Catching the wind - the first great phase of oceanic colonisation – lecture tour

28 August 2014

Atholl Anderson

Professor Atholl Anderson: explores the first great phase of oceanic colonisation.

What led to the first great phase of oceanic colonisation? The 2014 New Zealand Aronui Lecture, organised by the Royal Society of New Zealand, will explore this topic with Professor Atholl Anderson.

Oceanic dispersal of Austronesian-speaking people

Professor Anderson, who draws upon many years of research on the oceanic dispersal of the Austronesian-speaking peoples, says a fundamental change in the relationships between people and the sea was marked by a rapid and extensive occupation of remote islands across the world during the late Holocene (1500BC to AD1500).

“This movement almost doubled the reach of humanity across the surface of the planet, but the impetus of this new phase in maritime mobility remains obscure.

“Comparison of the different ways in which it was manifested in the Indian and Pacific Oceans is beginning to elucidate plausible stimuli, mechanisms and processes,” he says. He will discuss these in his talk.

Lifetime of archaeological research

Professor Atholl Anderson is descended from Maori-Pakeha families on Rakiura. He has undertaken a lifetime of archaeological research spanning the entire Indo-Pacific from Madagascar, Seychelles and Diego Garcia, through the Batanes (Philippines), Yaeyama (Japan) and Palau islands, to New Caledonia, Fiji, Niue, Kiribati, French Polynesia, and the Juan Fernandez and Galapagos groups. His main interest has been in pre-European island colonisation, encompassing themes of seafaring, migration chronology, colonisation behaviour and environmental change.

From 1993 he directed the ‘Indo-Pacific Prehistoric Colonisation Project’ which, through archaeological and palaeoenvironmental investigations, sought to understand the patterns and processes of initial human colonisation in Christmas Island, Japan, Philippines, Palau, New Caledonia, Fiji, Niue, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Galapagos, Juan Fernandez and New Zealand.

Vast number of achievements

He is Emeritus-Professor of the Australian National University where he held the chair of Prehistory in the Institute of Advanced Studies. He was Leverhulme Professor at York, Slater Fellow and Distinguished Fellow at Durham, Research Fellow at the University of Tokyo and a Visiting Fellow at Clare Hall and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. He was on staff at the University of Otago for 17 years, where his last role was Professor and Head of the Anthropology Department. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 1991 and was a James Cook Research Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand from 1997-2000. He now lives in Blenheim.

His lecture will be given in Hamilton – 7.30pm Thursday 4 September, Concert Chamber, Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, University of Waikato campus (entry via Gate 2b on Knighton Road).

Tickets are free but can be reserved at

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