Cultural Landscapes on Garua Island, Papua New Guinea
Torrence, Robin, Antiquity
Biases in Lapita archaeology
Most archaeological research on the period characterized by Lapita pottery--dating to c. 3300-1500 cal BP in the Pacific region--has assumed that villages located on the beach were the primary form of settlement (e.g. Kirch 1997: 162, 296) and, by inference, that people were sedentary and had `full-on' agriculture (e.g. Spriggs 1997: 88,121). One should be suspicious, however, of the unproblematic links made between artefact scatters, permanent settlement and agriculture, especially since they are based on dubious analogies to modern villages, which are often products of European colonization. In contrast, Gosden & Pavlides (1994) argued that Lapita sites were visited irregularly by people practising low-intensity agriculture. It is also possible that at least some Lapita sites represent locations where pottery and shell valuables were made and used on special occasions for particular, possibly ritual, purposes. Testing the orthodox package of Lapita villages, sedentism and agriculture requires considering a broader range of land-use models and employing new methodologies to evaluate them. In this paper I present a case study to show how adopting the perspective of cultural landscapes can lead to a more comprehensive, and therefore more accurate, view of past human behaviour during the time of Lapita pottery.
By definition, the term `landscape' takes in all physical and natural components of the terrestrial environment. For Pacific archaeology it should be combined with `seascape' (Gosden & Pavlides 1994) to encompass adequately the settings where human behaviour took place. Adding `cultural' to land- and seascapes emphasizes the role of the individuals who conceptualized these spaces and actively created and modified them in culturally specific ways (cf. Ashmore & Knapp 1999). The process is interactive: human behaviour is both conditioned by the ideological and physical components of cultural landscapes and also incorporated within the landscapes themselves. Since cultural landscapes are the material manifestations of the complex interactions between humans and their environment, they are the ideal focus for archaeological research (Gosden & Head 1994). The terms `social' and `cultural' landscape are both used in the literature, often to mean roughly the same thing. I prefer the latter adjective because it is more inclusive and avoids the possibility of a false dichotomy between the so-called social and utilitarian aspects of behaviour.
Although there are numerous archaeological studies of landscape, most have focused either on the mundane aspects of human behaviour, such as settlement and subsistence (i.e. processual studies), or only considered the ritual or sacred components (i.e. post-processual studies) (cf. Knapp and Ashmore in Ashmore & Knapp 1999). Gosden (1989; 1991) introduced the concept of social landscapes to the Pacific region. Although he considered various kinds of human behaviour--conceptions of places, social interaction and mobility--his work was nevertheless tied to specific localities identified by archaeologists by the presence of pottery or other artefact types and called `sites', rather than conceiving of the cultural landscape as a whole.
As with Gosden's work, many studies assume that one can differentiate the social or ideological aspects of the landscape and relate these to a particular set of archaeological components. These researchers have tended to over-emphasize the built environment (especially monuments, standing stones, etc.) or rock art. These post-processual studies generally concentrate on places or `sites' within a landscape, rather than on the whole landscape itself (e.g. Ashmore & Knapp 1999). In contrast, studies using `distributional' or `non-site' archaeology (e.g. Rossignol & Wandsnider 1992) have targeted the spatial patterning of artefacts across large areas, rather than within specific places. …