Maureece Jacqueline LEVIN

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Stanford U.

Grant number

Gr. 9344

Approve Date

October 5, 2016

Project Title

Levin, Dr. Maureece Jacqueline, Stanford U., Stanford, CA - To aid research on 'Cultural Niche Construction in Central-Eastern Micronesia: An Archaeology of Plant Food Systems on Pingelap Atoll'

Preliminary abstract: The atolls of the Pacific Islands are some of the most remote and ecologically impoverished places on the planet. Nevertheless, archaeological evidence shows that humans began to settle these tiny coral islands soon after sea levels stabilized in the region around 3000 years ago. In addition to exploitation of marine resources, settlers accomplished this in large part by transporting domesticates with them and engineering landscapes that increased in biodiversity and soil quality, allowing for sufficent food to maintain small populations. In this project, my aim is to study the practices of terrestrial food production on atolls, using the case study of Pingelap. Specifically, I apply the theory of cultural niche construction to understand the feedback between food production-related ecological engineering and the social and physical environment in which Pingelapese people lived. Methodologically, I use archaeological survey, paleoethnobotanical analysis (including plant macroremains, phytoliths, calcium oxalates, and starch), and ethnoarchaeological interview to interpret food production in Pingelap’s past. Ultimately, this project will shed light on the way that humans adapt subsistence strategies to remote and insular environments over the course of millenia.