Prehistoric settlement and networks of interaction in the Western Solomon Islands: A survey of Manning Strait
This thesis is an investigation into the prehistory of the western Solomon Islands and an examination of archaeological sites located in and around a deep-sea passage between Choiseul and Santa Isabel known as Manning Strait. Archaeological surveying has been carried out in this part of Solomon Islands since the 1960s, however, Choiseul, Manning Strait and large parts of Santa Isabel have received little attention. An important aim of this study was to address this and, ultimately, contribute towards constructing a more complete and comprehensive archaeological sequence for Solomon Islands. Three fundamental aspects of the culture history of the western Solomon Islands are examined. The first is the prehistoric settlement of the region during the late Lapita period (ca. 2700-2000 BP) and evidence of how mobility patterns changed over time. The second is the development of prehistoric trade and exchange networks from initial settlement leading into late prehistory. This period, specifically the last millennium, was a pivotal time in western Solomon Islands which saw major cultural developments such as the emergence of head-hunting, monumental architecture, specialised production and exchanging of shell valuables and increasing contact with Europeans. The third is processes by which cultures in the region changed and diversified over the last two and a half millennia. This traditional culture historical approach is partnered with theoretical outlooks that have developed in more recent years in island archaeology whereby islands are perceived not as singular entities but as part of a broader ‘sea of islands’ or ‘seascapes’. Manning Strait is perceived in this manner not simply as a setting but as an active agent in influencing the course of cultural transformation in the western Solomon Islands. The methodological approach taken in this study draws upon archaeological survey and excavation, laboratory analysis of ceramics, lithics, shell artefacts and faunal remains, and a systematic review of ethnographic and historical literature. Significant outcomes of the fieldwork that are presented include the discovery of a 2.5 m deep cave deposit on Wagina, southeast Choiseul, dating to 2300-2150 calBP, a late Lapita intertidal site in northwest Santa Isabel, and ceramic deposits on the Arnavon Islands and Laena Island dating to between 850-150 calBP. A wide range of artefacts are analysed in this study, although emphasis is placed on exploring production and distribution patterns of pottery to gain insight into the development of both local and regional patterns of inter-island interaction. At the end of the thesis, a ceramic sequence is put forward for Choiseul as well as a revised cultural sequence for the wider western Solomon Islands that builds upon earlier archaeological modelling and findings. Additionally, the dynamic role Manning Strait played in prehistory as an ocean highway in the late Lapita period and altering to becoming a highly contested seascape in late prehistory is discussed.
Advisor: Walter, Richard; Summerhayes, Glenn
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Archaeology
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Solomon Islands; archaeology; culture history; prehistoric settlement; networks of interaction; pottery
Research Type: Thesis