• Class Number 7509
  • Term Code 3160
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Dr Mathieu Leclerc
    • Dr Mathieu Leclerc
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 26/07/2021
  • Class End Date 29/10/2021
  • Census Date 14/09/2021
  • Last Date to Enrol 02/08/2021
SELT Survey Results

This course is designed to provide students with a strong background in the archaeological history of Oceania, a region with 50,000 years of human chronology within the classical divisions of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. We will discuss the case of Australia only in relation with the Pleistocene settlement of Sahul continent. Likewise, insular Southeast Asia will be considered solely through the Austronesian migrations from which originated the prehistoric Pacific cultures. We will tackle a wide range of anthropological questions with a holistic approach, using concepts from archaeology, linguistics, comparative ethnography, physical anthropology and biology. A significant portion of the course will be dedicated to the examination of the timing and process of prehistoric colonization in Oceanic islands and archipelagoes, using examples
from the Lapita culture in the West Pacific as well as Polynesian cultures in the East. Regional chronocultural sequences will also be analyzed in detail. Finally, we will round out the course by addressing a variety of themes including the evolution of socio-political complexity, religious architecture, funerary practices, settlement patterns, subsistence practices, human-ecosystem interactions within island environments, and material culture and technology. Special topics including traditional oceanic navigation will also be presented throughout the semester. Topics discussed through presentations in tutorials will complete the lecture

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

Upon successful completion of this course, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
  1. Locate archipelagos, main islands and key sites on a regional map of the Pacific;
  2. Critically discuss archaeological evidence for the ancient settlement of the Pacific region, and subsequent cultural changes that occurred with each major archipelago; and
  3. Critically analyse information of various nature (archaeological, ethnographical, historical) to engage with main themes, issues and debates in Pacific Archaeology.

Required Resources

Kirch P.V. 2017. On the Road of the Winds. An archaeological history of the Pacific Islands before European Contact. Oakland: University of California Press.

This is a comprehensive textbook and the lectures are based around its thematic organization. It is really a must-have for the course. It also has a very useful bibliography of further readings that will help with essay and tutorial assignments.Chapters readings will be assigned every week. Supplementary readings on specific topics will be provided on Wattle.  

As well as high-profile archaeological journals such as Antiquity and World Archaeology, there are some regional journals that you will find particularly helpful in preparing for tutorials, assignments and for further reading. These include Archaeology in New Zealand, Archaeology in Oceania, Asian Perspectives, (occasionally) Australian Archaeology, Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology, Journal of the Polynesian Society and New Zealand Journal of Archaeology (now renamed Journal of Pacific Archaeology). The journals Antiquity and Journal of Archaeological Science (among other general archaeological journals) also feature Pacific articles each year. All of these are accessible - many electronically - via the ANU Library catalogue. In addition the first 100 years of the Journal of the Polynesian Society (1892-1991) have recently been put online at: http://www.jps.auckland.ac.nz/browse.php

The Terra Australis monograph series, published currently by ANU E-Press and with recent issues downloadable for free will also be most helpful as it includes recent Pacific archaeology conference volumes and monographs on Vanuatu and Fiji, etc.

See: http://epress.anu.edu.au/titles/terra_australis.html


Finally, I can provide you with pdfs of less accessible old articles or monographs that I have gathered digitally over the years. Do not hesitate to ask me for a reference you cannot find at first in the libraries or online. 

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:

  • written comments
  • verbal comments
  • feedback to whole class, groups, individuals, focus group etc

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). The feedback given in these surveys is anonymous and provides the Colleges, University Education Committee and Academic Board with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement. The Surveys and Evaluation website provides more information on student surveys at ANU and reports on the feedback provided on ANU courses.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Week 1: Introduction to the course As an introduction to the archaeology of the Pacific region, we will review basics in geography and history to orient students the general context of this course. Special focus will be on familiarizing students with maps of Oceania
2 Week 2: The Pacific Region: A World of Diversity Students will continue to familiarize themselves with the Pacific region and its origins, examining the geological formation of Pacific islands, island types, climatology, biogeography and linguistic diversity within the Austronesian family. Reading: Kirch, 2000: pp.42-62; Kirch, 2017: pp.37-54
3 Week 3: Prehistory of Sahul and Near Oceania This week will include the discussion of the Pleistocene settlement of the Sahul region (including Australia, Tasmania and Papua-New Guinea) and later Holocene settlements leading up to 3000 BC. Reading: Kirch, 2000: pp.63-84; Kirch, 2017: pp.55-73
4 Week 4: From Southeast Asia to Remote Oceania: the Austronesians and the Development of the Lapita Cultural Complex After examining the emergence of Austronesian culture in Taiwan and Southeast Asia, we will focus on the settlement, material culture, economy, and subsistence practices of the Lapita complex. Reading: Kirch, 2000: pp.85-116; Kirch, 2017: pp.74-106
5 Week 5: Lapita: Origins and Signification Various aspects of Lapita populations will be presented this week: social organization, settlement pattern, subsistence strategies, the significance of dentate-stamped pottery, etc. Reading: Kirch, 2000: pp.85-116; Kirch, 2017: pp.74-106
6 Week 6: Polynesian Origins & the colonization of Eastern Polynesia Students will study the formative periods of Ancestral Polynesian Societies in the Samoa region during the post-Lapita era. The numerous settlement models of the Pacific region emerging since the 1960s (and the theoretical debates associated with them) will be examined. Students will also undertake an extensive review of current chronological data, with a detailed study of a variety of key archaeological sites (including those in Central-East Polynesia, Hawaii, Easter Island, and New Zealand.) Reading: Kirch, 2000: pp.230-245; Kirch, 2017: pp.184-202
7 Week 7: Polynesian Outliers and Traditional Navigation in the Pacific Communities speaking Polynesian languages scattered across regions outside Polynesia will be presented along with possible explanations for their peculiar locations. Attributes of traditional navigation, including types of canoes, canoe building, and ancient navigation techniques, will also be covered. Reading: Kirch, 2000: pp.207-230; Kirch, 2017: pp.130-134 + 203-212
8 Week 8: Polynesian Chiefdoms – Guest Lecturer Guillaume Molle Students will be introduced to the socio-political organization of chiefdoms with a review of traditional statuses and a comparison of various aspects of traditional hierarchy in several island regions. Patterns of change will also be examined, including economic and demographic roots of causation. Reading: Kirch, 2000: pp.246-301; Kirch, 2017: pp.213-268
9 Week 9: Palaeodemography in Polynesia – Guest Lecturer Clare McFadden This lecture will address how palaeodemographic models based on human skeletal remains can inform on human adaptation and resilience in the Pacific Islands and reconstruct ancient population dynamics. Reading: articles on this topic will be provided in advance
10 Week 10: After Lapita: Traditional Melanesian Societies– Guest Lecturer Ben Shaw Historical trajectories of post-Lapita societies in West Pacific will be presented, focusing on the emergence of traditional societies (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu). Reading: Kirch, 2000: pp.135-164; Kirch, 2017: pp.107-149
11 Week 11: Micronesian Prehistory We will review Micronesia’s long-term history, including colonization patterns, adaptation processes within local environments, and case studies of architectural developments linked to the emergence of complex chiefdoms. Reading: Kirch, 2000: pp.165-206; Kirch, 2017: pp.150-183
12 Week 12: Religion and ceremonial architecture We will discuss important concepts in Austronesian religions (tapu, mana) and main ritual practices in the region. We will focus our attention on the emergence and development of the “marae complex” in Eastern Polynesia, which is traditionally defined by various forms of ritual architecture (marae in central Polynesia and New Zealand, heiau in Hawaii, ahu and moai in Easter Island). Reading: articles on this topic will be provided in advance

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Learning Outcomes
Class participation 10 % *
Map Quiz 20 % 12/08/2021 1
Oral Presentation 10 % * 2, 3
Written summary of oral presentation 20 % * 2, 3
Final Essay 40 % 08/11/2021 2 , 3

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines, which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Misconduct Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the Academic Integrity . In rare cases where online submission using Turnitin software is not technically possible; or where not using Turnitin software has been justified by the Course Convener and approved by the Associate Dean (Education) on the basis of the teaching model being employed; students shall submit assessment online via ‘Wattle’ outside of Turnitin, or failing that in hard copy, or through a combination of submission methods as approved by the Associate Dean (Education). The submission method is detailed below.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 10 %
Learning Outcomes: 

Class participation

The one hour tutorial will be dedicated to presentations and discussions about side topics that will complement the view on Pacific archaeology offered during the lectures. It is designed as a more informal time during which you are expected to prepare oral presentation on a topic you chose (see further), ask questions, participate to group discussions or bring ideas on the table. 

Assessment Task 2

Value: 20 %
Due Date: 12/08/2021
Learning Outcomes: 1

Map Quiz

As you will quickly realise, understanding the geography of Oceania is essential when tackling the various anthropological questions that will arise in this course. The 30 min. quiz will involve associating a list of place names indicated hereafter with their geographic locations on a blank map. You can prepare this exam by using maps from our textbook (Kirch, 2017), as well as the National Geographic Atlas map of Oceania. This geography test is scheduled on week 3.

Places you will have to locate on a series of blank maps:

Sunda / Sahul

Island Southeast Asia: Taiwan (Formosa) / Philippines / Indonesia / Sulawesi / Halmahera / Wallace’s Line

New Guinea Island and Adjacent Region: Sepik River / Papua / Huon Peninsula / Torres Strait / Massim Region / Trobriand Is.

Western Melanesia (Near Oceania): New Britain / New Ireland / Manus (Admiralty Is.) / Mussau (St. Matthias Is.) / Solomon Is. / New Georgia Is. / Santa Cruz Is.

Eastern Melanesia: Vanikoro / Tikopia / Anuta / Vanuatu (formerly New Hebrides) / Loyalty Islands / New Caledonia (Grande Terre) / Fiji / Viti Levu / Lau Islands

Micronesia: Palau / Yap / Marianas Is. / Guam / Caroline Is. / Pohnpei (Ponape) / Kosrae (Kusaie) / Nukuoro / Kapingamarangi / Marshall Is. / Truk

Polynesia:  / Samoa / Tonga / Niuatoputapu (Keppel's Is.) / Futuna (Hoorne Is.) / 'Uvea (Wallis Is.) / Cook Is. / Mangaia / Society Is. (Tahiti) / Mo’orea / Tuamotu Is. / Mangareva (Gambier Is.) / Marquesas Is. / Pitcairn Is. / Austral Is. / Rapa Nui (Easter Is.) / Henderson Is. / Equatorial Is. / Hawaiian Is. / Nihoa Is. / South Island / North Island

Assessment Task 3

Value: 10 %
Learning Outcomes: 2, 3

Oral Presentation

You are required to do one oral presentation about one of the themes we will cover in the tutorials. You are allowed to work in group of 2 people max. Examples of topics are given in the table hereunder. These are suggestions but if there is one particular topic that you are interested in that does not appear on this list, feel free to propose a presentation about it, and let me know during the first tute of the semester. Presentations should be 15 minutes long. You will be judged on your own independent research, depth of understanding and clarity of expression. Enjoy working on your PowerPoint presentation but find a good balance between text and figures, don’t forget that PPT is a tool in support of what you say.

Each week, in addition of the oral presentations, we will also discuss the theme in small groups in order to complement the lectures topics. Additional readings will be indicated online.

Note: Places will be filled in a first come first served basis (and will also be influenced by the number of group presentations in any one week) so be quick if you really want one topic.

General topics

Week 1: No tutorial this week

Week 2: Discussion about assessments and choices of topics


Week 4: Traditions and food: Kava / Bethel consumption in Oceania / Wedding ceremonies…

Week 5: Tools and technology: Earth ovens / Adzes / Shell technology (fishhooks, etc.) / Pottery / Obsidian…

Week 6: Production and exchange in Oceania: The Kula system / the Sawei / Tapa production / Pitcairn case study / Shell money…


Teaching break

Week 7: Performances and games: The Arioi sect in Tahiti / Hula dancing / Surfing / Archery / Land diving…

Week 8: Beyond death: Head hunting expeditions / The treatment of the dead in Polynesia / Decorated skulls / Ancestors shrines in the Solomons / Teouma cemetery…

Week 9: Tattooing: meaning and practices in Oceania: Tattooing in Marquesas, NZ / Scarification…

Week 10: Sacred art in the Pacific: Figures of the ancestors in Eastern Polynesia (tiki) / Petroglyphs in Hawaii or New Caledonia / dendroglyphs (Australia and/or Chatham Is.)

Week 11: War and conflicts: The fortified settlements (pa) of New Zealand or Rapa Iti or Fiji…

Week 12: Easter Island archeology: The moai statues / the Birdman Cult / the Rongorongo script…

Assessment Task 4

Value: 20 %
Learning Outcomes: 2, 3

Written summary of oral presentation

In addition to your oral presentation, you are required to write a 2-page (double spaced, font size 12) summary of your research. This should include a list of at least 5 academic publications (monographs, journal articles). You are allowed to include 1 figure only, so choose carefully the one that illustrates the best your ideas. This assessment is individual meaning that even if you presented with someone, you must write this summary by yourself.

Your work will be assessed on: Clarity/accuracy of expression, choice of 1 figure, range/comprehensiveness/relevance of literature, structure and presentation, critical interpretation of data.

This summary is due by the Friday following your presentation at 5 pm, and must be uploaded on Wattle.

Assessment Task 5

Value: 40 %
Due Date: 08/11/2021
Learning Outcomes: 2 , 3

Final Essay

For the final assessment, you will have to prepare an information package highlighting the main archaeological/ethnoarchaeological elements characteristic of a region of the Pacific (chosen from the list below). The objective will be to present a review of the most significant cultural elements associated with human occupation for the selected region. This take-home essay of 3000 words (ARCH2005) or 4000 words (ARCH6005) will be due by 8 November, 11:59 pm. The essay must demonstrate your understanding of the region chosen and your capacity to review and synthesise the course content through additional personal research, including readings of academic papers.


Some of the themes addressed will be relevant for every region: detailing its initial settlement (date, significant sites, where did they come from, etc.); reviewing important elements of material cultural throughout the sequence of occupation; presenting the main theoretical debates; etc. Some other themes/elements addressed will be specific for the specific region you have chosen (e.g. kava, tiki, war, etc.). Overall, I want you to summarise the archaeological for a region by focussing on its most distinctive archaeological/ethnoarchaeological elements compared to other archipelagos. Keep in mind these elements have to be distinctive but they do not necessarily have to be exclusive to your region. Throughout your essay, I want you to identify five cultural elements (objects, monumental structures, behaviours, oral histories, traditions, etc.) that are in your opinion the most distinctive of the region you have chosen (compared to the rest of the Pacific).



Specific components of this essay are:

-         Introduction: this is where you provide a broad overview of the region to be discussed and present succinctly the structure of your essay.

-         Main section: this is where you outline details about the topic, presenting previous research (state of the art, history of research); reviewing the archaeological record of the region; listing significant cultural elements; detailing the main hypotheses related to settlement and later stages of human occupation; etc. Be explicit, detailed and clear but do not provide any of your own interpretation here.

-         Discussion/Conclusion: Synthesise the information presented in your main section and provide your own interpretation supporting the selection of your five cultural elements.

-         Bibliography: you are expected to reference at least 8 (ARCH2005) or 10 (ARCH6005) academic publications.


Your work will be assessed on: accuracy in describing issues and facts, comprehensiveness of the material covered, depth of understanding, relevance of material (including reference to authors), use of examples/case-studies/sites/people, critical approach to sources, structure of presentation.


The use of illustrations is optional but suggested. If you decide to use them, you can only insert up to five figures that must be relevant to the discussion. Source of the illustration will appear in the legend. 

List of Archipelagos/Regions

Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Polynesian Outliers, Tonga, Fiji, Samoa, French Polynesia, Hawaii, New Zealand (Aotearoa), Easter Island, Micronesia

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of the ANU culture as a community of scholars. At its heart, academic integrity is about behaving ethically, committing to honest and responsible scholarly practice and upholding these values with respect and fairness.

The ANU commits to assisting all members of our community to understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. The ANU expects staff and students to be familiar with the academic integrity principle and Academic Misconduct Rule, uphold high standards of academic integrity and act ethically and honestly, to ensure the quality and value of the qualification that you will graduate with.

The Academic Misconduct Rule is in place to promote academic integrity and manage academic misconduct. Very minor breaches of the academic integrity principle may result in a reduction of marks of up to 10% of the total marks available for the assessment. The ANU offers a number of online and in person services to assist students with their assignments, examinations, and other learning activities. Visit the Academic Skills website for more information about academic integrity, your responsibilities and for assistance with your assignments, writing skills and study.

Online Submission

You will be required to electronically sign a declaration as part of the submission of your assignment. Please keep a copy of the assignment for your records. Unless an exemption has been approved by the Associate Dean (Education) submission must be through Turnitin.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

Late Submission

Individual assessment tasks may or may not allow for late submission. Policy regarding late submission is detailed below:

  • Late submission not permitted. If submission of assessment tasks without an extension after the due date is not permitted, a mark of 0 will be awarded.
  • Late submission permitted. Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item. Late submission is not accepted for take-home examinations.

Referencing Requirements

Accepted academic practice for referencing sources that you use in presentations can be found via the links on the Wattle site, under the file named “ANU and College Policies, Program Information, Student Support Services and Assessment”. Alternatively, you can seek help through the Students Learning Development website.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure. Extensions may be granted for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information.
In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service – including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy.
If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes.

Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).

Dr Mathieu Leclerc

Research Interests

My primary research interests include using archaeological science techniques on artefacts to reconstruct the socio-technological organisation of artefacts production; population movements and exchange networks; and the environmental conditions that affected the raw materials selected. I also have an interest for non-traditional research outputs and I am actively engaged in outreach activities outside academia.

Dr Mathieu Leclerc

By Appointment
By Appointment
Dr Mathieu Leclerc

Research Interests

Dr Mathieu Leclerc

By Appointment
By Appointment

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