New Georgia Archaeological Survey


A joint Project of the Centre For Archaeological Research (the University of Auckland), National Museum of the Solomon Islands (Honiara) and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Western Province (Gizo), of the Solomon Islands, Department of Anthropology University of Otago (Dunedin) and the Department of Geography, University of Western Australia. 


  • Marsden Fund, Royal Society of New Zealand - Archaeological survey and excavation.
  • National Geographic Society - Palaeoenvironmental Research.
  • The University of Auckland Research Committee - Post Doctoral Fellowship for Ethnohistory.

Participating staff

Solomon Islands

Kenneth Roga, Regional Archaeologist, Western Province, Ministry of Culture.
Lawrence Foana'ota Director, Solomon Islands National Museum
John Keopo, Chief Archaeologist, Solomon Islands National Museum
Joseph Riqeo, Field Crew Chief, Nusa Roviana, New Georgia

New Zealand

Dr Peter J. Sheppard , Centre for Archaeological Research, the University of Auckland
Dr Richard Walter, Department of Anthropology, University of Otago
Matt Felgate, PhD Researcher, Anthropology, the University of Auckland
Takuya Nagaoka, MA Researcher, Department of Anthropology, the University of Auckland
Dr Shankar Aswani, Post-Doctoral Researcher, Anthropology, the University of Auckland


Dr John Dodson, Deptartment of Geography, University of Western Australia


The Western and Central Solomons islands present the largest knowledge gap in the prehistory of the Pacific and recent reviews (Kirch 1994; Green 1993) have called for systematic research to begin there.
In January 1996, the Centre for Archaeological Research (the University of Auckland) in co-operation with the National Museum of the Solomon Islands and the Ministry of Culture (Western Province) started a 4 year programme of research on the prehistory of New Georgia (Western Province, Solomon Islands). This is the first research permit for archaeology to be issued by the Solomon Island government in the last 20 years.

The Solomon Islands comprise one of the most culturally, linguistically and biologically diverse places on earth (Friedlaender, 1987) and the processes creating and maintaining diversity in such comparatively small areas are of significant anthropological interest. Diversity is considered to be a function of:

1. length of occupation,
2. history of population movements and
3. mechanisms of cultural interaction and isolation.

Our research will investigate the role of these factors in the Western Solomons by evaluating the following current hypotheses for the Roviana Lagoon region on the island of New Georgia:

1. The maximum length of occupation of the Solomons is circa 28,000 years.
2. Significant population movements subsequent to colonisation from the northwest into the Solomons include:

i. the Lapita expansion through the Solomon Islands into the Western Pacific (3500 BP).
ii. subsequent population movements through the Solomons and Vanuatu, New Caledonia (2000 BP).

3. With the advent of food producing economies (circa 3500 BP) cyclical patterns of growth and contraction of aggressive political systems, culminating in the 19th(?) century expansion of the Roviana Headhunters `Chiefdom', promoted fragmentation and isolation of cultural groups creating high levels of cultural diversity.

These hypotheses will be evaluated by:

1. conducting a four year programme of archeological survey (Year 1 1996) and excavation (Years 2-4) in the Roviana Lagoon of New Georgia.
2. determining development of food production by (Year 3) analyzing pollen cores on the mainland and islands of the Roviana Lagoon.
3. measuring change through time in patterns of inter-regional interaction using geochemical criteria to identify geographical sources of stone materials used in adzes, and temper used in pottery manufacture and study of the distribution and incidence of traditional valuables (shell arm rings).
4. collecting oral tradition relating to the history of population movement and the development of the Roviana interaction network (Year 3-4) six months fieldwork.

Field Reports to the Solomon Islands Government and the Roviana People.