Australian Museum Journal Oral tradition and the creation of Late Prehistory in Roviana Lagoon, Solomon Islands. In A Pacific Odyssey: Archaeology and Anthropology in the Western Pacific. Papers in Honour of Jim Specht

Shortform:
Sheppard, 2004, Rec. Aust. Mus., Suppl. 29: 123–132
Author(s):
Sheppard, Peter J.; Walter, Richard; Aswani, Shankar
Year published:
2004
Title:
Oral tradition and the creation of Late Prehistory in Roviana Lagoon, Solomon Islands. In A Pacific Odyssey: Archaeology and Anthropology in the Western Pacific. Papers in Honour of Jim Specht
Serial title:
Records of the Australian Museum, Supplement
Volume:
29
Start page:
123
End page:
132
DOI:
10.3853/j.0812-7387.29.2004.1408
Language:
English
Date published:
19 May 2004
Cover date:
19 May 2004
ISBN:
ISBN 0-9750476-2-0 (printed), ISBN 0-9750476-3-9 (online)
ISSN:
0812-7387
CODEN:
RAMSEZ
Publisher:
The Australian Museum
Place published:
Sydney, Australia
Subjects:
ANTHROPOLOGY
Digitized:
19 May 2004
Available online:
19 May 2004
Reference number:
1408
EndNote package:
EndNote file
Title page:
Title page (12kb PDF)
Complete work:
Complete work (737kb PDF)

Abstract

The use of oral tradition or oral history in archaeology is often a contentious issue. In this paper we briefly review methodological issues surrounding the use of such data and follow this with a case study using our research into the last 1,000 years of prehistory in Roviana Lagoon (New Georgia Group, Solomon Islands). We argue that it is not possible to generalize cross-culturally about the historicity of oral tradition/history. However, in the Roviana case, careful use of ethnohistory and archaeology together indicates that: (a) Roviana oral history is linear; (b) there is a close relationship between genealogical age and radiocarbon age; and (c) the modern uses of the oral tradition by Roviana provide a theory of their use in the past. We conclude that the model for the formation of the Roviana Chiefdom which emerges from the working back and forth between archaeology and ethnohistory has much more explanatory power than one based on either source of data by itself.