Stuart Bedford

The fieldwork focus of Stuart’s research over the last twenty years has been the islands of Vanuatu, in the southwestern Pacific. Research issues that have been addressed at both a local and regional level have included origins, timing and strategies of colonisation, settlement pattern, levels of social interaction, cultural transformation, environmental impact and human responses to natural disasters. Other areas of interest include the archaeologies of Empire, Colonialism and Contact.

His current research is focused (2013-2017) on an ARC funded project titled "Investigating monumentality in Melanesia: the archaeology of ritual architecture on the islands of Malakula, Vanuatu". The aim of this project is to inject renewed impetus into understanding general processes of social transformation in the wider Pacific. It focuses on the archaeology of monumental and ritual architecture, cultural manifestations long recognised as indispensable in identifying prehistoric sociopolitical change. The study will provide rare comparative data from the Melanesian region, namely the islands of Malakula in Vanuatu, which can then be assessed against the long-established models of socio-political change generated for much of Polynesia and to a lesser extent Micronesia. Contemporary concerns such as population growth, land and food security are also addressed. In 2016 Stuart will also be starting a new ARC funded project in Southern Vanuatu with colleagues James Flexner and Frederique Valentin.

From 2008-2012 his research (as an ARC QEII Fellow) research revolved around an ARC funded project titled “Persistence and transformation in Ancestral Oceanic Society: the archaeology of the first 1500 years in the Vanuatu archipelago”. It involved a series of large-area excavations conducted at a number of key Lapita and immediately Post-Lapita (dating to between 3000-1500 years ago) settlements and cemeteries across the archipelago over five years (2008-2012); see the ANH Current Projects page for more information. The aim was to examine the internal settlement layout and social structures of the initial colonising groups, and their transformations and/or persistence during the first 1500 years of settlement of Vanuatu. In this way archaeology will contribute to further elucidation of what has been labelled Ancestral Oceanic Society, from which much of the diversity in present-day Pacific Island cultures derives.

Oceanic Explorations »

Lapita and Western Pacific Settlement

Edited by: Stuart Bedford, Christophe Sand, Sean P. Connaughton
Lapita comprises an archaeological horizon that is fundamental to the understanding of human colonisation and settlement of the Pacific as it is associated with the arrival of the common ancestors of the Polynesians and many Austronesian-speaking Melanesians more than 3000 years ago. While Lapita archaeology has captured the imagination and sustained the focus of archaeologists for more than 50 years, more recent discoveries have inspired renewed interpretations and assessments. Oceanic Explorations reports on a number of these latest discoveries and includes papers which reassess the Lapita phenomenon in light of this new data. They reflect on a broad range of interrelated themes including Lapita chronology, patterns of settlement, migration, interaction and exchange, ritual behaviour, sampling strategies and ceramic analyses, all of which relate to aspects highlighting both advances and continuing impediments associated with Lapita research.

Pieces of the Vanuatu Puzzle »

Archaeology of the North, South and Centre

Authored by: Stuart Bedford
Pieces of the Vanuatu Puzzle presents the results of the most intensive and widespread archaeological investigations in Vanuatu for more than 30 years. For the first time the results of extensive excavations carried out on three islands in the archipelago are published. The sites span from the period of initial Lapita settlement through to later cultural transformations. The research has brought greater clarity to the early history of the Vanuatu archipelago and has wider implications for the region in general particularly in terms of how processes of cultural change are explained. It is an essential reference work both for those archaeologists working in the western Pacific but also for those who deal with material culture generally and pottery more specifically.