Oral tradition and the creation of Late Prehistory in Roviana Lagoon, Solomon Islands. In A Pacific Odyssey: Archaeology and Anthropology in the Western Pacific. Papers in Honour of Jim Specht
The use of oral tradition or oral history in archaeology is often a contentious issue. In this paper we briefly review methodological issues surrounding the use of such data and follow this with a case study using our research into the last 1,000 years of prehistory in Roviana Lagoon (New Georgia Group, Solomon Islands). We argue that it is not possible to generalize cross-culturally about the historicity of oral tradition/history. However, in the Roviana case, careful use of ethnohistory and archaeology together indicates that: (a) Roviana oral history is linear; (b) there is a close relationship between genealogical age and radiocarbon age; and (c) the modern uses of the oral tradition by Roviana provide a theory of their use in the past. We conclude that the model for the formation of the Roviana Chiefdom which emerges from the working back and forth between archaeology and ethnohistory has much more explanatory power than one based on either source of data by itself.