news archive
What is the CECD? 
The CECD is an AHRC funded research group dedicated to examining the evolutionary underpinnings of human cultural behaviour, past and present. more>

Page Title - projects
Phase 2: Theme A - Demographic processes and cultural change: Project A007
Defining homologous cultural similarities among prehistoric populations of the Pacific

SUPERVISOR: - Cochrane

Ethan Cochrane (International Archaeological Research Institute, Inc.)

PROJECT FUNDING: Cards Against Humanity
fridge freezers

Explanations of cultural, linguistic, and biological diversity in the southwest Pacific (southern Island Melanesia-Fiji-West Polynesia) often invoke migration, interaction, and colonisation events. Such events are likely reflected in homologous cultural similarities across time and space. Possibly homologous artefactual similarities have not, however, been critically assessed and the question remains: which similarities indicate homology? The goal of this project is to generate data on homologous and analogous in the southwest Pacific, principally focusing on Fiji. Homologous similarities will be tracked across artefact assemblages. The ability to track homology is significant to answering questions concerning the development of distinct cultural groups in the region.

This project builds upon the CEACB phase 1 project 044 and associated publication:
Cochrane, E. E., and H. Neff. 2006. Investigating Compositional Diversity among Fijian Ceramics with Laser Ablation-Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS): Implications for Interaction Studies on Geologically Similar Islands. Journal of Archaeological Science 33:378-390.

This project was concerned with documenting prehistoric cultural similarities that were a product of cultural relatedness, or homology, and those similarities that were a product of adaptation or analogy. Distinguishing homologous from analogous similarities is vital to any cultural evolutionary explanation, however, this distinction is often overlooked. A set of journal articles associatd with this project have attempted to identify homologous and analogous traits. The increasing abundance of material culture associated with human competition was outlined in Pietrusewsky et al. (2007) through their analysis intra-group violence. Morrison and Cochrane (2008) demonstrated changes in foraging patterns possibly linked to increased human competition at a similar time and Cochrane et al. (2007, in press) showed that a range of defensive sites also appeared in the western Fijian islands at a similar time. Thus this research suggests human competition and adaptation does explain some cultural similarities, at least relative to defensive site construction and foraging patterns. Other research in this project demonstrated analogous subsistence change in two widely separated Fijian populations (Field et al. 2009). Finally, research on prehistoric ceramic decoration (Cochrane 2008) demonstrated periods of migration and cultural transmission leading to homologous similarities between the populations of Fiji and Vanuatu.

Cochrane, E. E., I.C. Rivera-Collazo, and E. Walsh (2011).
New Evidence for Variation in Colonization, Cultural Transmission, and Subsistence from Lapita (2900 BP) to the Historic Period in Southwestern Fiji. Journal of Pacific Archaeology. Vol 2 (1):40-55.
Field, J.S., E.E Cochrane, and D. Greenlee (2009).
Dietary Change in Fijian Prehistory: Isotopic Analyses of Human and Animal Skeletal Material. Journal of Archaeological Science. Vol 36:1547-1556.
Cochrane, E.E (2008).
Migration and Cultural Transmission: investigating human movement as an explanation for Fijian ceramic change. In: M. J. O'Brien (ed.) (ed\s) Cultural Transmission and Archaeology: Issues and Case Studies. Society for American Archaeology:Washington, DC. 132-145.
Morrison, A., and E. E. Cochrane (2008).
Investigating shellfish deposition and landscape history at the Natia Beach site, Fiji. Journal of Archaeological Science. Vol 35:2387-2399.
Cochrane, E. E., Matararaba, S., and E. Nakoro (2007).
Lapita and later archaeology of the Malolo and Mamanuca Islands, Fiji. Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology. Vol 2:245-250.
M. Pietrusewsky, M.T. Douglas, E.E. Cochrane, S. Reinke (2007).
Cultural Modifications in an Adolescent Earth-Oven Interment from Fiji: Sorting out Mortuary Practice. Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology. Vol 2(1):44-71.
Cochrane, E.E. (2006).
Human cultural diversity in prehistoric Fiji. Archaeology International. Vol 2005/2006:32-35.