chapter  13
22 Pages

Entangled histories

Oral history and archaeology in the Pacific
WithPeter J. Sheppard

Prior to the development of field archaeology and radiocarbon dating in the Pacific, the rich oral traditions of the region, such as the whakapapa of Maori, which speak to much more than simple genealogy, provided the basis for academic study of the history of Pacific peoples. With the coming of modern archaeological fieldwork, after WWII, Pacific archaeology developed a somewhat uneasy relationship with oral tradition and histories dependent on it. Archaeology and oral tradition were considered to be different fields of study requiring separate methods and careful evaluation before any attempt at incorporation of both into a single narrative. In the last fifty years the use of oral tradition and more broadly ethnography has waxed and waned given changing fashions in archaeological theory, methods and goals. This chapter reviews this history in the Pacific and attempts to derive what lessons have been learned, something which seems very apropos given recent calls for ways to pull together once more the strands of anthropology (Fuentes and Wiessner, 2016).