An Archaeologist’s Geologist: A Symposium in Honor of William R. Dickinson

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

No other geologist has contributed more to Pacific Islands archaeology than William “Bill” Dickinson. His pioneering work in the 1960s on identifying sources of temper sands in prehistoric pottery provided a rigorous technique for understanding modes of ceramic production, interaction and exchange. His continuing pursuits in this field across the spread of Oceania provide an archaeological service and insights that truly are outstanding. His research on sea level change, paleo-shoreline documentation and island geomorphologies are central to our modeling of human colonization in the Pacific, and fundamental to our discovery and understanding of associated sites. And despite his parallel career as an internationally renowned and decorated geoscientist, he has been a prolific author/co-author of over 125 publications on geoarchaeology and ceramic petrography. This symposium honors Bill's five decades of interdisciplinary collaboration with Pacific archaeologists, and the many significant contributions he has made.

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  • Documents (14)

  • Assessing Island Habitability and Land Use on Polynesia’s Smallest Islands (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Melinda Allen. Alex E. Morrison. Andrew M. Lorrey. Geraldine Jacobsen.

    In a series of papers Bill Dickinson has outlined the timing of late Holocene sea level fall across the Pacific and its effects on island habitability and human settlement. He proposed that island settlement, particularly in East Polynesia, was constrained, or in some cases impossible, during the mid-Holocene sea level highstand, when low-lying islands (e.g., atolls) were awash and shallow near-shore environments restricted. Stable islets of modern configuration only developed after declining...

  • "By all means let us complete the exercise ": the 50 year search for Lapita on Aneityum, southern Vanuatu comes to a conclusion. (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Stuart Bedford. Matthew Spriggs. Richard Shing.

    Archaeological research on the island of Aneityum, the southern-most inhabited island of the Vanuatu archipelago (the former New Hebrides) began in 1964 under the direction of Richard and Mary Shutler. It was soon after this that William Dickinson first began analysing pottery sherds from various sites across the archipelago. Since those early beginnings he has studied 100s of samples including 112 samples from the single site of Teouma. Early pottery sites remained elusive on the southern...

  • Clay and Technology: Micronesian ceramic tradition (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Michiko Intoh.

    Pottery tradition in Micronesia was diverse in terms of technology. This relates to various factors, such as historical and/or cultural reasons and the natural environmental conditions. Above all, the nature of clay resource available to the potters has significant effect upon forming techniques and products. Thanks to William Dickinson’s wide-ranging geological knowledge and active involvement in mineralogical studies of excavated pottery from Oceania, our understanding on prehistoric pottery...

  • Connection and Competition: some early insights gained from petrographic studies of New Caledonian Lapita pottery (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Scarlett Chiu. David Killick. William Dickinson. Christophe Sand.

    In this paper we will present the newest results gained from both petrographic and chemical compositional analyses of New Caledonian Lapita pottery samples, to address issues concerning long-distance connections among several Lapita communities, and competition that might have happened between Northern and Southern Lapita communities. We have been able to develop an effective way of identifying pottery production areas within New Caledonia, and our results suggest that there were possible social...

  • Determining Geochemical Variability of Fine-Grained Basalt Sources/Quarries for Facilitating Prehistoric Interaction Studies in Polynesia (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Marshall Weisler. Robert Bolhar. Michel Charleaux. Tyler Faith. Yuexing Feng.

    William "Bill" Dickinson has long been interested in tracking interaction between Pacific Island societies by comparing temper sands of prehistoric ceramics and, more recently, thin section descriptions of basalt adzes. Fine grained basalt sources or quarries anchor ancient interaction spheres, yet few of the dozens of adze quarries found throughout Polynesia are known in sufficient detail to understand intra-source variability. This fundamental data is essential for confidently assigning...

  • From Sea to Shining Sea: The Influence of Bill Dickinson’s Pacific Island Ceramic Petrography on Caribbean Research (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kathleen Marsaglia. Scott Fitzpatrick. John Lawrence. Jenni Pavia.

    Bill Dickinson’s research in the Pacific is widely known and considered to be one of the most exemplary cases of transdisciplinary research between archaeologists and the geosciences. The collaborative effort cultivated between Dickinson and the archaeological community over the last 50 years has led to new ways of understanding how and when peoples colonized islands, and the exchange systems that developed through time, among other important issues. One of the most significant outcomes of these...

  • Geological subsidence and sinking Islands: the case of Manono (Samoa) (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Christophe Sand. Jacques Bolé. David Baret. André-John Ouetcho. Tautala Asaua.

    W. Dickinson, as part of his wide study of the geological history of Pacific islands, has proposed in a series of papers to explain the unique case of the deeply submerged Lapita site of Mulifanua in Western Upolu (Samoa), as linked to the slow subsidence of Upolu Island. Recent archaeological research on the neighboring small island of Manono, has brought new and detailed data on this geological process. A series of dates allow to define chronologically the speed of the subsidence as well as...

  • Lapita - the Australian connection (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ian Lilley.

    Recent research in southern New Guinea, Torres Strait and northeastern Australia suggests that Lapita users and possibly makers may have been present in regions hitherto believed to be beyond their reach. In New Guinea, the discovery of late Lapita near Port Moresby has just been complemented by findings of late Lapita ceramics in the western Gulf of Papua. Southwest of the Gulf, undiagnostic ceramics dating to perhaps 2500 years are now known in the Torres Strait. Bill Dickinson showed that...

  • Marquesan voyaging during the East Polynesian Archaic era (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Barry Rolett.

    Early East Polynesian chiefdoms are remarkable for their voyaging spheres, as evidenced by archaeologically-documented interisland contact. One of the most prominent examples of interisland contact derives from a 1974 study by Bill Dickinson in which it was found that a handful of pottery sherds discovered in the Marquesas can be sourced to Fiji, an archipelago lying more than 4000 km to the west. Various interpretations of this discovery continue to fuel debate surrounding the context and...

  • Mid-sequence colonization and occupation at Nukubalavu, Vanua Levu, Fiji (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Sharyn Jones. Justin Cramb. Alison Weisskopf.

    Inspired by Bill Dickinson’s broad and multifaceted perspective on the archaeological record of human colonization in the Pacific Islands, we present both new data from Vanua Levu, Fiji—informed in part by Bill’s ceramic petrography from the site of Nukubalavu and reflections on the thalassic pattern of colonization in the central Pacific Islands. While a sea focus in the Pacific Islands is unremarkable, some Lapita, Late Lapita, and Mid-sequence occupations of Fiji reveal an intriguing pattern...

  • The Mussau Islands Lapita Exchange Network: A Review of Three Decades of Analysis (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Patrick Kirch.

    From 1985-88 the author conducted excavations at Talepakemalai (ECA) and other Lapita sites in the Mussau Islands of the Bismarck Archipelago, recovering an extensive assemblage of pottery, obsidian, lithics and manuports, and other materials. Efforts to geochemically characterize the diversity and trace the potential sources of ceramic clay and temper, as well as the obsidian and other lithic materials from Mussau have continued over three decades. Throughout this evolving research project...

  • Paleo-sea levels, Bill Dickinson, and Interpretive Modeling for the Lapita Settlement of Fanga ‘Uta Lagoon, Kingdom of Tonga (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only David Burley.

    In the 1990s and subsequently Bill Dickinson carried out widespread survey of paleo-shoreline indicators throughout the Kingdom of Tonga, these providing context for initial Lapita settlement of the archipelago. His research on Fanga ‘Uta lagoon on the island of Tongatapu has proven essential to interpretations of a 3000 BP landscape considerably different than the mangrove fringed shoreline existing today. Recent archaeological studies support and refine Dickinson’s model, providing additional...

  • Petrographic and geochemical evidence reveals the local focus of interaction throughout Samoa’s prehistory (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ethan Cochrane. Timothy Rieth.

    Bill Dickinson’s extensive and unequaled ceramic petrographic research has identified spatial patterns of artefact production and population interaction across the Pacific Islands. In Samoa his work on ceramic collections suggests a largely local focus of production and distribution. We combine Dickinson’s ceramic petrography with all available geochemical analyses of ceramics, basalt and obsidian artefacts, and demonstrate local-scale production and movement for all of these artefact classes....

  • The Use of a Bench-top SEM in Ceramic Characterization in Oceania (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Peter Sheppard.

    Thanks to the efforts of Bill Dickinson petrographic analysis of ceramic thin sections has been able to make an almost unparalleled contribution to sourcing studies in Oceania. In this paper I will report on use of one of the new generation desktop SEMs which will help us continue and build on Bill’s work. Examples will be drawn from studies of Lapita period ceramic assemblages in the Solomon Islands. SAA 2015 abstracts made available in tDAR courtesy of the Society for American Archaeology and...