chapter  3
21 Pages

Pacific island archaeology and evolutionary theory

WithEthan E. Cochrane

Evolution is the principal theoretical framework in Pacific archaeology. Progressive cultural evolutionary stages, particularly the chiefdom, provided the earliest framework. These ideas were increasingly linked to islands as relatively isolated ‘laboratories’ of cultural evolution and diversification, albeit their populations phylogenetically linked in a series of ancestral and descendant societies. With more sophisticated environmental data, much research has investigated cultural adaptations and their homologous or analogous origins. Most recently, Darwinian mechanisms of transmission, selection and drift comprise an important approach. The history of evolution in Pacific archaeology suggests it will continue as a useful theoretical framework, perhaps more so than in other world regions.