Professor Melinda S Allen



Melinda has a BA from the University of Arizona (major in Anthropology, minor in Biology) and an MA from the University of Hawai'i, Manoa. Her PhD was awarded by the University of Washington in 1992 and examined subsistence and landscape change in the Cook Islands (Polynesia). She was a Research Anthropologist with Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in Honolulu (Hawai'i) for five years before joining the University of Auckland's Department of Anthropology in 1996. She currently is a Professor at University of Auckland, an Affiliate Graduate Faculty member at University of Hawai'i, Mānoa and a Research Associate of Bishop Museum.

  • Associate Investigator, Te Pūnaha Matatini Centre for Research Excellence, Complexity & the Biosphere theme
  • Principal Investigator, Marsden Fund, Royal Society of New Zealand, "Detecting prehistoric human-climate dynamics in central Polynesia using high-precision marine archives" (2012-2015)
  • Curator, Anthropology Zooarchaeological Reference Collection

Research | Current

  • Pacific prehistory
  • Human palaeoecology
  • Human-climate interactions
  • Traditional Polynesian marine fisheries and technologies

Present research

Melinda is an archaeologist with a focus on human palaeoecology, including human-climate relations, human ecodynamics, construction of anthropogenic environments, and processes leading to social resilience. Her current research relates to long-term variation in traditional Polynesian marine fisheries, diets and health of prehistoric Pacific Islanders and their commensal animals, and colonisation processes in Polynesia.

Teaching | Current

ANTHRO 207 Coming of the Māori: Archaeology of Aotearoa (New Zealand)

ANTHRO 328 Bioarchaeology

Postgraduate supervision

Present graduate students

  • Karolyn Burhing (PhD), South American-Polynesian interactions. 2nd supervisor w/ P. Sheppard
  • Reno Nims (PhD), Historic Aotearoa New Zealand Marine Fisheries. With T. Ladefoged
  • Darby Filimoehala (MA), Polynesian fisheries.

 Past graduate students (recent) PhDs

  • Seth Quintus (PhD) – Human ecodynamics of terrestrial food production on Ofu Island, Manu'a, American Samoa, University Doctoral Scholar (primary supervisor) (2015); Dean's List for doctoral thesis excellence
  • Jennifer Huebert (PhD) – The role of arboriculture in landscape domestication and agronomic development: A case study from the Marquesas Islands, East Polynesia; University Doctoral Scholar (primary supervisor, completed 2014)
  • Andrew McAlister (PhD) – Methodological issues in the geochemical characterisation and morphological analysis of stone tools: a case study from Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands, East Polynesia; University Doctoral Scholar (completed 2011)
  • Jacqui A. Craig (PhD) – Stable isotope analysis of prehistoric human and commensal diets on Aitutaki, southern Cook Islands (co-supervisor Dr. Judith Littleton) (2009)

 Past graduate students (recent) MAs and BAHons

  • Gareth Walters (MA Portfolio), 2017
  • Nick Mainwaring (BAHons), 2016
  • April Smith (BAHons), 2016
  • Sophie Miller (MA) – Bone histology (co-supervisor with J. Littleton, 2014)
  • Lisa McKendry (MA) – Archaelogical evidence for Maori fibre use (with Ethan Cochrane, 2014)
  • Laura Dawson (MA) – Marquesan pig husbandry: insights from dental calculus (2013)
  • Adam Hand (MA) – Maori and vegetation processes: wood charcoal analyses (2013)
  • Lisa McKendry (BAHons) – Durabillity and strength properties of traditional Maori fibers (2013)
  • Sophie Miller(BAHons ) – Oral pathologies in southern Cook Island pigs (primar supervisor with Judith Littleton) (2013)
  • Sayali Sangamnerkar (BAHons) – Interaction and exchange in the Cook Islands: stone tool geochemistry on Aitutaki, (primary supervisor with P. Sheppard) (2013)
  • Laura Dawson (BAHons) – Dental calculus in Polynesian pigs: A pilot study (2012)
  • Adam Hand (BAHons) – Māori fuel use and vegetation histories on Great Mercury Island (1' supervisor with Rod Wallace) (2012)
  • Annie Stephens (BAHons) – History and function in Polynesian coral abraders (2012)
  • Rebecca Walley (BAHons) – Fish stressors, osteological indicators & bio-archaeological potentials (2012)
  • Alison Preston (MA) – Element choice, analytical bias and archaeofish interpretations: a case study from the Cook Islands; Faculty of Arts Scholarship (2012)
  • Sarah Ricketts (BAHons) – A technological analysis of a stone artefact assemblage from Twilight Beach (w/ R. Philipps) (2011)
  • Callan Ross-Sheppard (BAHons) – Obsidian exchange and human interaction in the Bismarck Archipelago (primary supervisor w/ P. Sheppard) (2011)
  • Eleanor Strurrock (BAHons) – Māori use of estuarine environments (2011)
  • Jennifer Huebert (MA) – The Reconstruction of past vegetation in the Anaho Valley, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands using archaeological wood charcoal (2009)
  • Tamara Mason (MA) – Shellfish analysis and Maori shellfish use at Opoutere, Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand (2009)
  • Ella Ussher (MA) – Application of starch residue analysis within archaeological research in the Pacific (2009)
  • Hannah Cowie (MA) – Enamel hypoplasia in humans and their commensals: Identification of developmental stress in the Marquesas Islands (co-supervisor with Dr Judith Littleton) (2009)
  • Andrea Crown (MA) – Settlement proxemics and late prehistoric residential organisation in Anaho Bay, Marquesas Islands (2009)
  • Ben Davies (MA) – Analysis of resource limitations and prehistoric settlement on Nihoa, Northwest Hawaiian Islands: An agent-based approach (2009)
  • Jen Huebert (PGDipArts dissertation) – Archaeobotanical investigation of wood charcoal from earth ovens in the Marquesas Islands (2008)
  • Victoria Wichman (MA) – Prehistoric Māori Fishing at Tauroa Point, Northland, New Zealand (2006)
  • Kelila Jaffee (MA) – Midden Deposition and Analysis: The Oropuriri Shell Assemblage (2005)
  • Andrew McAlister (MA) – Prehistoric Fishing at Fakaofo, Tokelau: A Case for Resource Depression on a Small Atoll (2002)
  • Leith MacDonald (MA) – Going bats: An archaeological investigation of Flying Fox usage in prehistoric Vanuatu (2002)
  • Alaric Nicholls (MA) – Fishing for Ancient DNA: The development and application of a molecular technique for species identification of archaeological serranid remains (2000)
  • Stuart Hawkins (MA) – Voyagers and fishermen: Early prehistoric fishing on Naigani Island, Fiji (2000)
  • Jonathon Welch (MA) – The prehistoric stone row and wall systems of New Zealand and related factors of climate and soil (2000)

Areas of expertise

Archaeology, Pacific prehistory, human palaeoecology, human-climate interactions, traditional Polynesian marine fisheries and technologies.

Committees/Professional groups/Services

  • University Staffing Committee
  • Te Punaha Matatini, University of Auckland Centre for Research Excellence (Associate Investigator)
  • Editor, Journal of the Polynesian Society
  • Editorial Board, Journal of Anthropological Archaeology
  • Editorial Board, Journal of Pacific Archaeology
  • Polynesian Society Council (member)
  • Skinner Fund Committee, Royal Society of New Zealand (member)
  • Curator, Anthropology Zooarchaeological Reference Collection

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Allen, M. S. (2017). Spatial variability and human eco-dynamics in tropical East Polynesian fisheries. In U. Albarella, M. Rizzetto, H. Russ, K. Vickers, S. Viner-Daniels (Eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Zooarchaeology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Related URL.
  • Allen, M. S., Morrison, A. E., Lorrey, A. M., Zhao, J. X., & Jacobsen, G. E. (2016). Timing, magnitude and effects of late Holocene sea level drawdown on island habitability, Aitutaki, Cook Islands. Archaeology in Oceania, 51 (2), 108-121. 10.1002/arco.5102
  • Quintus, S., Allen, M. S., & Ladefoged, T. N. (2016). In Surplus and in Scarcity: Agricultural Development, Risk Management, and Political Economy on Ofu Island, American Samoa. American Antiquity, 81 (2), 273-293. 10.7183/0002-7316.81.2.273
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Thegn Ladefoged
  • Huebert, J. M., & Allen, M. S. (2016). Six centuries of anthropogenic forest change on a Polynesian high island: Archaeological charcoal records from the Marquesas Islands. Quaternary Science Reviews, 137, 79-96. 10.1016/j.quascirev.2016.01.017
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Jennifer Huebert
  • Morrison, A. E., & Allen, M. S. (2016). Marine prey vulnerability versus resilience to human foragers: insights from agent based modelling. In F. Valentin, G. Molle (Eds.) La pratique de l'espace en Océanie. Découverte, appropriation et émergence des systèmes sociaux traditionnels / Spatial dynamics in Oceania Discovery, Appropriation and the Emergence of Traditional Societies. Seances de la Société préhistorique française, 63-77. Paris: Société Préhistorique Française. Related URL.
  • Morrison, A. E., & Allen, M. S. (2015). Agent-based modelling, molluscan population dynamics, and archaeomalacology. Quaternary International10.1016/j.quaint.2015.09.004
  • Littleton, J., Allen, M. S., & McFarlane, G. (2015). Multi-species Perspectives on Anthropogenic Environments: Dental Pathology Patterns, Marquesas Islands (Polynesia). The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology, 10 (2), 277-301. 10.1080/15564894.2014.980471
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Judith Littleton, Gina McFarlane
  • Allen, M. S. (2015). Dietary opportunities and constraints on islands: A multi-proxy approach to diet in the southern Cook Islands. In J. Lee-Thorp, M. A. Katzenberg (Eds.) The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Diet (pp. ). Oxford: Oxford University Press. 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199694013.013.2

Contact details

Primary location

Level 7, Room 723
New Zealand