Obsidian distribution from a Lapita cemetery sheds light on its value to past societies

Constantine, Anne, Reepmeyer, Christian, Bedford, Stuart, Spriggs, Matthew, and Ravn, Mads (2015) Obsidian distribution from a Lapita cemetery sheds light on its value to past societies. Archaeology in Oceania, 50 (2). pp. 111-116.

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Abstract

The Teouma site on Efate Island in Vanuatu is unique in the Pacific, as it enables us to analyse an archaeological assemblage in relation to discrete activity areas of burial and settlement at the time of initial settlement of the archipelago. Geochemical sourcing of obsidian in combination with a basic technological analysis help us to understand whether differences exist between burial zones and settlement middens. The results show that the distribution of obsidian was not directly associated with individual burials and does not unambiguously correlate with specific activity areas, thus questioning the hypothesis that obsidian transportation was linked to the increase in individual status. It is argued that the evidence adds further weight to those models that interpret the function of obsidian as being associated with past social transactions or relationships, rather than having any enduring or intrinsic value as a wealth-enhancing commodity.

Item ID: 39451
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1834-4453
Keywords: Pacific archaeology, obsidian, Lapita cemetery, population origins and movements, social values
Funders: Australian Research Council
Projects and Grants: ARC DE130100046, ARC FT0990591, ARC DP0880789
Date Deposited: 21 Jul 2015 03:08
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2101 Archaeology > 210106 Archaeology of New Guinea and Pacific Islands (excl New Zealand) @ 80%
21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2101 Archaeology > 210102 Archaeological Science @ 20%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950599 Understanding Past Societies not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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