This thesis seeks to address some basic problems and issues concerning the archaeology and prehistory of the central Solomon Islands. In particular the archaeological data from a series of excavations ad detailed field surveys conducted on the island of Guadalcanal are used to construct a framework for the culture history of this apparently aceramic region and to define a set of questions that must be addressed in future enquiries I this relatively unknown area.
Chapter 1 sets out the main problems which this thesis addresses. The equivocal results from a single excavation in 1966-1968 suggested an aceramic occupation of Guadalcanal and the central Solomons at a time when, elsewhere in the group, well-documented prehistoric settlement sequences are articulated with a regional cultural tradition associated with Lapita ceramics. The major issues stem from a long-standing need to document the central Solomon Islands sequences with a view to filling a major lucana in our knowledge of the prehistory of island Melanesis.
Chapters 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 set out the data upon which the inferences and conclusions of chapter 7 are based. Chapter 2 gives a brief overview of the main aspects of Guadalcanal’s natural environment and ethnography that have a bearing on the interpretation of the archaeological evidence. The results of the site surveys in the Poha and Vura Valleys and the north-west cape area of Guadalcanal which formed the initial work in this study are discussed also. In chapter 3 the 1966-1968 excavations at the Vatuluma Posovi site are re-evaluated based upon a critical examination of the original records and the results of new work, including important new C14 dates, from excavations and surveys in 1987-1988. Additional data from a series of excavations in other caves and rockshelters, given in chapter 4, serve to extend our knowledge of the prehistoric occupations of the Poha and Vura valleys and introduce a suite of environmental evidence not available from the Vatuluma Posovi site. Chapter 5 of the thesis discussed a largely unconsidered artefact of Melanesian prehistory – the engraved rock art. The re-evaluation of the Vatuluma Posovi site allowed for the dating of this art tradition and its incorporation into discussions of cultural relationships both in Solomon Islands an the wider Melanesian sphere. In chapter 6 the geographical focus moves from the Poha and Vura valleys to the north-west cape of Guadalcanal enabling the consideration of a number of open settlement and agricultural sites, including a series of irrigated taro pond-field systems.
The thesis conclusion attempts a synthesis of the data as a first step in the formulation of a prehistory for Guadalcanal. The problems of defining the Guadalcanal sequences and their incorporation into a regional framework are discussed, and suggestions for future research requirements are made.