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Reviewed by:
  • Pacific 2000: Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Easter Island and the Pacific
  • Marshall I. Weisler
Pacific 2000: Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Easter Island and the Pacific. Christopher M. Stevenson, Georgia Lee, and F. J. Morin, eds. Los Osos, CA: The Easter Island Foundation, Bearsville Press, 2001. 575 pp. ISBN 1-880636-18-2. Paperback.

It seems just about every time you look around these days there is another edited volume or monograph on Pacific archaeology and prehistory-a far cry from the state of affairs just a decade ago. The editors of Pacific 2000: Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Easter Island and the Pacific bring together 55 chapters, which are the result of a five-day international conference held in Hawai'i in August 2000. Abstracts of 29 papers delivered at the conference, but not published in the volume as full-length papers, are also included; some of these papers have been published elsewhere. The volume is divided into 12 sections. There are five chapters each on New Horizons in Pacific Research, Archaeology on Rapa Nui, Hawaiian Archaeology, Anthropology on Rapa Nui, Polynesian Physical Anthropology, and Conservation Problems in the Pacific. There are four chapters on each of the following topics: Western Pacific Research, Samoan Prehistory, French Polynesian Prehistory, and Polynesian Languages and Literature. Two sections on Arts of the Pacific contain a total of nine chapters.

The volume begins with Peter Bellwood's excellent keynote address, which outlines the trends and directions in Polynesian prehistory during the past 25 years within the context of Austronesian dispersal, thus setting the broader context for papers in the volume. The restricted length of this review prohibits commentary on each of the 55 chapters that follow; consequently, I have selected papers from each section that are of broad interest to the readership of this journal.

Major themes found throughout many of the chapters include origins, dispersal, and post-colonization interactions-issues that remain at the forefront of archaeological and biological anthropological research. One of the most exciting and fruitful avenues of Pacific research in recent decades has been the application of palaeoenvironmental techniques to help date the human colonization of islands and document subsequent habitat alteration. Athens and Ward have been leaders in this pursuit from Hawai'i across Micronesia. Their identification of giant swamp taro (Cyrtosperma chamissonis) in mid-fifth millennium B.P. contexts in Palau suggests the presence of humans at a very early date. However, direct dating of individual pollen grains from multiple cores should please the skeptics. Also working on colonization issues in Palau, Wickler believes that palaeoenvironmental data should be backed up by archaeological evidence-presumably cultural stratigraphy with in situ artifacts and food remains. This stance will please some in the early vs. late colonization debates of Pacific islands, but multiple occurrences of humanly transported plants or landsnails associated with charcoal in clear stratigraphic associations should be a reasonable proxy for the presence of humans on islands.

Exploring reasons for the long pause between the settlement of West and East [End Page 172] Polynesia, Anderson believes that prehistoric voyaging canoes were not as fast and seaworthy as experimental voyaging trials suggest and that long-distance sailing, especially to the margins of East Polynesia, was substantially more difficult than currently thought (p. 35). While this hypothesis is of interest it must be considered in light of the evidence for prehistoric long-distance inter-archipelago interaction documented for numerous East Polynesian archipelagoes between A.D. 1000 and 1500. Perhaps the other side to this question may be of greater interest. If voyaging canoes were, indeed, less efficient watercraft than once thought, then we might ask why long-distance voyaging continued centuries after initial colonization? What social, economic, and political motivations fueled continued hazardous journeys between island groups?

French Polynesian archaeology has enjoyed somewhat of a renaissance in recent years with the opening up of research opportunities to foreign scholars. Anderson and colleagues have continued the discussion on dating issues with renewed excavations and dating of key sites (Vaito'otia-Fa'ahia and on Maupiti)-thus reducing the chronology of colonization in East Polynesia to "no earlier than late in the...