Professor Melinda S Allen
BA, MA, PhD
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
- Settlement processes
- Diet and subsistence economies
- Exchange and 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 subsistence economies of prehistoric Pacific Islanders and their commensal animals; and the timing and drivers of Polynesian settlement processes.
NEW PUBLICATION: Sear, D.A., M.S. Allen, J.D. Hassall, et al. 2020. Human Settlement of East Polynesia Earlier, Incremental, and Coincident with Prolonged South Pacific Drought. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1920975117
- Chronology of East Polynesian Settlement: High-resolution radiocarbon chronologies are central to understanding processes of island 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.
- 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. Funded by National Geographic Society.
- 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).
- 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. TEC funded Te Pūnaha Matatini, Centre of Research Excellence: Complexity and the Biosphere Theme.
- 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.
Teaching | Current
ANTHRO 207 Coming of the Māori: Archaeology of Aotearoa (New Zealand)
ANTHRO 746 The Archaeology of the Anthropocene
Present graduate students
- Reno Nims (PhD), Maori marine fisheries, NZ; University of Auckland CORE Te Punaha Matatini Doctoral Scholar (Primary supervisor w/ T. Ladefoged)
- Kasey Allely (PhD), Shell mound formation processes (Second supervisor w/ S. Holdaway)
- Leteisha Lamb (MA), Environmental variability in the southern Cook Islands as registered in archaeologically-recovered Albulidae (bonefish) otoliths.
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); Dean's List for doctoral thesis excellence 2015
- 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 (co-supervisor w/ Peter Sheppard, 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, completed (2009)
Past graduate students (recent): MA and BAHons
- Patricia Pillay (MA) – Maori kuri (dog) husbandry in pre-European times. Kupe Leadership Scholarship
- Darby Filimoehala (MA) – Hawaiian marine fisheries, Univ Auckland Faculty of Arts International Masters Scholarship and Univ Auckland US/NZ Exchange Scholarship (2017-19)
- Andrea Fuerch (BAHons) – Modelling Polynesian voyaging (2018)
- Patricia Pillay (BAHons) – Shellfish as environmental proxies (2018)
- Nicholas Radovanovic (BAHons) Marine exploitation on Great Mercury Island, NZ (2018)
- 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 (primary 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)
Areas of expertise
- Pacific Archaeology
- Human palaeoecology
- Human-climate interactions
- Settlement processes
- Traditional Polynesian marine fisheries and technologies
- University Staffing Committee, 2017-19
- Te Punaha Matatini, University of Auckland Centre for Research Excellence (Associate Investigator), on-going
- Editor, Journal of the Polynesian Society, on-going
- Editorial Board, Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, on-going
- Editorial Board, Journal of Pacific Archaeology, on-going
- Polynesian Society Council (member), on-going
- Skinner Fund Committee, Royal Society of New Zealand (member), on-going
- Curator, Anthropology Zooarchaeological Reference Collection, on-going
Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)
- Sear, D. A., Allen, M. S., Hassall, J. D., Maloney, A. E., Langdon, P. G., Morrison, A. E., ... Clarke, C. (2020). Human settlement of East Polynesia earlier, incremental, and coincident with prolonged South Pacific drought. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 117 (16), 8813-8819. 10.1073/pnas.1920975117
- Huebert, J. M., & Allen, M. S. (2020). Anthropogenic forests, arboriculture, and niche construction in the Marquesas Islands (Polynesia). JOURNAL OF ANTHROPOLOGICAL ARCHAEOLOGY, 5710.1016/j.jaa.2019.101122
- Nims, R., Filimoehala, D., Allen, M. S., & Butler, V. L. (2020). When Less is More: Element Selection as Sampling Strategy in Zooarchaeology. Journal of Archaeological Science, 121.10.1016/j.jas.2020.105205
Other University of Auckland co-authors: Reno Nims
- Littleton, J., Mcfarlane, G., & Allen, M. S. (2020). Human-animal entanglement and climate change: Multi-species approaches in Remote Oceania. In G. R. Shug (Ed.) The Routledge Handbook of the Bioarchaeology of Environmental Change (pp. 493-510). Routledge.
Other University of Auckland co-authors: Judith Littleton
- Nims, R., Filimoehala, D., Allen, M., & Butler, V. (2019). Less is more, vol 2: Element selection as sampling strategy. Paper presented at 20th Meeting of the ICAZ Fish Remains Working Group, Portland, OR, USA. Related URL.
Other University of Auckland co-authors: Reno Nims
- Plank, M. J., Allen, M. S., Nims, R., & Ladefoged, T. N. (2018). Inferring fishing intensity from contemporary and archaeological size-frequency data. Journal of Archaeological Science, 93, 42-53. 10.1016/j.jas.2018.01.011
Other University of Auckland co-authors: Thegn Ladefoged, Reno Nims
- McAlister, A., & Allen, M. S. (2017). Basalt geochemistry reveals high frequency of prehistoric tool exchange in low hierarchy Marquesas Islands (Polynesia). PLoS ONE, 12 (12)10.1371/journal.pone.0188207
Other University of Auckland co-authors: Andrew McAlister
- 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
Primary office location
HUMAN SCIENCES BUILDING - EAST - Bldg 201E
Level 7, Room 723
10 SYMONDS ST