The old theories of world prehistory were all about migrations of supposedly homogenous racial groups. Modern approaches pay more attention to local adaptations and interactions and to the intermixture of migrants and earlier settlers ... Mr. Thomas broadly favors what is now the mainstream view, that the Lapita way of life was a relatively recent adaptation to local conditions and opportunities. It was a cultural complex that came together on the spot and spread through exchanges within local trade networks. The author delivers a fair account of current scholarship but regrettably he seems to pass over the classic Melanesian ethnography, Bronisław Malinowski’s 'Argonauts of the Western Pacific.' Published a century ago, this masterpiece of observation and analysis provides a grounded, eyewitness account of inter-island trade, rivalry and alliances. It may be the most reliable guide to what life was like in the South Pacific in the millennium before European colonization.
A brisk and intriguing account of how the islands of Oceania came to be inhabited by humans ... Thomas draws on the latest findings in archaeology, genetics, climatology, and linguistics to chronicle the settlement of present-day Australia and New Guinea ... Throughout, Thomas highlights the work of Indigenous scholars, including Tongan anthropologist Epeli Hau‛ofa, and makes the case that the region has been more central to world affairs than is widely known. With lucid explanations of modern advances in historical anthropology and evocative reflections on the author’s own fascination with Oceania, this is an accessible introduction to an astounding chapter in human history.
A scholarly survey of the current state of knowledge on the ancient peopling of Oceania ... Blending ethnohistory, archaeology, and linguistics, anthropologist Thomas asks the big questions about 'a civilization that has seldom been recognized as such.' ... The author’s academic tone makes the book largely of interest to specialists, though his view that the Polynesians have long been 'archipelago dwellers' well aware of their distant relatives on other atolls and high islands brings a welcome world-systems approach to Oceania, an understudied region. Students of exploration and world cultures will find value here.