The earliest European explorations in the Pacific region sparked speculation about the origins of Pacific Islanders. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, several archaeological studies were made in Polynesia, Micronesia, Island Melanesia, Australia, and New Guinea. Matthew Spriggs will discuss the findings of a five-year project to understand the early history of Pacific archaeology and its contributions to our understanding of human settlement in the region.
Related exhibition: Uncovering Pacific Pasts
Matthew Spriggs, Laureate Fellow and Professor of Archaeology, Australian National University, Australia
Introduced by Ingrid Ahlgren, Curator of Oceanic Collections, Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology, Harvard University
[00:00:03.36] It's also an especially valued moment for myself and the museum, as it is Dr. Spriggs's work and his laureate project at the University that directly led to the development of the Uncovering Pacific Pasts exhibit that just opened, that Jane mentioned a moment ago. It's co-curated by myself and Dr. Tristan Jones, who's a research assistant on a project, as well as with research contributions of another, ANU scholar, William Scates Frances.
[00:00:33.87] And this Uncovering Pacific Pasts exhibit is part of a much, much larger international exhibition that's going on that explores the ideas, the people, the networks that were pivotal in the development of the discipline of archaeology, and that continue to affect the ways in which we all engage with the deep history of the Pacific.
[00:00:53.33] There's an impressive over 30 different institutions across the world that are contributing to this global exhibition, from the Solomon Islands to Stockholm and New Zealand. And each institution, each museum, each exhibit gets an opportunity to tell their own part of the story that reveals the interconnected history of these objects, these collections, that have been interpreted and reinterpreted by collectors, by anthropologists, by archaeologists in the past and ongoing today.
[00:01:23.94] And this global exhibition, I should say, is really just one of the products, if you want to call it a product, that's come out of Dr. Spriggs's five-year laureate program, which is called "Collective Biography of Archaeology in the Pacific," which aims to reflect upon and rewrite the history of archaeology in the region and its links to earlier social and linguistic anthropology.
[00:01:44.67] And in my humble opinion, investigations like these are really particularly critical in these times, as we consider and we reconsider the role of anthropology museums. And they provide an opportunity for us to think about our own intellectual histories, our knowledge inheritance and ideas that essentially get passed down to us. They're almost like these genealogies that we need to interrogate and reckon with.
[00:02:10.56] And for some of you, Harvard may perhaps be an unexpected player in the history of oceanic anthropology, but it shouldn't be. It was the first institution in the United States to offer a course on Pacific ethnology, and prior to that, led many scientific expeditions to the region. And if you unravel just a couple of those threads, you reveal a much earlier legacy of contact in the Pacific that dates back to the 1780s, when post-revolutionary Massachusetts and New England settlers were adventuring out into the South Seas and Northwest coast and the shores of Canton or Guangzhou in their efforts to repair the American economy and test out expansionist desires.
[00:02:52.08] At Harvard, very specifically, the Peabody Museum and the anthropology, when they were first developed and designed in 1860s, were really developed to kind of investigate the origins of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas. But very large and significant collections from the Pacific immediately flooded the doors of this museum. And it really is those collections and the people that studied them that have played an integral role into the development of the discipline.
[00:03:18.14] From very early on, you got philosophers, thinkers, scholars that are obsessed with how these seemingly remote and vastly separated islands could've been populated. So you have these people swapping theories, methods, musings, sending articles, letters, and materials across continents to discuss this very theory, "the problem of Polynesia," as sometimes it's called.
[00:03:38.43] And so sitting within museum walls, they inspired each other to advance science by examining material objects and cultural traits. So while this particular exhibit that some of you will come and see, either tonight or in the future, it doesn't feature material from archaeological collections and excavations, but it does highlight the thinkers and the debates over things like diffusion and evolution that were the precursors to what we now call modern archaeology.
[00:04:04.98] And this intellectual history, this genealogy of ideas and practices and their players and figures is really a big part of what Dr. Spriggs's work over the past decade has been all about. In fact, one of his most recent articles is delightfully entitled "Everything you've been told about the history of Australian archaeology is wrong," and it directly interrogates how we've invented and perpetuated an inaccurate version of the discipline's history, one that forges a divide between skull-collecting misadventures of amateurs and those of professionals, and often ignores the contributions of the breadth of early researchers, including Indigenous peoples that were integral to this work.
[00:04:43.47] Now Matthew Spriggs is undoubtedly in the camp of professional archaeologists, not an amateur by any means. He's worked in this discipline region for over 45 years. He's a Brit by birth. He's Cambridge-educated, "the real Cambridge," as he likes to say. But he received his doctorate in the Southern Hemisphere, at the Australian National University, my own alma mater. And it is where he continues to now serve as the professor of archaeology.
[00:05:11.73] His doctoral research, a few decades ago, investigated traditional taro irrigation in Vanuatu, which directly led to some revival projects, which is pretty exciting. He will tell you-- he will point out that his first job after graduating was actually here in the United States, at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. He spent about six years there before giving up on us Americans and heading back to Australia.
[00:05:37.44] Over the decades, many decades now, he's worked in the Pacific Islands and Southeast Asia, having undertaken many archaeological research projects in Indonesia, East Timor, New Guinea, Bismarck Archipelago, Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Hawai'i, and of course, Vanuatu, a place that he calls home part time and acts as the honorary curator at the Vanuatu Cultural Center, and where he was recently awarded a Distinguished Service Medal just last year, the third highest honor in Vanuatu, the order of Vanuatu. And which, of course, I've been told if Vanuatu carried on with the British honor system from their colonial past, we would all be calling him "Sir Matthew." So you can keep that in mind when you direct questions to him later.
[00:06:21.57] Now Matthew, with over 250 publications, his research has significantly advanced the field of Pacific archaeology, and in particular, our understanding of the Lapita Cultural Complex from the group of seafaring ancestors that settled the region, which I imagine Matthew will touch upon today, perhaps.
[00:06:40.08] I must say, it's been an honor and a joy to get to know Matthew personally over the past few years and to swap stories from our shared fervor for this discipline and the region. His academic rigor is matched only by his wit. And I should note, he's no stranger to Harvard. He's conducted research here several times and has, therefore, a direct intellectual genealogical link to the forebears that are actually featured in this exhibit.
[00:07:04.02] His mentor was Dr. Roger Green, who was taught by Douglas Oliver. Douglas Oliver was a Harvard student and professor here, who followed directly in the footsteps of a man named Roland B. Dixon, who was the first person to teach Pacific ethnology here. Douglas Oliver is also the last curator of oceanic collections before myself. So Matthew, whether you like it or not, we are, in a way, family. And I'm like your weird second cousin.
[00:07:32.98] So much of his recent work reflects on these intellectual histories that I've been talking about, interrogating what we know and what theories we've inherited. Over the past five years, that has taken the form of this large international project, as well as other collaborations here at Harvard. Together with geneticist David Reich, most recently, they've been recovering and analyzing ancient DNA from the region. And this work has revised and refined the history of migration in the Pacific and has been featured in many major publications, including Nature.
[00:08:02.34] And so, as one of most prolific and well-respected archaeologists in the region, we are truly in for a treat tonight. And so without further ado, please join me in warmly welcoming Dr. Matthew Spriggs.
[00:08:20.28] OK. I should say, first of all, [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]
[00:08:25.80] Now I say this-- it's just saying "Good evening, folks," in my wife's language of Raga of North Pentecost. I say it partly to get us into a Pacific mood and have some Pacific language, and also because I'm sure this is the first time in Harvard's history that the language Raga of North Pentecost has been heard in public in a lecture theater. So it's a great thing for Vanuatu.
[00:08:55.26] Now I'll give an outline of my talk, because it kind of wanders around a bit. I thought, first of all, that I will need to explain-- I'm not going to give you a lecture about Pacific archaeology and its results. But I need to explain particularly about the Lapita culture, which Ingrid mentioned, before I get onto the actual project, because we keep referring back to it in the rest of the talk.
[00:09:21.18] As she mentioned, my project, the "Collective Biography of Archaeology in the Pacific," involves various aspects to it, and one is the Uncovering Pacific Pasts exhibits, one of which, as you've heard mentioned, is here at Harvard. Then I wanted to really give just an example-- it's not exactly a random example; it's one of the better ones I've been able to find-- of kind of reading against the grain, looking at the history of Pacific archaeology but finding out that the story that has been told of it is often not actually what was going on.
[00:09:57.39] And a classic example that I found related to Edward Gifford's 1947 expedition to Fiji-- he was at University of California at Berkeley-- and I realized in reading through the notes and the archives, and with a bit of knowledge of general Pacific history, that his entire expedition had been directed by native Fijians, and he had no idea that this was the case. That's why I called that "covert control" of Edward Gifford's expedition.
[00:10:30.66] This leads on to the discussion of someone who was involved in that expedition, an Indigenous archaeologist and his legacy, a man called Ratu Rabici Logavatu. And towards the end, we meet the Logavatu family, as I did a few months ago. And then also, I just wanted to mention a few potential future projects and collaborations in the field of the history of Pacific archaeology that people at Harvard may hopefully be involved in as we carry this project forward.
[00:11:07.80] Now the Lapita culture of 3,000 years ago is basically the extension eastwards of the island's Southeast Asian Neolithic, bringing pottery and a whole range of new material culture into the region. And one of the most notable things about it is that it's a culture which 3,000 years ago bridged geographical Melanesia and Polynesia. So it stretches from the Bismarck Archipelago and the neighboring coast of Papua New Guinea and is found out as far as Tonga, Samoa, and Wallis and Futuna.
[00:11:40.83] Beyond the main Solomon Islands, the area there near Oceania, Lapita represents the first people out into the Pacific. So Lapita are very much the ancestors of, certainly, in island of Melanesia, places like Vanuatu and New Caledonia, and into Polynesia, the ancestors of all current Pacific Islanders in those regions. Micronesia is a bit more complicated. That would be a whole other talk.
[00:12:09.54] But Lapita is a wonderful culture for an archaeologist, because you can recognize if you're on a Lapita culture site if you find a piece of pottery that's the size of your fingernail, because it has this very distinctive decoration. You can see there some examples from the island of Watom, which is in the Bismarck Archipelago, dug up in 1909 by a past Catholic priest, Father Otto Meyer.
[00:12:34.94] And it's very distinctively decorated using tooth stamps which were impressed into the clay. And you never see this style of pottery ever again in the Pacific. So you just need one tiny piece, and you could say, yep, we're about 3,000 years old here. And there aren't many parts of the world where you can really pin things down very closely. So that's Lapita pottery.
[00:12:58.47] And much of the history of Pacific archaeology-- because the Lapita culture, being the founding culture of parts of island Melanesia and of Polynesia is obviously an important part of the story of the settlement of the Pacific. And in part, we've been tracking with the project how this idea of the Lapita culture developed.
[00:13:21.17] Again, you read things about it which are probably not quite true. It is true that there was a site called Lapita, and it was excavated by our friend Edward Gifford, again, in 1952, in New Caledonia. But nobody actually called the Lapita culture until sometime around 1964.
[00:13:42.65] And nobody knows who first came up with it as a concept. I'm still tracking it down, but in itself, it's something we all know--yeah, many people in the Pacific, you ask them, have you heard of the Lapita culture? Yeah, of course I have. But OK, well, who first called it the Lapita culture? We don't actually know. So that is enough on that.
[00:14:05.34] But our project, why did we start doing this? Although the history of archaeology across the-- in places like Europe or in the Americas, has been-- a lot of people have done research on it. But in the Pacific, this is not the case. It's been a strange sort of lack.
[00:14:25.94] I think the New Zealanders, they've kind of done a-- there's histories they've written of the development of archaeology in New Zealand. But they're rather parochial, a bit like some of the histories of Australia in archaeology. They just stay within their country. And very little has actually been done trying to synthesize how the story that we understand today of Pacific settlement was put together, and who put it together.
[00:14:49.68] So in a way, I was setting out to create what's almost a new subfield within Pacific archaeology, which is an appreciation of its history. And part of the aim that I had there was to really look at our current theories-- where did they come from?-- and evaluate them. Also, although there hasn't been much history of Pacific archaeology, there are many histories social anthropology, sociocultural anthropology, where the Pacific features extremely strongly in them.
[00:15:26.04] And part of what I realized is that if you read the early histories of sociocultural anthropology, often based on early anthropologists who worked in the Pacific, the people who are being held up as the great ancestors of sociocultural anthropologists are as much the ancestors of the archaeologists who work in the Pacific. Many of them were ethnologists before there was kind of sociocultural anthropology or archaeology in forms in which we understand it today. So doing a lot of this stuff, it kind of is sort of rewriting, reminding the anthropologists that some of their story is also our story. But when you read their histories, we're just not there as archaeologists.
[00:16:10.84] Also, it was mentioned, my rather polemical article that I published from this last week-- "Everything You've Been Told about the history of Australian Archaeology Is Wrong." But I didn't start off to write that article. I started off to write an article that was trying to get away from the parochial nature of the history of Australian archaeology, which quite a bit has been written, and to point out that many of these early archaeologists who worked in Australia also worked in the Pacific as well, or island Southeast Asia.
[00:16:42.75] But then I found that, actually, the whole way that we've discussed the history of the development of archaeology in Australia has been wrong, not least really writing out of that history the heavy involvement of Indigenous people from at least 1830 onwards in the development of the theories and the interpretations of Australian archaeology. So we've done a bit on that.
[00:17:07.08] And then also, I didn't want it to be the dead white Anglo-Saxon male history of Pacific archaeology. So the two postdocs that I hired, one is a Francophone, and the other is a German-speaking scholar. And so I wanted to bring in the contribution of people from countries which are not called the United States, Australia, or England. And I think that's something we've attempted to do.
[00:17:36.11] And several of these little illustrations here, this is a-- let's see. Let's get this right. Is that right? Several of these illustrations are, in fact, from the one I've just-- you can see there from the New Hebrides. This is a stratigraphic diagram that was done in 1889 by a man called Gustav Glenmore, probably the earliest example of stratigraphic analysis done in Melanesia.
[00:18:07.19] Down below, we have Otto Finsch there, and he was excavating sites in Hawai'i in the 1870s. Again, you won't read about this in the history books yet. And I just had that one, the "Building of British social anthropology" is really just an example of the kind of works that socialist anthropologists write, which I think are really a sort of false history. And I couldn't resist sticking up Edward Gifford's-- his driving license from New Caledonia when he found the site of Lapita. His granddaughter allowed me to take a photograph of it in Chico, California.
[00:18:47.33] OK, now there's the other aims. I had a feeling that there'd actually been a lot more archaeology done in the Pacific than had been written about, or specialists had talked about. And in fact, there's a lot of archaeological excavation that's done from at least the 1870s onwards, until World War II. Usually, it's thought that excavation of sites in the Pacific really began after the war, and Edward Gifford is a key member of that team. But in fact, a lot of good work was being done and published, but perhaps not so much in English, before that time.
[00:19:23.58] Also, one thing we often find is that the collections are in one institution, but the field notes that relate to them are in another one. A classic example is Katherine Routledge, worked on Easter Island around 1914. And her field notes are in the Royal Geographical Society. And the artifacts that she collected are in the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford.
[00:19:45.30] And in Oxford, they labeled things like, "Site 10, six inches," which doesn't make any sense, unless you have access to the field notes that tell you where site 10 was and what was found in the level at six inches.
[00:19:59.74] Also, we're going to have a look at this perennial issue that comes up all the time that, ah, so wasn't the Pacific settled from South America, or even sometimes North America. And this has been a perennial issue. It was first raised-- well, it was actually raised by the Spanish chroniclers in the 16th century, who talked about expeditions of the Incas into the Pacific. But it really became popular after about 1803, but it's been a longstanding idea.
[00:20:30.87] Now I don't know if anyone knows who that chap is. Any idea? He's dressed very nicely. It's Thor Heyerdahl, who, of course, in 1947 sailed a balsa wood-- well, "sailed"-- he kind of drifted on a balsa wood raft and banged into the Tuamoto Islands. And we have to thank him. Even though all of his ideas were completely wrong, he inspired generations of people to work in the Pacific.
[00:20:56.60] And I remember when I was a little kid. I think my copy of one of these books, Aku-Aku, I think it was, about his expedition to Easter Island after the Kon-Tiki expedition itself, I think I got it when I was about 11 or something. It's got a date in it. So certainly, he's someone who inspired me, even though his ideas-- Polynesia was not actually settled from South America.
[00:21:22.73] Also, one of the things in the project was there didn't seem to be any women involved in Pacific archaeology. And of course, you think, that can't actually be true. And in fact, we have found evidence of lots of women in Pacific archaeology. One of my postdocs has now got on further postdoc particularly to concentrate on the role of women in Pacific archaeology. And there's Katherine Routledge there, who was very prominent in some of the early work on interpreting the settlement of the Pacific.
[00:21:54.47] And finally, also, I wanted to restore knowledge of the agency and contribution of Indigenous scholars and interlocutors. And here we have a man I've mentioned before, Ratu Rabici Logavatu from Fiji, who worked with Gifford. And his story is one that, apart from a line of acknowledgment in Gifford's 1951 monograph, was completely unknown until this project, even to his own family, who had no idea he'd been an archaeologist. But we shall get on to that.
[00:22:28.16] Part of what we've also done is we've been involved where it seemed appropriate to the institutions we were dealing with in repatriating collections. And these tend to be-- these aren't our old collections. They're collections where archaeologists went out to Pacific Islands, said they were going to return everything, but then kind of forgot about it for 40 or 50 years. So we've, in some cases, reminded the museums [CHUCKLES] that the actual permits that they originally had did involve returning the material.
[00:22:57.08] And this is at Simon Fraser University, where some very nice Malakula Vanuatu Naamboi pots-- and this was without any pressure, actually, from us at all. But their focus isn't really the Pacific, and their anthropology museum there, they just said, do you want these things? And we said absolutely. So Shutler's collections from his work in Vanuatu in '63 to about '68 have now all been returned to the Vanuatu National Museum.
[00:23:28.70] Also, we have been tracking down old and sometimes ill archaeologists, or even dead archaeologists, and extracting their archives from them or their families. And we have managed to build up-- save quite a few archives, some of which are going to places like the Vanuatu National Archives, where appropriate, or are being-- we have a dedicated Pacific archivist at the ANU, and we're building up a good collection of primary documentation field notes and such and photographs there, at the ANU, of past archaeologists.
[00:24:10.37] In fact, my whole project really started when a very old archaeologist, when the second oldest person to get a PhD at the ANU, he died, and there was a misunderstanding between people in the university and his family. And all of his field notes, 45 boxes, were taken to the tip and dumped. And that actually was one of the real inspirations for me to try and get some money to do this project, so it doesn't happen again. And we can just see some archivists and museum staff at the Vanuatu National Museum when I'm returning some books and documentation that we've been given by people during the project.
[00:24:57.38] OK, well, after five years of having a wonderful time, I'm afraid it's over. It's time to say goodbye. It finishes on the 31st of March, and then I'll have to find something else to do at the University. We have had-- we're meant to be having a Histories of Archaeology International Conference. Already, some people have had to withdraw because their countries, France in particular, simply won't let them travel. Whether it's going to happen, whether people will be sending perhaps videotaped papers, I don't know. Filipino colleagues, again, have been not allowed to come. So it's a bit of a disastrous time to be finishing a project and having international conferences. But what can you do?
[00:25:47.35] Also, we have a workshop planned, again, which may or may not happen, or may have to be delayed, particularly to convey to Pacific Island Museum and archives personnel the kind of resources that we've gathered together during the project and the kind of collaborations which are possible and which they may be interested in. And we are collaborating directly with many of these institutions through the Uncovering Pacific Pasts, with our exhibitions at a whole 35, 37, something like that, institutions in 19 countries around the world, which are all happening right now. And many of these are in the Pacific Islands, so we have been collaborating with them on that.
[00:26:37.09] These are just some of the wonderful people on the project. I won't name them all, but I've been basically running a team of 11 people with four PhD students, a couple of postdocs, various research associates. And it has been a wonderful five years. And there is a website where-- it's still under construction, but-- if you just type in uncoveringpacificpasts.org, you will get some information on most of the exhibitions that we've been having.
[00:27:15.31] And here's just a couple of examples. My trip here has been to visit three of the exhibitions, so I was privileged to be present at the installation of the exhibit at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu. That's Dr. Jillian Swift, who collaborated on it. And this was a particularly nice one for me, because it's an exhibition about a very early archaeologist, probably the first person in the Pacific who could be described as a professional archaeologist in terms of that was his main job, a man called JFG Stokes, who, of course, was an Australian, but lived much of his life in Hawai'i, and did a very key excavation on the island of Kahoolawe in the Hawaiian chain in 1913, 1914.
[00:28:03.49] And so the exhibits in each place are usually just one case. But when you add up 37 cases, that's quite a big exhibition. So around the world, it all adds up. So the story at the Bishop Museum was of him.
[00:28:21.21] Another one of the exhibitions, it's actually only a virtual exhibition, but it's at museums-- Victoria and Melbourne Museum in Australia. And there, they're exhibiting some of the Lapita pottery that I showed you in that earlier slide, the dentate stamp pottery. And I had the greatest difficulty getting ahold of people from this island of Watom, which is in the Bismarck Archipelago, off the island of New Britain.
[00:28:44.22] But finally, about a week ago, through a businessman from Watom, who's based in Papua New Guinea's capital, Port Moresby, but travels there frequently, I was able to connect with the community there, and I'll be working to make sure that they have as much information about the Watom and Lapita pottery collected by Father Meyer in 1909, and various people since, as people outside of Watom have.
[00:29:09.09] And so this is very nice, some pictures that Kepas Paon sent me last week and a statement from the Watom people that had a meeting after church, Sunday before last, and expressed their pride in having Lapita pottery having been found, one of the first places it was found, on their island, and also signaling that they'd like to know a lot more about it. So that's rather nice.
[00:29:35.76] There, my second stop was at Berkeley, the Hearst Museum. And again, it's a Lapita theme. This is the first Lapita pottery that was found in Fiji. And it was found after Gifford had left in 1947. It was found in 1948 by a local doctor called Lindsay Verrier and by Ratu Rabici Logavatu, again. And this is Dr. Adam Nilsen, who curated the exhibition.
[00:30:01.15] So it's about these few pottery chards that were found. Rabici was key because he had worked with Gifford on Gifford's other excavations. They never found any Lapita pottery. So he could say, this doesn't look like anything we ever found, and that led to a whole series of discoveries and discussions which really helped shape our current knowledge of the geographical distribution of Lapita. So again, it's just a single case, but a nice thing.
[00:30:30.96] OK, moving on to the next theme is really that, what did we find out that we didn't know before? Well, one of the things we found out was this very interesting case, probably the first major archaeological expedition after World War II in the Pacific, led by Edward Gifford, who was ended up-- he was a curator of what's now called the Hearst Museum in Berkeley, always accompanied by Delila. So this is a fairly constant theme.
[00:30:58.50] The archaeologists who will go there, their names are on all the books, but it looks like their wife's doing a lot of the work in it. Why are we surprised? But Delila, I really went looking for Delila in the archives, and she's very hard to find. It may just be that what she was doing was what she had done on all of these previous expeditions, including many in California, that she just lugged the equipment around. She took the photographs. So in his field notes, there's no need to say, "Delila took the photographs," because she always took the photographs and had been doing so for the last 30-plus years.
[00:31:36.15] But there's virtually no mention of her in his notes, let alone in his publications, apart from the usual perfunctory, thanks to my wife. She was a conchologist, a shell expert. And she also was doing her own stuff when she was there. She was collecting marine shells for various museums, California Academy of Sciences, and places like that. But she only gets her name on one publication during his entire life, and that was his work he did on Yap in Micronesia, his last published monograph. And that was because he died, and she had to see it to the press. And that's the only one that says, "Edward and Delila Gifford." So she finally did get her name on a publication.
[00:32:28.80] Now they were there in 1947. Basically, he goes to it. He excavates two sites, and both of these sites are absolutely key in oral traditions that really go to the heart of which clans own which particular piece of land in Fiji. And when you get into the archive, you see that, well, his publication, he's thanked a couple of people. Navatu is one of these key sites. He goes and excavates there, has deposits that go back about 2,000 years, so a bit after Lapita, another cycle, Vunda, which was a bit later.
[00:33:08.79] But both of these are very important in Fijian oral traditions. And he gives his acknowledgments. He thanks various people, the acting governor, Ratu Rabici, a picture of him standing at one of the excavations. This amazing man, of whom I knew very little before, Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna, and also Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna's deputy, Kingsley Roth, who is a noted anthropologist and came from an anthropological family of some renown.
[00:33:38.83] Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna was an absolutely incredible character. And in 1943, the height of the war, he persuades the governor of Fiji to completely change the administration of the colony. And basically, the British district officers are told to butt out of anything to do with native Fijians, and a parallel administration is set up. They called the native Fijian administration the Office of Natve Affairs, and Lala Sukuna runs it. And it's essentially a state within a state, and this lasts until Fiji's independence in 1970, so quite different than the usual idea of a colony being run by a bunch of white people.
[00:34:30.09] This guy is really running many things. He's vastly famous in Fiji. There's a park in Suva named after him. A friend of mine, Deryck Scarr, did a biography of him. And I love the quotation from Scarr of Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna. "He was just below God and the king, with only the governor intervening. As one who dealt authoritatively with land, he was practically a god himself." And he was really the secret king of Fiji during this time. He really ran the place.
[00:35:02.04] And he was an amazing character. He got a degree from Wadham College, Oxford, just before World War I. He tried to join the British Army, but on racial grounds, they wouldn't let him join. So he jumped over the channel, joined the French Foreign Legion. He won the Médaille Militaire. And if you read the citation, it would have won him a Victoria Cross if he had been in the-- the highest military honor in Britain.
[00:35:30.39] It's interesting that he was the first Fijian to graduate with a degree before World War I, because there were no others, apart from arguably some medical doctors, into the 1950s. And the reason that there were none between him and the 1950s was because he didn't want there to be anybody else with a university degree. He liked to be in charge.
[00:35:58.78] And eventually, it was some well-meaning local residents who raised the money for scholarships for native Fijians to attend universities in the 1950s. And they were the first generation of graduates. So he's a complex character.
[00:36:16.91] And his assistant was George Kingsley Roth, from the Roth family who are famous anthropologists. In the acknowledgments, he says, "Son of the anthropologists of Tasmanian fame, H. Ling Roth." I think H. Ling Roth's main fame in regard to Indigenous Tasmanians was that he never met one, but he wrote extensively about them from some source.
[00:36:42.81] Also when doing the research, I loved-- this seemed to me to be a very American kind of thing-- botanist Otto Degener's advice to Gifford. "May I suggest that if you do in Rome as the Romans do, namely, treat the natives like dirt the way the colonials do, they will shut up like clams. I treated them as equals and got the greatest cooperation. You can give my greetings to all of the above. But in the eyes of the imperialist, I was very much of a pest. Being an American, I can't help being democratic." So I thought it was a lovely piece from the archives.
[00:37:16.04] The point about Sukuna is that when you read all the notes, he's the one who tells Gifford to dig at Navatu. He's the one who suggests that Gifford dig at Vunda. And the reason he's doing it is that he has this idea that perhaps archaeology can solve the land problems and say who really owns the different parts of land. Well, of course, it can't, as every archaeologist knows. But it's a sort of folk belief in much of the Pacific that archaeologists somehow will dig up something with somebody's name on that shows that it's really my land and not their land.
[00:37:57.83] As soon as Sir Lala Sakuna realized that, in fact, archaeology's promise was not that good, it couldn't do what he thought it was going to be, what he thought it was going to do, he completely lost interest. And it's quite interesting that in his annual report for 1947 to the British government, there's no mention of Gifford at all, even though he helped Gifford tremendously.
[00:38:22.28] And part of his help was to provide an assistant to Gifford, who was this young man of chiefly rank, Ratu Rabici Vuikandavu Logavatu. And Logavatu, to Gifford, was just this extremely helpful assistant, extremely helpful. He was running his own excavations after some training from Gifford. He was excavating in different places than Gifford was excavating in 1947. He did many of the plans and surveys. He took a lot of the photographs. Gifford had trained him up in photography, so he was really essential to Gifford.
[00:39:03.56] But he was also very much an employee of the Fijian administration. And he was the eyes and ears of Sir Lala Sukuna to make sure that if Gifford found something interesting, Ratu Salala Sukuna would be the first person who knew about it. And it usually ran that Rabici would report in written form in the Fijian language to Roth, Sukuna's assistant. And then that would be passed on. So there was this, as I say, covert control over the whole process of this excavation, which is not apparent from reading the monograph. But it's clearly there when you see the sources of information that Gifford had.
[00:39:50.10] Here's some perspective drawings that Rabici did. These original drawings are in the Hearst Museum. And in fact, he even mentions Gifford in his field notes that Rabici had done this, said he did surveys.
[00:40:04.85] There was also going to be an appendix to Giffords report written by Rabici. And this was about visiting sites that Gifford, who was 60 and not in the greatest of health, could not get to. But for reasons that I haven't been able to find out yet, at the last moment in production of the monograph, this and several other appendices about various topics were dropped, I presume simply because of the length and the cost of production.
[00:40:35.75] And it's a real pity, because this would've been the first archaeological report ever published, written by a person from the Melanesian part of the Pacific. And we have the full appendix. I mean, it would be nice to publish it, anyway, one day, about various sites that he visited. So a key figure, unknown apart from that single-line acknowledgment.
[00:40:58.32] Now before, I mentioned the Lapita sites and how important they are for the story. And in this slide, you can just see there that, Watom, the island with the people I just got in touch with last week. Father Meyer, in 1909, found the Lapita pottery there, what we now know as Lapita pottery. From the site that we now know as Lapita in New Caledonia, a French geologist, Piroutet, also 1909, and wrote further in 1917, found that pottery.
[00:41:30.87] Lapita pottery was found by McKern in Tonga in 1920/21. I'll mention that a bit more in a second. And then in 1948, Lenormand found a large Lapita site on the Ile des Pins in New Caledonia. And then, in 1951, we have Gifford publishes his monograph, and he's got Lapita pottery from Fiji in there. So I said he didn't dig it up. It was found after he'd left by Lindsay Verrier, the doctor, and by Rabici, who had then been reassigned to another part of the country after Gifford had left. It was found on the Sigatoka sand dunes in the south.
[00:42:12.25] And almost immediately, Gifford realized what it was, because he-- this is the Lapita pottery. It was just a couple of pieces that were found, but dentate stamped, found there in the dunes. You've got these dune sands blowing out. Old sites are being revealed, then they're covered up again. This has been a site of investigation ever since. But the first people who really found something interesting there was Ratu Rabici, returning to his day job, and Lindsay Verrier. And this is the pottery which is in the Hearst Museum.
[00:42:44.53] Gifford had form because when McKern found what we now know to be Lapita pottery in Tonga in 1920/21, the first pottery ever found in Polynesia, a European contact, Captain Cook, I think, saw some pots in Tonga that were clearly imports from Fiji. But no one was making pottery, but clearly, they had been making it. The 1920 to '21 Bayard-Dominick expedition of Tonga, McKern was the archaeologist, later became a famous Americanist archaeologist, the Midwestern Taxonomic System, it's called. Archaeologists know about it here, apparently.
[00:43:22.99] And Gifford was the anthropologist, but it was this expedition, 1921, Gifford realized, if you want to find out about the past of the Pacific, you've got to dig. You're not going to get it just from the oral traditions and stories that you can collect. And so this set Gifford on his path towards Fiji in 1947 and the second discovery. And when he saw the pottery that was sent by Rabici to him, he realized that this was like the stuff they had found in Tonga in 1920 to '21, his first expedition to the Pacific, but as an anthropologist, or rather, sort of collector of oral history.
[00:44:09.91] So Ratu Rabici, this guy, we've kind of rescued him from complete obscurity. But who was he? Well, he was the grandson of a very famous chief, the Tui Dreketi, who was one of the signatories of the Deed of Session of 1874, when some chiefs of Fiji ceded the rest of Fiji and the parts that they controlled to the British, mainly because they were afraid of the Tongans, who were starting to get heavily armed with European weapons, coming over and wiping them out. So they ceded Fiji to the crown. And there were several signatures, and one of them was his great-grandfather.
[00:44:50.25] As it says in this little excerpt, little CV from the Fiji archives, he went to Queen Victoria School, which was the Eaton College of the Fijian race. As I said, Eaton College, supposedly being this wonderful private school in the UK. And in 1944, he starts on the ladder of getting government jobs.
[00:45:15.38] He was transferred in 1947 to the Fijian administration, and then he works with Gifford. And by about 1959, when I think this CV was prepared about him, he was about to become the Roko Tui Rewa, which is really the governor of an entire province within the Fijian native administration, the parallel administration to the British colonial administration.
[00:45:38.08] And of course, his family were chiefs of Rawa, so they chose a local person of chiefly line to be the administrator of the province. And that was Ratu Rabici. Sadly, in 1967, he had a bad truck accident while he was going around the areas he was responsible for, and he had to be retired on medical grounds. But he actually lived until 2005.
[00:46:05.47] Now Gifford gave him, or sent him, actually, after he returned, to Berkeley. He sent him a camera, and this became a lifetime obsession of Ratu Rabici. And he was sending photographs to Gifford for the rest of Gifford's-- Gifford died in '59-- he was sending photographs. Gifford was sending postage stamps for Rabici's collection. So they kept up that relationship. It wasn't just for a few months in 1947. The families were in touch with each other for a long time.
[00:46:40.57] And another mark of how much Rabici was-- although he appeared to be a sort of fairly lowly scribe, he gets an invitation to the grand ball at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva when the queen visits in 1954. Later on, he goes for some training in the UK, and he gets invited to a Buckingham Palace garden party. So like, who is this guy?
[00:47:07.54] And he named two of his children, one after Delila Gifford and the other after Gifford himself. So one of the children here-- on the left, you have Rabici Gifford Logavatu. And next to him is Delila, who later on migrated to the United States and lives somewhere on the mainland. I haven't managed to connect with her yet.
[00:47:34.12] But when we had our exhibition at the Hearst Museum, we also have one at the Fiji National Museum. And there, we've made it an exhibition really about the contribution of two early archaeologists of the Fijian administration, Ratu Rabici Logavatu and also Aubrey Park, the man I mentioned, who ends up getting his PhD at the ANU presented in his hospital bed as the second-oldest person to get a PhD. And he was also, at times, in the '50s and '60s, up until Fijian independence, and I think 1970-- he also worked for the Fijian administration as well.
[00:48:15.05] So the exhibition is about those two people, and I thought it would be extremely wise and also polite to try and contact the family to tell them, we're about to have an exhibition about your father. So I made efforts through the Fijian National Archives and other Fijian contacts. And eventually, in, I think it was in October of last year, I tracked down some of the members, some of his children. He ended up-- he was married twice. He had nine children.
[00:48:46.91] And there was a great moment when one of the family members that I'd met first was Bulou Sulata. She takes me to go and see her brother, who's called Rabici. And I thought, well, if he's called Rabici, he must be Rabici Gifford. And this guy walks down, we were using right protocols. I hung out outside the fence of their yard, and I saw this man walking down the-- and I thought, he looks just like Ratu Rabici.
[00:49:20.09] And as he approached the gate, I said, are you Gifford? And he kind of-- he was genuinely shocked. He said, nobody knows I'm called Gifford. And what's more, he didn't know why he was called Gifford.
[00:49:33.54] All his father had ever told him-- oh, he was an American friend of mine. Also, he never knew that his father had been involved in archaeology. He just knew that his father had been a public servant, a civil servant in Fiji. And none of the family had any idea that there was this background to their father, because he just did it really in 1947, '48. '51, Gifford's finished his book. They're good friends afterwards. They exchanged letters, but he never does archaeology again.
[00:50:08.09] And so then when I'm talking to them all and I say, have you ever heard of Lapita pottery? And they go, yeah, of course, we have. Everyone's heard of Lapita. I said, your father found the first Lapita pottery in Fiji. And they go, "Get out of here." Like, [CHUCKLES] that's it. So I've kind of-- I sort of feel a bit almost embarrassed. It was one of those life-changing experiences [CHUCKLES] for the Logavatu family.
[00:50:32.70] But what they did know was that their father had been a really keen photographer. And two of his grandsons are professional photographers, one in the US and one in Fiji. So Gifford giving him that camera in 1950, or '49, whenever it was, really led on to a good thing. And it's been fantastic to meet the family.
[00:50:54.53] And the only photograph they had of their father was the photograph of him at the queen's ball. So I was able to show them these pictures, including the wonderful picture of Rabici Gifford as a little kid, aged four, which he'd never seen any-- none of the family had seen any of these photos at all. So I should be going back in April to go and view the exhibit which is being put together by the Fiji National Museum. But it was just a wonderful thing.
[00:51:25.82] And we're running out of time, so I want to go into the Fiji conclusions. What they are is that when you get into the archives, you do this kind of research and you go looking for other people who were involved, whether it's wives, unsung students, or Indigenous collaborators and interlocutors. They are actually there, and you can recuperate them.
[00:51:51.20] But the question that I have at the end, now you can recoup the contributions and agency of Indigenous people who worked with some of these earlier Pacific archaeologists and whose contribution has not been recognized. But how do we appropriately recognize and celebrate such contributions, knowing what we now know? And this is a question that I have.
[00:52:14.33] Now there are many more Pacific angles to explore and many more in Harvard itself. I think Ingrid mentioned some of these, the Wilkes Expedition, speculations on Pacific origins. At Harvard, there was the Hawaiian Club from the 1860s, at least, onwards. And a key figure in that was William T. Brigham, who was the first director and founder of the Bishop Museum in Honolulu. And he kept in touch with Harvard throughout his career.
[00:52:42.29] Roland Burridge Dixon was mentioned, and particularly his students, yeah, one of his main roles. He didn't do a lot of field work in the Pacific. He wrote quite a bit about the Pacific, but his students were people such as Kenneth Emory, a very important archaeologist in Hawai'i and Polynesia. The Handy's, who again were important figures in the development of archaeology in places such as the Marquesas. Douglas Oliver, who was mentioned. And then they had their students. And Roger Green, who was very influential, he was in Hawai'i when I took up my first job and was a very good friend of mine there, was a student of Doug Oliver's.
[00:53:21.89] And also, what I've been doing a lot of research on since I've been here is Hallam Movius, who was an important archaeologist of the Paleolithic of Asia and Europe, but who has a vast correspondence that is in the archives of the Peabody Museum, is over 200 boxes, kind of that-sized boxes, of his letters. He's one of these wonderful people who every letter he ever sent, there's a carbon copy. And every letter he ever received, he kept it.
[00:53:51.57] And this goes really the 1930s up until the '80s. And it is an incredible resource that you have here, matched only by the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley, which has Edward Gifford's correspondence, which goes from about 1911 to 1959. So there are wonderful resources, much more work to be done, an enormous amount of revealing of Harvard's key role in the early development of Pacific archaeology that we haven't really barely touched on.
[00:54:30.01] And just in case you're interested, I do have-- these are free download, open access-- an article of mine explaining about our project that was in the online journal Bulletin of the History of Archaeology. And then, particularly, the story about Gifford and Rabici is published in Journal of Pacific History. So thank you very much.