Professor Melinda S Allen

BA, MA, PhD

Biography

Melinda gained her BA from the University of Arizona  (major in Anthropology, minor in Biology), followed by an MA in Anthropology (Archaeology) from the University of Hawai'i, Mānoa. Her doctoral research in the Cook Islands (Polynesia) investigated eight centuries of subsistence change and landscape dynamics on Aitutaki Island (University of Washington in 1992). 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 of Anthropology at University of Auckland, Affiliate Graduate Faculty at University of Hawai'i, Mānoa, and Research Associate at Bernice P. Bishop Museum.

  • Associate Investigator, Te Pūnaha Matatini Centre for Research Excellence, Complexity & the Biosphere theme (2015-2020)
  • 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 archaeology, human palaeoecology, indigenous marine fisheries, colonisation processes, diet & subsistence economies, exchange & interaction, landscape dynamics

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

Current Research

  1. Dynamics of Polynesian Voyaging: Interaction, Agency and Climate Change at a Cook Islands Crossroad (PI). Using basalt tool geochemistry and climate-informed voyaging simulations, our team is exploring southern Cook Islands interactions with the broader Polynesian world in the 11th to 16th centuries AD
  2. Development of 230Th/U Dating of Coral Artifacts (AI): High-precision 230Th/U dating is one of the most exciting archaeological dating advances of the last decade. This research is extending the technology to simple coralline tools that are commonly recovered from many Pacific island sites. With Prof. Warren Sharp and Prof. Patrick Kirch (PIs, University of California, Berkeley) and Dr. G. Molle (AI, ANU). Funded by U.S. National Science Foundation (Archeometry program). 
  3. New Zealand Fisheries through Time (AI): This 6-year collaboration with colleagues at University of Canterbury (Dr. Michael Plank), Motu Economic & Public Policy Research (Dr. Suzi Kerr), and University of Auckland (Prof. Thegn Ladefoged) is examining long-term resilience in North Island New Zealand fisheries at both artisanal and commercial scales, using a combination of contemporary and historical records (archaeological, ethno-historical) and mathematical and agent-based models. Funded through Te Pūnaha Matatini, Centre for Research Excellence: Complexity and the Biosphere Theme.
  4. Human-climate Dynamics in Prehistoric Central Polynesia Using High-precision Marine Archives (PI):  More than 100 cores from microatolls and storm cast corals on Aitutaki (Cook Islands) are providing new climate archives for comparison with archaeological records of changing marine fisheries. With Dr. Andrew Lorrey (NIWA) and  A/P Michael Evans (University of Maryland). Funded by Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Fund.
  5. Chronology of East Polynesian Colonisation & Settlement (PI): High-resolution radiocarbon chronologies are central to understanding processes of island colonisation and settlement. Through careful selection and documentation of short-lived, identified taxa, and development of appropriate calibration procedures with expert colleagues, we have built refined sequences for two archipelagoes that are crucial to understanding regional settlement patterns: the southern Cook Islands at the western gateway to East Polynesia, and the Marquesas Islands at the far eastern edge. Funded by multiple grants from Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering, Ltd. and University of Auckland.

Teaching | Current

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

ANTHRO 328 Bioarchaeology

ANTHRO 701 Human Palaeoecology

Postgraduate supervision

Present graduate students

  • Reno Nims (PhD), The Archaeology of Aotearoa New Zealand Marine Fisheries. Te Punaha Matatini Doctoral Scholar. (Co-supervisor w/ T. Ladefoged)
  • Karolyn Burhing (PhD), South American-Polynesian interactions. University Doctoral Scholar (2nd supervisor w/ P. Sheppard)
  • Darby Filimoehala (MA), Hawaiian marine fisheries.

 Past graduate students: 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): MA and BAHons

  • Gareth Walters (MA Portfolio) – GIS analysis of Maungaroa Valley settlement, Rarotonga (w/ T. Ladefoged, 2017)
  • Nick Mainwaring (BAHons) – Cook Island oral traditons and regional interaction (2016)
  • April Smith (BAHons) – A review of Lapita dietary research (2016)
  • Sophie Miller (MA) – Bone histology and identication of fragmentary archaeological bone (co-supervisor with J. Littleton, 2014)
  • Lisa McKendry (MA) – Archaelogical evidence for Maori fibre use (w/ 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

Pacific Archaeology, human palaeoecology, human-climate interactions, colonisation processes, 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.
  • Miller, S. A., McFarlane, G., & Allen, M. S. (2017). Dental analysis demonstrates variability in diet and health of prehistoric Polynesian pigs. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 15 (October), 203-212. 10.1016/j.jasrep.2017.07.018
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Gina McFarlane
  • Morrison, A. E., & Allen, M. S. (2017). Agent-based modelling, molluscan population dynamics, and archaeomalacology. Quaternary International, 427 (A), 170-183. 10.1016/j.quaint.2015.09.004
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/35444
  • 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
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/33018
  • 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
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/31629
    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 (pp. 63-77). Paris: Société Préhistorique Française. Related URL.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/33094
  • 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
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/26719
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Judith Littleton, Gina McFarlane

Contact details

Primary location

HUMAN SCIENCES BUILDING - EAST - Bldg 201E
Level 7, Room 723
10 SYMONDS ST
AUCKLAND 1010
New Zealand