Frank R. Thomas

Sustainable Extractive Strategies in the Pre-European Contact Pacific: Evidence from Mollusc Resources

Mollusc remains from archaeological and more recent historical contexts provide good proxies to assess environmental change, as well as human impact, both negative and positive, as reflected, for example, by sustainable resource management practices. Testing the various hypotheses to explain change in mollusc distribution in various archaeological assemblages requires an understanding of ecological and biological characteristics of each species, as well as access to detailed ethnographic and ethnoarchaeological data on the interaction between people and molluscs. A growing interest in indigenous resource management among Pacific Island communities has led some archaeologists to seek tangible evidence of sustainable use of resources in the past, to complement the more widespread research conclusions that depict mollusc resource depression and/or shifts in species composition as a consequence of (negative) human impact. This paper will draw from selected case studies in the Pacific Islands Region.

Keywords: archaeology, ethnographic and ethnoarchaeological data, mollusc ecological and biological characteristics, sustainable resource management, Pacific Islands.

Figure: Giant Clam Garden, Abemama Atoll, Kiribati (© Frank R. Thomas).