‘A tale of Polynesian Prehistory’: investigating the history of Polynesian archaeology, in French Polynesia’s archival records, collections and personal histories

A few weeks (oops…months, really?!) ago, I was awarded a Traveling Fellowship from the Australian Academy of the Humanities, that will help CBAP fund my upcoming research trip to French Polynesia early next year.

As stated in my research proposal for the AAH Fellowship:

‘During the first two years of my five years postdoctoral program I have conducted fieldwork in New Caledonia, Vanuatu and France, but still have to travel to French Polynesia to examine the sources disseminated in various institutions, mainly in Tahiti. The first part of my research has revealed the important contributions of several authors in the development of francophone Polynesian archaeology active in the islands of French Polynesia between the end of 19th century and the 1960s. For many of them, there was only sparse archival material in the French institutions I recently visited, while local Tahitian ones have the potential to hold more related resources.
The proposed research project aims at visiting these various institutions to examine the archival records and/or collections related to these authors or to more general aspects of the development of archaeology in the archipelago. It also aims at conducting interviews with some of the key figures of Tahitian and Polynesian archaeology, and at working in collaboration with local colleagues from the field of archaeology and cultural heritage management.’

This will provide important first hand data to construct a detailed history of French Polynesian archaeology, building on the foundations laid out by such works as those in Garanger, J. 1982. Petite Histoire d’un Préhistoire: celle des Polynésiens. Journal de la Société des Océanistes, 38 (74): 47-55; Conte, E. 2000. L’archéologie en Polynésie française. Esquisse d’un bilan critique. Papeete: Editions Au Vent des îles;  Kirch, P. 2000. On the Road of the Winds: An Archaeological History of the Pacific Islands before European Conquest. Berkeley: University of California Press; or Sand, C. 2004. The input of francophone archaeological research in the Pacific. A short summary. The Journal of Pacific Studies, 27 (1): 1–12.


(image from Tautain 1895, in l’Anthropologie, available on Gallica.fr)


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