"Historical Archaeology, Contact, and Colonialism in Oceania"

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Citation: Flexner, James L. (2014) "Historical Archaeology, Contact, and Colonialism in Oceania". Journal of Archaeological Research. 22 (1): 43-87. (RSS)
Internet Archive Scholar (search for fulltext): "Historical Archaeology, Contact, and Colonialism in Oceania"


This article explores how the indigenous people in Oceania face the colonialism in past five centuries and their experiences by examining the archaeological evidence and written documents. The author tried to break the binary oppositions that tend to structure enquiry in historical archaeology and focus on the processes of cultural change and experience in situations of colonialism. He proposed to integrate longer-term perspective, for example, from the first interaction with outsider or trade network to recent colonization, in order to study the cultural development of Europeans and indigenous groups. Based on the long-term perspective and corss-cultural analyses of colonialism, he examined the transformations in ecology, landscapes, settlement pattern, architecture, social space, and other material culture, and political economy in local context. In addition to archaeological evidence, he also considered the oral traditions together to interpret the material culture. Besides, we should also consider the dynamic local context when interpret the artifacts which related to early cross-cultural exchange. Some case studies indicate that there is no clear line between local and introduced artifacts (p67). He thinks the historical archaeology will be helpful to define the identities of the people who used the materials in the past.