Dr Ethan Edward Cochrane

BA (Honours), MA, PhD

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Senior Lecturer


I completed my PhD at the University of Hawaii in 2004 examining the diversity of ancient ceramics in Fiji. After this, I was a lecturer at University College London for five years before coming to Auckland in 2012. I have also worked in cultural resource management (or Heritage sector) archaeology in Hawaii, Samoa, and Micronesia.

Research | Current

  • Pacific Island archaeology
  • Fijian, Samoan and Micronesian archaeology
  • Archaeological theory and method
  • Evolutionary theory
  • Archaeologial science
  • Ancient ceramics


  • Archaeology of the First Samoans: I am currently conducting Faculty of Arts funded research investigating the archaeological deposits of eastern `Upolu Island in Sāmoa. Subsurface prospecting fieldwork began in 2013 has located likely prehistoric cultural deposits within paleobeach sediments. I will return in 2014 for further excavations and analysis of material culture to better understand the process of colonization in Sāmoa.
  • Pattern and process of Lapita colonisation: Lapita ceramics were first deposited in the Mussau Islands approximately 1500 BC and within a few hundred years are found throughout the southwest Pacific. These ceramics are intricately decorated and trace the first human colonisation of archipelagos from Vanuatu, to New Caledonia, Fiji, Tonga, and Sāmoa. One of my current research projects involves the analysis of Lapita ceramic assemblages using quantitative evolutionary methods (e.g., Cochrane & Lipo 2010). Currently I am working on developing better classifications of Lapita decorations and ways to compare these assemblages to understand routes of colonisation, patterns of interaction, and cultural innovation and adaptation.
  • Culture history of Fiji and West Polynesia: for the last 15 years I have been conducting archaeological field work in western Fiji and Sāmoa. My work has focused on changes in ceramic technology (Cochrane 2002, 2009), ancient diet and subsistence change (Field et al. 2009, Morrison & Cochrane 2008), and site formation processes. Most recently I have examined ceramics from Tutuila Island in American Sāmoa and proposed a possible discontinuous colonisation of the archipelago.
  • Holocene New Guinea: With colleagues at The Field Museum, Chicago, I have just (July 2014) completed archaeological and geological fieldwork in Papua New Guinea focused on Holocene-Pleistocene coastal reconstruction and human occupation along the north coast.
  • Archaeological Research Blog: Tropical Pacific Archaeology

Teaching | Current

ANTHRO 306 Pacific Archaeology 

ANTHRO 700A/B Method and Theory in Archaeology

Postgraduate supervision

  • Selected Current and Past BA Honours topics supervised: classification analysis of New Zealand pa sites, analysis of Fijian artefacts (ceramics, adzes), analysis of Fijian shellfish, seriation of Polynesian ritual architecture, analysis of Lapita site environments.
  • Selected Current and Past MA topics supervised/co-supervised: evolutionary analyses of ancient populatoins in West Asia, Arabia, and the Pacific; GIS and spatial analyses of surface architecture in Fiji and Samoa; linguistics in Oceanic archaeology; classification of Lapita pottery; geometric-morphometric/quantitative analysis of Lapita adzes; ceramic change in Remote Oceania
  • Current PhD students: Joshua Emmitt, “Identifying change in settlement and economy in middle Holocene Egypt through ceramic analysis” (co-supervisor with Simon Holdaway).

I am eager to supervise students interested in: the application of evolutionary theory to human cultural change; the prehistory of Fiji, West Polynesia, and Micronesia; or Oceanic ceramics. I believe postgraduate supervision should include shared work between student and teacher to produce a well-trained researcher and high-quality collaborative research.


  • PhD Adviser, Anthropology
  • Coordinator for the BSc Anthropological Sciences degree

Areas of expertise

Pacific Island Archaeology, Fijian, Samoan and Micronesian Archaeology, Archaeological Theory and Method, Evolutionary Theory, Archaeologial Science, Ancient Ceramics

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Cochrane, E. E., & Mills, J. (2018). LiDAR imagery confirms extensive interior land-use on Tutuila, American Sāmoa. Journal of Pacific Archaeology, 9 (1), 70-78.
  • Morrison, A. E., Cochrane, E. E., Rieth, T., & Horrocks, M. (2018). Archaeological and sedimentological data indicate Lapita settlement on a newly formed coastal plain: Tavua Island, Mamanuca Group, Fiji. The Holocene, 28 (1), 44-55. 10.1177/0959683617714599
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Mark Horrocks
  • Goff, J., Golitko, M., Cochrane, E., Curnoe, D., Williams, S., & Terrell, J. (2017). Reassessing the environmental context of the Aitape Skull – The oldest tsunami victim in the world?. PLoS One, 12 (10)10.1371/journal.pone.0185248
  • Cochrane, E. E. (2017). The evolution of migration: The case of Lapita in the Southwest Pacific. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 25 (2), 520-558. 10.1007/s10816-017-9345-z
  • Kane, H. H., Fletcher, C. H., Cochrane, E. E., Mitrovica, J. X., Habel, S., & Barbee, M. (2017). Coastal plain stratigraphy records tectonic, environmental, and human habitability changes related to sea-level drawdown, ‘Upolu, Sāmoa. Quaternary Research, 87 (2), 246-257. 10.1017/qua.2017.2
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/33686
  • Quintus, S., & Cochrane, E. E. (2017). Pre-Contact Samoan cultivation practices in regional and theoretical perspective. The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology10.1080/15564894.2017.1285835
  • Tennyson, A. D. J., Rieth, T. M., & Cochrane, E. E. (2017). Bird remains from an early archaeological site on Tutuila Island, Sāmoa. Proceedings of the 9th International SAPE Meeting Diamante, Argentina.
  • Mattison, S. M., Smith, E. A., Shenk, M. K., & Cochrane, E. E. (2016). The evolution of inequality. Evolutionary Anthropology, 25 (4), 184-199. 10.1002/evan.21491
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/33684


Contact details

Primary office location

Level 7, Room 720
New Zealand

Web links