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Reviewed by:
  • East of Wallace's Line: Studies of Past and Present Maritime Cultures of the Indo-Pacific Region
  • Harry Allen
East of Wallace's Line: Studies of Past and Present Maritime Cultures of the Indo-Pacific Region. Edited by Sue O'Connor and Peter Veth. Modern Quaternary Research in Southeast Asia 16. Rotterdam: A. A. Balkema, 2000. 380 pp. $76.00. ISBN 90-5809-319-0.

This volume derives from a symposium held in 1997 with the majority of papers being rewritten to bring them up to date. It is introduced briefly by the editors, who [End Page 173] point to problems with terms such as marine, maritime, coastal, and littoral. They note that a number of papers in the volume argue that the accessibility of coastal resources is socially as well as ecologically and technologically determined.

The first and most provocative paper is by Anderson, who questions many of the generalizations explored in later papers. Anderson queries the evidence for ancient antecedents of maritime behavior in the Indo-Pacific region. Instead he argues that the development of maritime technology is a mid- to late Holocene affair. He further tilts at conclusions drawn from simulated voyages, in particular, Irwin's hypotheses that discoveries in Remote Oceania were rapid and continuous and hence demonstrate skilled and prudent seafaring. Much of the paper develops Anderson's ideas about innovations in maritime technology necessary to allow the colonization of East Polynesia. He links the pause in settlement between Near and Remote Oceania to the period during which it was necessary to improve maritime technology through the development of the double canoe.

The chapter by Spriggs on Southeast Asia provides a useful overview of Pleistocene and Holocene ecological relationships as a background to his discussion of archaeological sites and "cultures." However, much of the archaeological information available for Island Southeast Asia prior to 5000 b.p. is poorly dated and conforms to outmoded methods of stone implement analysis, e.g., the "pebble and flake complex" (p. 58). Rather than summarizing such noninformation, Spriggs could usefully have swept the cupboard clean with some much-needed chorological hygiene. The information for the post-4000 B.P. pottery–Neolithic–Metal Age periods is better.

Contra Anderson, papers by Chappell, by O'Connor and Veth, and by J. Allen argue that the dating of first colonization of Sahul, and subsequent sea crossings supports the idea that early settlers were "ancient mariners." Though most of the Pleistocene to mid-Holocene archaeological evidence from northern Australia and Papua New Guinea shows minimal dependence on sea resources, these authors see the initial voyages as purposeful. There is some repetition of the information regarding early dates for settlement in the region including Birdsell's map of potential routes, which is reproduced in three different papers. Much of the detail of O'Connor and Veth's paper has been published previously but it is useful to have it brought together in a volume that allows a comparative perspective. O'Connor and Veth (p. 131) believe that the introduction of new technology from outside Australia is incompatible with the continuation of preexisting maritime subsistence strategies. Allen's conclusion is that the emergence of maritime societies in Melanesia was the result of a gradual and logical adaptation to an oceanic world with limited terrestrial resources.

Papers in the second half of this volume, by Lilley, Roe, Barham, Clarke, Fox, and Pannell, deal with the post-3500 B.P. period. To explain post-Lapita developments in northern New Guinea and Vitiaz Strait, Lilley offers a complex argument concerning language and pottery as symbols of identity. However, he does not have sufficient space to present this argument in a convincing manner. Roe's paper discusses Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. He deals with the bush-saltwater division and presents information from his archaeological work on Guadalcanal. His work, completed in 1993, is the most recent archaeological work cited. Subsequent investigations in Vanuatu by Bedford and others (1998) and in the Solomon Islands by Sheppard and others (2000) and others will extend the arguments presented here.

Maritime societies in the Torres Strait are the subject of Barham's extended essay (90 pages). He concludes that the first...


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