t. 92, Richard Walter and Peter Sheppard, Archaeology of the Solomon Islands


Archaeology of the Solomon Islands
by Richard Walter and Peter Sheppard.
Dunedin: OUP (2017).
RRP: $49.99. Pb, full colour, 194pp.
ISBN: 9780947522537; 0947522530.
Reviewed by Jacinta Beckwith.

Archaeology of the Solomon Islands demonstrates why Richard Walter[1] and Peter Sheppard[2] are leaders in the field of Pacific archaeology. Their richly detailed and generously illustrated volume offers a concise, meticulous and very readable narrative combining the results of their 20 years of research in the Solomon Islands with evidence from all other research on the Solomons over the last fifty years. This is no mean feat considering the vast chronological and geographical scale of the island group, its diversity of cultures, traditions and languages, and that much of the primary research material comes from unpublished reports and graduate theses.

Diverse and detailed maps, plans and photographs complement the authors’ rich descriptions of the Solomon Islands archaeological record. By taking an holistic multi-disciplinary approach, they have successfully integrated results from archaeological fieldwork with those of environmental scientists, anthropologists and historians. The initial chapters offer a concise overview of Solomon Islands prehistory, physical and cultural geography and linguistic history. Subsequent chapters provide more detail and depth, dividing archaeological interpretations chronologically from the Pleistocene and Holocene periods, to the spread of Austronesian and Lapita influences, followed by development through the last two millennia. Walter and Sheppard then look closely at the Western Solomon Islands using evidence from their own extensive fieldwork, specifically the rise of the Roviana Chiefdom. They conclude by reflecting on the distinct and complex role of the Solomon Islands record in relation to wider theoretical issues in Oceanic archaeology.

With Archaeology of the Solomon Islands Walter and Sheppard continue to highlight the pivotal place of the Solomon Islands in Pacific prehistory, work that began almost three decades ago with their colleague and influential Oceanic archaeologist Roger Green. This latest publication is a valuable and engaging resource and though primarily written for an archaeological audience, it is well recommended for all readers interested in Pacific archaeology, anthropology and history.


[1] Richard Walter is Professor of Archaeology and Head of the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of Otago with ongoing projects in New Zealand, the Cook Islands and the Solomon Islands. He is a founder and director of Southern Pacific Archaeological Research (SPAR), a research unit at the University of Otago.

[2] Peter Sheppard is Professor of Archaeology and Head of the School of Social Sciences at the University of Auckland. He is also a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London.


Jacinta Beckwith (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Porou) is the Kaitiaki Mātauranga Māori at the Hocken Collections in Dunedin, and Subject Librarian for Te Tumu, School of Māori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies at the University of Otago Te Whare Wānanga o Otāgo. She has an MA in Anthropology (Otago) and an MIS (Victoria).