chapter  7
35 Pages

Pacific colonisation as process and practice

ByTim Thomas

The human colonisation of the Pacific hemisphere is an enduring topic of enquiry in the archaeology of the region. Archaeologists have employed a wide variety of theoretical perspectives and evidence to gain insight into the problem, combining data from the archaeological record with computer simulation, experimental replication and ethnography, and deploying explanatory models ranging from simple culture history, to biogeographic theory, behavioural ecology and evolutionary perspectives. Here I review the dominant explanatory strategies in Pacific colonisation research, and advocate for a multi-scalar approach. Rather than being simply a history of population dispersal, I argue that colonisation is a long-term phenomenon encompassing most aspects of human–environment interactions. Colonisation is, at root, the process by which historical relationships are established between people and landscapes, and consequently involves the interaction of ecological, demographic, social, political and cultural dynamics through time. I develop a ‘marginal island network sorting’ model of Pacific colonisation, which seeks to integrate long-term causal process with changing forms of socio-cultural practice.