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Nusa Roviana: The Archaeology of a Melanesian Chiefdom

Richard Walter and Peter Sheppard
Journal of Field Archaeology
Vol. 27, No. 3 (Autumn, 2000), pp. 295-318
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
DOI: 10.2307/530445
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/530445
Page Count: 24
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Nusa Roviana: The Archaeology of a Melanesian Chiefdom
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Abstract

When European traders started to expand their economic activities in the Solomon Islands in the early 19th century, they found indigenous groups already engaged in long-distance exchange. Amongst the most powerful of these were the Roviana chiefs whose bases were situated on the shores and offshore islets of Roviana Lagoon on the island of New Georgia. Power in Roviana was bound to a cycle of headhunting raids, ritual violence, ancestor cults, and the circulation of shell valuables. Today, the archaeological record of the Roviana chiefdom consists of spectacular and well preserved surface elements consisting of domestic and religious architecture, fortifications, and a rich array of material culture. This surface record poses specific problems of interpretation and dating, but spatial archaeological methods combined with oral traditions and historical accounts allow this record to be unraveled. This paper describes the structure of a late period Roviana settlement with an emphasis on the symbolic dimension of the cultural landscape. It also discusses the archaeological evidence for change in the political, economic, and ideological dimensions of Roviana life in the centuries preceding its entanglement with the West.

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