, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 191-238
Date: 04 Aug 2007

Advances in Polynesian Prehistory: A Review and Assessment of the Past Decade (1993–2004)

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Abstract

The pace of archaeological research in Polynesia has intensified in recent years, resulting in more than 500 new literature citations over the past decade. Fieldwork has continued in such previously well-studied archipelagoes as Tonga and Samoa in Western Polynesia, and Hawai’i and New Zealand in Eastern Polynesia, and has expanded into previously neglected islands including Niue, the Equatorial Islands, the Austral Islands, and Mangareva. The emergence of Ancestral Polynesian culture out of its Eastern Lapita predecessor is increasingly well understood, and the chronology of Polynesian dispersal and expansion into Eastern Polynesia has engaged several researchers. Aside from these fundamental issues of origins and chronology, major research themes over the past decade include (1) defining the nature, extent, and timing of long-distance interaction spheres, particularly in Eastern Polynesia; (2) the impacts of human colonization and settlement on island ecosystems; (3) variation in Polynesian economic systems and their transformations over time; and (4) sociopolitical change, especially as viewed through the lens of household or microscale archaeology. Also noteworthy is the rapidly evolving nature of interactions between archaeologists and native communities, a critical aspect of archaeological practice in the region.