Archaeological perspectives on conflict and warfare in Australia and the Pacific

Geoffrey Clark (Editor), Mirani Litster (Editor)

Research output: Book/ReportAnthologypeer-review


When James Boswell famously lamented the irrationality of war in 1777, he noted the universality of conflict across history and across space - even reaching what he described as the gentle and benign southern ocean nations. This volume discusses archaeological evidence of conflict from those southern oceans, from Palau and Guam, to Australia, Vanuatu and Tonga, the Marquesas, Easter Island and New Zealand. The evidence for conflict and warfare encompasses defensive earthworks on Palau, fortifications on Tonga, and intricate pa sites in New Zealand. It reports evidence of reciprocal sacrifice to appease deities in several island nations, and skirmishes and smaller scale conflicts, including in Easter Island. This volume traces aspects of colonial-era conflict in Australia and frontier battles in Vanuatu, and discusses depictions of World War II materiel in the rock art of Arnhem Land. Among the causes and motives discussed in these papers are pressure on resources, the ebb and flow of significant climate events, and the significant association of conflict with culture contact. The volume, necessarily selective, eclectic and wide-ranging, includes an incisive introduction that situates the evidence persuasively in the broader scholarship addressing the history of human warfare.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCanberra, ACT
PublisherANU Press
Number of pages280
ISBN (Electronic)9781760464899
ISBN (Print)9781760464882
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameTerra Australis
PublisherANU Press


  • Palau
  • Guam
  • Australia
  • Vanuatu
  • Tonga
  • Marquesas
  • Easter Island
  • New Zealand
  • defensive earthworks
  • fortifications
  • colonial-era conflict
  • frontier battles
  • human warfare


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