The Past, Present and Future Values of the Polynesian Stone Adzes and Pounders Collected on the Pandora

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  • Michelle J. Richards, Australian Natl Univ, Australian National University, Res Sch Biol
  • ,
  • Jasmin Gunther

After the Pandora's partly unsuccessful pursuit of the Bounty mutineers through the Pacific islands in 1791, the ship ran aground on a submerged reef and sank 140km east of Cape York, Queensland. Archaeological excavations revealed that the Pandora crew, in addition to their primary objective, made ethnographic material collections during their voyage, including 25 stone adzes and 5 stone pounders. These collected objects are of particular interest because they have escaped the past processes that might have impacted them had they made the journey back to Europe. In archaeological studies, for instance, these adzes were not included in 20th century typological analyses concerned with understanding the initial human migrations into Oceania, or in more recent geoarchaeological research that seeks to understand Polynesian voyaging, social networks and exchanges.

Our paper contextualises the adzes and pounders found on the Pandora to understand the engagement between the European crewmembers and the local people they encountered during their journey through the Pacific Islands. The Pandora crew had participated in the early colonial collecting practices that were foundational to European museum collections and the beginnings of anthropological and archaeological enquiry in the Pacific. On the other hand, the Polynesian participants likely benefited from the engagement in ways that suited their own agendas. We argue that the Pandora objects and similar museum collections as a broader assemblage are important not only for archaeological research, but also because they potentially continue to hold contemporary significance for Polynesian people today and are a legacy that can benefit future generations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
JournalBulletin of the History of Archaeology
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2019

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