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Institute of Advanced Study

Professor Atholl Anderson

IAS Fellow at Collingwood College, Durham University (October - December 2007)

Professor Atholl Anderson holds the establishment chair of prehistory in the Institute of Advanced Studies at the Australian National University. He has degrees in geography, anthropology and archaeology including PhD and ScD in the latter from the University of Cambridge, where he was a Commonwealth Scholar. He taught for many years at Otago University, New Zealand, where he held a personal chair before moving to the ANU in 1993. He has held visiting fellowships at Clare Hall and Corpus Christi College (Cambridge), and at the University of the Ryukus (Okinawa), and Visiting and Research Fellowships (University of Tokyo) of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. He has been an exchange fellow of the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts and Letters, a Fulbright Visiting Scholar to the University of Hawaii, a James Cook Research Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand and a Leverhulme Visiting Professor at the University of York.

Anderson's main research area is in the prehistoric colonisation of oceanic islands, primarily in the Indo-Pacific region. In pursuit of this he has directed archaeological projects in many islands, including both Christmas islands (Indian and Pacific oceans), the Batanes (Phillipines), Yaeyamas (Japan), Palau, New Caledonia, Fiji, Tonga, Niue, the Society, Austral and Gambier islands of French Polynesia, the Juan Fernandez group, the Galapagos islands and throughout the greater New Zealand archipelago. His particular interests have been in the structure and chronology of initial human colonisation, in the nature of seafaring, in the human impact on island environments and in the ethnohistory of the southern Maori (he is currently an adjunct professor of history at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand). His books include, Prodigious Birds: moas and moahunting in prehistoric New Zealand (1989), and The Welcome of Strangers: an ethnohistory of southern Maori (1998), and amongst numerous monographs, Beech Forest Hunters (1991), Traditional Lifeways of the Southern Maori (1994), The Prehistoric Archaeology of Norfolk Island (2001), The Archaeology of Niue Island (2002), and in press, The early prehistory of Fiji.

Professor Anderson has served on the editorial boards of Mankind, Archaeology in Oceania, Journal of Anthropological Science, Archaeofauna, International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology and Cultural Landscapes. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand, the Australian Academy of the Humanities and the Society of Antiquaries and has been awarded the Stephenson Percy Smith, Elsdon Best and Federation medals and Companionship of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

He is working currently on the development of seafaring during the Holocene and during his time at the IAS he will be looking in particular at the way in which seafaring has been conceived and modelled in relation to the prehistoric colonisation of islands.


IAS Fellow's Public Lecture - The origins and significance of prehistoric sailing

Prehistoric seafaring, worldwide, can be divided into two main phases; before and after the advent of sailing. By opening the way to long-range voyaging, sailing hugely enlarged and re-shaped the global maritime landscape with important consequences for human migration, cultural interaction and mercantile expansion. This lecture discusses where and when, how and with what consequences, sailing developed in global prehistory. Attention is directed first to seafaring without sails and then to the technological changes that characterize sailing and how they might have come about, using as an example, northern Europe. Considered next is the important question of whether sailing arose initially in only one or a few places and was thereafter dispersed, or occurred through a series of independent transitions. The virtual absence of prehistoric sailing in the Americas is pertinent here. Discussion then turns to the contexts in which sailing arose. One question is whether its deployment was affected by long-term patterns of climatic change, discussed here in reference to Indo-Pacific migration. Another is the relationship of sailing to population growth and the economic and social changes associated with Neolithic transformation. Considered last are the origins of a long-range maritime trading system across the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia, which drew together by the sea, as had trade overland, the Eurasian centres of commerce, and which thus foreshadowed the subsequent development of globalisation.


Professor Atholl Anderson Publications

Anderson, A 'The Origins and Development of Seafaring: Towards a Global Approach', in Anderson, A., Barrett, J., Boyle, K (eds) The Global Origins and Development of Seafaring. McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research: Oxbow Books

Anderson, A 'Traditionalism, Interaction, and Long-Distance Sefaring in Polynesia', The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology, 3(2), pp 240-250


IAS Insights Paper

Abstract

The nature of prehistoric, long-distance Polynesian seafaring has been debated for centuries, primarily because it was never witnessed by Europeans and left almost no traces beyond the colonization of far-flung islands. The dominant mode of understanding has been ‘traditionalism', an appeal to information about vessels, navigation and voyages contained in supposedly-authentic Polynesian traditions that came to light during the nineteenth century. More recently, neo-traditionalism, which relies upon even more recent ethnography and experimental sailing, has supplanted its older form. Here, I criticize several cases of traditionalism in modern research on Polynesian prehistory, arguing that in one it has disguised a scholarly error and that in another it is illogical. Prehistoric Polynesian seafaring will continue to defy close analysis, but cogency could be expected to improve by abandoning the traditionalist research agenda in favour of explicit historical analysis, continued archaeological research and a broadly-based form of simulation modeling.

Insights Paper