10. Islands in the Comparative Stream: The Importance of Inter-Island Analogies to Archaeological Discourse
Scott Fitzpatrick [+]
University of Oregon
The sub-field of island archaeology developed primarily as an outgrowth, with strong anthropological influence, of biogeographical principles that emerged more than 50 years ago. Island archaeology has since matured and been enriched with the addition of many other areas of study, including palaeoecology, history, and biology, all of which have provided much stronger methodological and theoretical foundations for examining how and when humans occupied and adapted to island environments prehistorically. In this chapter, I examine the scholarly tradition and relevance of island archaeology in modern archaeological discourse, arguing that a comparative framework both within and between island regions is not only critical but essential if we are truly to provide meaningful explanations for how modern human behavior evolved across time and space. While there have been past attempts to cross-cut disciplinary and geographical boundaries to achieve this goal, a comparative approach is, despite its intrinsic necessity, rare; all the more concerning, as avoiding comparison risks a degree of intellectual insularity and a blinkered understanding of human-environmental interactions.