra in 2016, and Spriggs is involved with plans for collaboration with Pacific Island colleagues in museums and tertiary institutions. In association with Cambridge University colleagues, Spriggs has been awarded a Leverhulme Trust Fellowship to enable him to carry out archival research in the UK in 2016 and 2017 on some of the more important UK-based ‘persons of interest’ such as Haddon, Rivers and Elliot Smith.

The project’s prosopographical database and other materials such as websites and blogs will be archived in a publicly-accessible form through the University’s scholarly data archiving systems, which are expected to develop in a major and co-ordinated way over the next five years. We also anticipate archiving through the UK’s Archaeological Data Service (ADS), to allow further development of the resource by other scholars, and will initiate discussions with the National Library of Australia about including the database and other materials in their public archives, to be accessible online at the end of the project.

The Project is planned to result in several monographs on aspects of the history of Pacific archaeology as well as PhD theses and attendant publications. Other ‘products’ will include the prosopographical database, the devolved exhibition at up to 50 museums, linked by a catalogue and web site, several workshops, conference sessions at international meetings and a major specialist conference at the conclusion of the Project. The CBAP Project aims to provide a ‘home’ for anyone interested in the history of Pacific archaeology sensu lato through our Project Associates scheme, and we are always interested in potential collaborations with interested scholars. There are further opportunities for very rewarding PhD or Postdoctoral projects, although dedicated CBAP funding for scholarships and fellowships has now been exhausted. Those with a more general interest will find the CBAP blog site of interest in providing news of our activities.


CBAP aims to create a sub-field of the history of Pacific archaeology, which draws on the until-now parochial histories of Australian and New Zealand archaeology. It will produce a multinational history, showing that scholars from Australia and New Zealand were key influences on how the subject developed in the region, and exploring the ‘webs of empire’ that linked them to European and American discourses on world prehistory. The project will re-evaluate our current stalemated and inadequate theories about the settlement of the Pacific and re-engage with and critique histories of socio-cultural anthropology that have excised much of its shared past with archaeology in the Pacific in the development of key concepts and schools of thought. This is an urgent task at a time when archaeological ideas are increasingly entering indigenous discourses about nation and region, ‘race’ and identity. We seek to re-define the development of Australian archaeology within its wider Oceanic context and its participation in world archaeological debates over diffusion and evolution that were precursors to the recognisably modern archaeology brought into being by John Mulvaney and others in the 1950s and 1960s. CBAP hopes to re-imagine the story of our understanding of Papua New Guinea and its people, through a detailed examination of the development of theories about the origins and spread of the peoples of Australia’s only significant former colonies – the pre-Independence Territories of Papua and of New Guinea.

Much has been forgotten in Pacific scholarship that needs to be recalled. The project is re-discovering the contribution of both French- and German-speaking scholars to the early development of Pacific archaeology, and through translations of important texts will make their findings available to an Anglophone audience. CBAP is also rediscovering the considerable amount of archaeological excavation that took place in the Pacific from the 1870s until WWII, in order to demonstrate that the post-War professionalisation of archaeology in the region was built upon an ever-growing accumulation of knowledge and theories that had developed over a much longer time span. This will challenge the conventional idea that ‘modern’ archaeology began only in the post-War period. We hope to re-write this forgotten history of Pacific archaeological practice and consider the legacy and impact of past practice by re-uniting artefacts with field notes and other historic documents. This will help contextualise these earlier scholars and critically review their ideas or in some cases interpret for the first time their findings, by comparing and then situating their work within our current methods and knowledge. The project is re-conceptualising the perennial issue of trans-Oceanic cultural contacts, recently back into vogue, within its long history of discourse that extends back at least to the start of the 19th century and is particularly influential through the work of Thor Heyerdahl.

As well as rediscovering forgotten networks and practices there is a need to redress the neglect of the role of women archaeologists working in the region, not only those professionally engaged but also the mostly unsung wives who accompanied their partners into the field and who provided significant intellectual as well as physical labour towards the success of projects. Similarly there is a need to re-engage with descendant communities in the present in the light of our research and its findings and to restore knowledge of the now largely forgotten agency and contribution of indigenous scholars and interlocutors to the creation of a Pacific past.

How much of a daunting task this will be in just five years of the project is already becoming clear, but with a dedicated team and by networking with others interested in the same issues we do hope to make a more than modest contribution to our aims. It is hoped that the project might form the springboard to establish a dedicated centre for research on the history of archaeology in Australia, the Pacific and Southeast Asia that will continue the work.

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