Maritime, coastal and inland societies in Island Melanesia: the bush-saltwater divide in Solomon Islands and Vanuatu

Roe, D. (2000) Maritime, coastal and inland societies in Island Melanesia: the bush-saltwater divide in Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. In: O'Connor, S., and Veth, P., (eds.) East of Wallace's Line: Studies of past and present maritime cultures of the Indo-Pacific region. Modern Quaternary Research in Southeast Asia, 16 . AA Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands, pp. 197-222.

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[Extract] A feature of the ethnographically known settlement patterning on many of the larger islands of Solomon Islands and Vanuatu (see Figs 1 and 2) is a distinction between inland and coastal communities. This is an indigenous distinction, 'not something imposed on the facts by outside observers, but a fundamental part of the peoples' own world-view' (Ross1973: 72-73). Identified in Melanesian pidgin as 'man bus' and 'mansolwara' (bush vs. saltwater people), these apparently ecologically distinguished groups are described also by vernacular terms which denote the geographical locations of their main areas of activity.

Using data from archaeological surveys and excavations, oral testimonies and a selection of the available ethnographies, this chapter aims to provide a brief and generalized survey of some of the ways in which coastal and inland communities in the Solomons and Vanuatu are distinguished and interact. Through this necessarily restricted review, the meaning of the terms 'inland', 'coastal' and 'maritime', as applied to settlement groupings and their respective economies, are shown to be more complex than might usually be acknowledged. In characterizing these different groupings it becomes apparent that there are significant implications for the interpretation of the archaeological record of the maritime societies of the western Pacific. This applies equally to their identification, the investigation of their mechanisms of interaction with other kinds of societies and the antiquity of their establishment. Indeed, the general lack of archaeological evidence for the genesis and nature of the bush-saltwater divide, suggests that a research agenda that seeks to address these issues is long-overdue, despite a call for such an approach some 20 years ago (Keesing 1981). This review is intended as a preliminary enquiry into the bush-saltwater divide, including the nature of' maritimeness ', based on somewhat inadequate archaeological and ethnographic evidence.

Item ID: 14277
Item Type: Book Chapter (Research - B1)
ISBN: 90-5809-319-0
Keywords: archaeology; coastal; maritime archaeology
Date Deposited: 16 Aug 2017 00:23
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2101 Archaeology > 210110 Maritime Archaeology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950599 Understanding Past Societies not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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