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An Archaeology of Early Christianity in Vanuatu


Even though my name is the only one on the cover of this book, as with so many archaeological projects there is a cast of hundreds that deserve my sincere thanks for making this work possible. I am honoured to have worked with so many worthy collaborators whose tireless efforts support so many projects like this one. So for all who were a part of this work, I say tangyu tumas, kombolongi tama, tanak asori, thank you!

I must thank the main funders and institutions that supported this research. Initial funding for the project came from Lenfest Grants from Washington and Lee University in 2011 and 2012 when I was visiting lecturer in Sociology and Anthropology. The main financial support for the research was an Australian Research Council DECRA fellowship (DE130101703) hosted in the School of Archaeology and Anthropology at The Australian National University (ANU), my base from 2013–2015. The Vanuatu Cultural Centre (Vanuatu Kaljoral Senta/VKS) provided support for my work in Vanuatu. I am especially thankful for the work done through the regional VKS office on Tanna, and the network of filwokas on Tanna and Erromango.

It is with a great deal of pleasure that I thank the many individuals who have helped me along the way, professionally and otherwise. Through a suggestion from Jack Golson, Matthew Spriggs offered me the initial invitation to start a project on mission archaeology in Vanuatu as a postdoctoral endeavour. Spriggs is a valued mentor, collaborator, and colleague whose continuing collaboration in Vanuatu research is heartily appreciated. Stuart Bedford has likewise been a valued collaborator and source of ideas and knowledge about Vanuatu archaeology. Martin Jones taught me everything I needed to know about buildings archaeology, and I owe him a great deal of thanks for the richness of the work on the Lenakel Church.

At the VKS, I want to thank my colleagues in the archaeology department: Richard Shing, Iarowai Philp, McKerras Numa, and particularly Edson Willie. Credit for the shell analysis of this project goes entirely to Edson, who also contributed to fieldwork on Tanna. I also want to thank the Director of the VKS for arranging my permit. Special thanks to Henline Mala, who works tirelessly to help visitors arrange visas and other bureaucratic necessities. Kaitip Kami organised export permits for artefact analyses carried out in Canberra. In the National Archives of Vanuatu, I want to thank Anne Naupa and Agustin Tevi for facilitating access to mission lands records. Francis Hickey has been great for a yarn and a shell of kava on many occasions. At the TAFEA Kaljoral Senta (TKS) on Tanna, I offer my sincere thanks to Jacob Kapere, who helped organise my fieldwork and has generally helped the project along. Jimmy Takaronga Kuautonga was very supportive and helpful, particularly in setting up public lectures at the TKS. Thanks to Jean Pascal Wahe Kuren, particularly for his technical knowhow. Joel Iau collaborated with our fieldwork at Waisisi and generally offered a friendly face on Tanna.

Special thanks go to many people on Erromango and Tanna. They make this project possible, and the overall project is dedicated to those communities where fieldwork took place. I name as many people who helped with the project as I can here, though I’m sure I have missed some. I offer my apologies to anyone who was left off the list. To the communities at Dillon’s Bay, Cook’s Bay, and Port Narvin on Erromango, kombolongi tama! Jerry Taki, whose tireless work as a VKS filwoka made my work on that island possible, deserves very special thanks. It is to Jerry that I owe any ability to talk about Erromangan kastom (though I take all the blame where I missed or misinterpreted things). Thanks also to the other Erromango filwokas, Malon Lovo who helped with our work at Dillon’s Bay, and Annie Lui who worked with us at Potnuma. At Dillon’s Bay, I thank the following people who helped with the project as excavators, knowledge keepers, and hosts: Thomas Poki (‘jif blong problems’), Manuel Naling, Harrison Netai, Dick Mete, Sempet Naritantop, Oliver Nombuat, Georges Niura, Malon Narvu, Gibson Uswo, William Natngo, Charlie Usau, Jon Umbkoin, Joseph Navoi, and Pastor Robi White. At Port Narvin, thanks go to Peter Nowai, Simon Melkum, Erick Melkum, Solomon Potnilo, Esron Melkum, Stanley Simo, James Netai, Charlie Nampil, and Jean-Pierre Livu. Thanks to Anna Naupa for support and interest via the Erromango Cultural Association.

On Tanna, a general thank you goes to the communities of Lenakel, Port Resolution, Kwamera, Kwaraka, and Waisisi. In Lenakel, I must thank Peter Marshall, who was instrumental in welcoming me to the community and helping to launch this project, as well as to Evelyn who was our chief cook, Thomas who helped with early survey work, and Brownie who offered comic relief when needed. Iavis Nikiatu was also a great supporter of the project, and special thanks go to Elizabeth. We enjoyed many good meals at Joy Beach Café! Shem Noukout and Natato Philip were also involved closely with the site survey in Lenakel. In Port Resolution thanks go to George Turiak, Harry Iabatu, Pastor Isak Fai, Samson Kwanbikin, John Turu, and David Karawi. Werry, Monique, and the staff of the Port Resolution Yacht Club provided great lodging, food, and company. Fieldwork in Kwamera and Kwaraka was facilitated by chief Samson Ieru, who has been integral to some of the really important discoveries from the area. Initial survey in Kwamera included Joseph Narkahau, Larin Pop, Steven Saba, Yati Kwanange, Andre Saba, Pamu Isak, and Daniel Kamisak. Robert Steven and family hosted us for two of our field seasons in Kwamera. Fieldwork thanks to Andrew Yoko, Uli Silas, Daniel Nirwa, Dick Samson Ieru, Kumei, Andrew Ieru, Nahi, and Richard Kapuku, Johnson Saba, Lilien Saba, Narko Samson. Many others joined the work for a day or two here and there. Chiefs Joe Hauia and Mosman both helped with fieldwork, and organised other aspects of our work. Special thanks to Rehab, Nringa, and the mamas who provided our room and board. Alexon K. showed us around Itapua. In Waisisi, our fieldwork team was joined by Obed Butal, Thomson Laiwaka, Diksen, Moses Lamai, Kahi, Tausikatua, and Yakoli. These and other community members on Tanna and Erromango contributed so much to this project, and I am eternally grateful for their hospitality, welcome, and generosity. I consider myself extraordinarily lucky to collaborate with these remarkable communities.

I have many people to thank from museums and archives, who facilitated research for those portions of the project. I am humbled by the work of library, museum, and archive staff as keepers of knowledge. In roughly geographical order (from closer to further away from Canberra), my thanks go to Kylie Moloney from the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau; staff of the State Library of New South Wales; Robin Torrence, Yvonne Carillo-Huffman, Logan Metcalf, and Kirk Huffman at the Australian Museum (and I note that my work at the Australian Museum is supported by a Leo Fleischmann Fellowship for 2015–2016); Chantal Knowles and Nick Hadnutt at the Queensland Museum; staff of the State Library of Queensland; Fuli Pereira, Kolokesa U Māhina-Tuai, Tessa Smallwood, and Shaun Higgins at the Auckland War Memorial Museum; Jo Birks, Stephen Innes and William Hamill at the Western Pacific Archives in Auckland; Moira White and Jamie Metzger at the Otago Museum; Yvonne Wilkie and Mychael Tymons at the Knox Archives of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa-New Zealand; staff of the Hocken Library; Arthur Smith, Ken Lister, and Molly Minnick at the Royal Ontario Museum; Bob Anger of the Archives of the Presbyterian Church in Canada; Barbara Lawson at the Redpath Museum; Peter Larocque and colleagues at the New Brunswick Museum; Roger Lewis at the Nova Scotia Museum; Gabriele Weiss at the Weltmuseum; Eve Haddow, Ross Irving, Margaret Wilson, and Antje Denner of the National Museum of Scotland; staff of the National Library of Scotland; Patricia Allan from Museums Glasgow; Sally-Anne Coupar and Lizzie O’Neill from the Hunterian Museum; and Neil Curtis and Louise Wilkie at University of Aberdeen Museums.

At ANU, I would like to offer my personal thanks to the staff of the School of Archaeology and Anthropology, especially the office staff for their patience and support. Special thanks to Matiu Prebble, Jack Fenner, Dougald O’Reilly, Phil Piper, Duncan Wright, Cate Freiman, Ash Lenton, Carly Schuster, Chris Ballard, Bronwen Douglas, Matt Tomlinson, Margaret Jolly, Latu Latai, Antje Lubcke, Mathieu Leclerc, Ben Shaw, Bec Jones, Rose Whitau, Tim Maloney, Eve Haddow, Michelle Richards, Joakim Goldhahn, and Sally May (from whose kitchen table I wrote much of this book while housesitting), among many others who have shared thoughts, stories, food, drink, and fellowship throughout my time working on this project. I would also like to thank colleagues from other institutions who have been supportive and helpful in various ways, including Monty Lindstrom (who provided helpful comments on an early draft of Chapter 3), Howard Van Trease, Patrick Kirch, Frédérique Valentin, Angela Middleton, Ian Smith, Mark McCoy, Mara Mulrooney, Guillaume Molle, Christophe Sand, Peter White, Colleen Morgan, Andrew Roddick, Jillian Swift, Tsim Schneider, Lee Panich, Janice Adamson, Penny Crook, and Martin Gibbs. Special thanks to Phil Evans who took time to do the timber identification for the Lenakel Church. A huge thank you to the student volunteers who spent time in the field: Andrew Lorey (who also transcribed the Gray diary quoted in Chapter 4), Craig Shapiro, Rob Williams (who spotted the adze blade fragments among the stones in Anuikaraka), and Helen Alderson. Thanks to Andrew Ball for his work on the ceramic assemblage from Imua.

Finally, to my family and close friends I offer my deepest thanks for their interest and support over the course of my career. My parents particularly were there as I was starting down this path, and I hope everyone can begin to see where my work has taken me after these years of travelling all over the world. Thanks to all the friends who offered a couch to sleep on as I was travelling to or from the field. Dogs Otter and Bunyip have been great research companions (mostly), and our long walks in Virginia and Australia have helped me work through some of the tougher problems I explore in this text. Thanks buddies, even if you can’t read this. Last but definitively not least, I offer my sincere appreciation to my wife, Karen, who has been a source of commendable patience and inspiration for almost the entire duration of the project, who has dealt with my long absences for fieldwork, moved to the other side of the world on my account, and put up with my piles of books and field notes being all over our house as I prepared the manuscript of this book. I dedicate this book to you, my love.

I would like to thank Sally Brockwell, Ursula Frederick, Katie Hayne, and Emily Tinker for their work copyediting and typesetting this volume. As always, while I have many people to thank for their role in supporting my work, any errors or lacunae are the author’s responsibility.

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