Archaeological evidence provides dated contexts for Samoan cultivation practices and land use patterns over the past circa 3000 years, with attention to the traits that were potentially incorporated in the transported landscape of the earliest colonists in East Polynesia in the first millennium A.D. Artificial slope modifications, mulching, hedgerows, and stone planting rings are among the numerous yet largely unnoticed material remains of traditional Samoan cultivation practices. The results of this study lay a solid foundation for understanding long-term trends in land use patterns and the evolution of food production systems in Polynesia and perhaps elsewhere.
This paper discusses the recent use of pottery stoves by the Sama (Bajau) who have a strong sea-based subsistence economy, including boat-dwelling and fishing. Pottery stoves or portable earthenware hearths form part of the basic material culture of the Sama’s sea-based life, and even in modern times, the Sama still make and use pottery stoves, even though the practice has largely been abandoned elsewhere. The paper focuses on the production and distribution of pottery stoves and their daily use with reference to the food consumption and subsistence patterns of the Sama in Semporna District, east coast of Borneo. The survey reveals that, while it is difficult to prove a direct relationship between them, there appears to be a mutual relationship between the use of pottery stoves and having a sea-based subsistence. The study confirms that the use of pottery stoves mainly correlates with a preference for specific foods and cooking methods, but also with geographical, social, and economic factors within the context of the modern Sama in the research area.
An archaeological reconnaissance was conducted on Tobi Island, a raised coral island southwest of the main Palau archipelago in Micronesia, in 2003. Linguistic studies show that the aboriginal language of Tobi belongs to the Micronesian subgroup, suggesting past cultural affinities. Historical background information for the island is reviewed and results of the reconnaissance, including test excavations, are presented. Most artifacts were made of shell, comprising such types as adzes, scrapers, a bead, fishhooks, lures, and ring ornaments. Additionally, coral files and fishhooks made of turtle carapace were documented. Food remains in the test excavations included chicken and other birds, rat, marine turtle, fish, and shellfish. Two radiocarbon dates place occupation of the island at least by the A.D. 1400s to 1500s. Contrary to the usual pattern found in Micronesia, no archaeological remains suggest external contact with the main Palau archipelago or other high islands during prehistoric times. The relatively extensive taro wetlands in Tobi’s interior plus its abundant marine resources may account for this difference.
Until recently, kava, a psychoactive drink used in the Pacific region, was unknown in Kiribati, where the plant cannot grow given the severe ecological conditions of atolls; but in recent years, kava has rapidly become a popular beverage there. Kiribati people have incorporated kava into their daily activities, transforming a foreign drinking habit into one that is acceptable to them. The process of its introduction has moreover transformed their daily lives. In this paper, I discuss the reasons why kava-drinking has been readily accepted in Kiribati, comparing the situation with the cases of other Pacific Islands where people have cultivated and consumed it as a beverage. It is certain that the communal aspect of kava-drinking is significant in most places where it is imbibed, recently including Kiribati. For Kiribati people, kava-drinking has become familiar under the imagined Pacific socio-cultural commensurability that has been constructed in the course of their history, in contrast to the incommensurable West.
This study focuses on the Micronesian marching dance, a widespread post-European contact dance form in the region, and examines its neglected origin and multi-layered history based on written documents, oral traditions, linguistic data, and comparative analysis of contemporary performances and music. We identify as its birthplace the Marshall Islands, where, around 1900, these islanders’ tradition of war dances and a Western symbol of war—marching—and probably also Western dances introduced by Christian missionaries were combined. During the period of the German administration in the early 1900s, the dance was introduced directly to the neighboring Pohnpei area. A large-scale diffusion of the marching dance took place in Nauru among the men from eastern Micronesia and Chuuk who mined phosphate there. Subsequently, Chuukese spread the dance to the miners from the western Carolines in Angaur; and, almost simultaneously, over 400 Pohnpeian exiles from the 1910–1911 uprising spread it to Palauans. In this dissemination process, various foreign elements were adopted, such as, probably in Nauru, the German military’s goose-step and drill commands that transformed the dance, and the beginning of the islanders’ indigenizing based on the traditional dances and cultural norms of their own islands. During the Japanese administration, the popularity of the marching dance reached a peak, with a reintroduction of foreign (Japanese and Japanese–Western) elements of music and dance through colonial policies, especially school education, and introduction of Japanese popular music and folk culture through Japanese migrants to the area, most conspicuously in western Micronesia. An east–west difference in indigenization— conservative eastern Micronesians (except for Marshallese) and innovative western Micronesians—accords with our musical analysis of dance song materials. Further, we argue that indigenization has been an active process of creating islanders’ identities, and that the dance is a multi-layered historical product which imbeds their colonial experiences.