Vella Lavella

Research into the archaeology, culture and history of Vella Lavella Western Province Solomon Islands, funded by the Marsden Fund.


Project introduction

Island Melanesia is a place of unmatched cultural, linguistic and biological diversity, yet one that often displays fascinating patterns of overarching cultural coherence. Our research looks, theoretically and substantively, at the origins of this diversity, and addresses gaps in our understanding of cultural, economic and social adaptation in the region.

Current knowledge focuses on the origins and movements of Lapita; a 'culture' considered ancestral to all populations of Remote Oceania including Polynesia. Lapita colonisation was an astounding feat of skill and imagination, yet we often forget it was a Melanesian' phenomenon, born of an ancient history in an area of enormous cultural complexity.

Understanding Melanesian prehistory, beyond the limits of Lapita, requires an understanding of the dynamic engine of culture change in the region. Understanding the historical relationship between diversity and processes leading to forms of cultural coherence, including political coherence, is crucial to contemporary Melanesian societies, and to wider Pacific anthropological scholarship.

Our research takes us to Vella Lavella (Western Solomons) where we test a new model of Melanesian cultural history.

We address two issues:

  • what processes led to the development of cultural diversity
  • how can coherent phenomenon (like Lapita) emerge from this diversity.