Stuart Bedford

Stuart Bedford is a Fellow in the School of Culture, History and Language at the Australian National University and an Associate with the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena. He has had the privilege of being involved in archaeological research in the Republic of Vanuatu for 25 years. Stuart’s research has covered the full span of human settlement in Vanuatu from initial Lapita settlement to the historic period, charting drivers of transformation over three millennia which have ultimately resulted in the extraordinary diversity both linguistically and culturally found across this small island nation. Themes that have been central to this research have been the definition and understanding of the timing and nature of initial settlement, levels of interconnectedness within and beyond the archipelago, cultural transformation and diversification, human impact on pristine environments, and impacts of natural hazards on resident populations. The research has contributed to regional and global debates on human colonisation, patterns of social interaction and the drivers of social change in island contexts.

Stuart’s current projects revolve around the development of ceremonial architecture in Northern Vanuatu, Post-Lapita transformations, Polynesian outliers and natural catastrophes. His latest substantial publication is Debating Lapita: Distribution, chronology, society and subsistence, co-edited with Matthew Spriggs and published by ANU Press in 2019. He was awarded a Vanuatu Service Medal (VSM) in 2011.

Research area/theme
Holocene Revolutions
Local Diversification
Island Melanesia after Lapita
Media coverage
Relevant publications


Bedford, S. and M. Spriggs (eds) 2019. Debating Lapita: Distribution, chronology, society and subsistence. Terra Australis 52. Canberra: ANU Press.

Book Chapters

Bedford, S. 2023. Austronesian Colonization of the Pacific Islands, 1200 BCE-1250 CE. In P. D’Arcy (ed.), The Cambridge History of the Pacific Ocean, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, Volume One (Matt Matsuda and Ryan Jones, eds.), pp. 434-456.

Bedford, S. 2022. Archives, oral traditions and archaeology: Dissonant narratives concerning punitive expeditions on Malakula Island, Vanuatu. In G. Clark and M. Lister (eds). Archaeological Perspectives on Conflict and Warfare in Australia and the Pacific. Pp. 211-225. Terra Australis 54. Canberra: ANU Press.

Bedford, S. 2019. The complexity of monumentality in Melanesia: Mixed messages from Vanuatu. In M. Leclerc and J. Flexner (eds), Archaeologies of Island Melanesia: Current approaches to landscapes, exchange and practice, pp. 67-79. Terra Australis 51. Canberra: ANU Press.

Bedford, S. 2018. Modified canines: Circular pig’s tusks in Vanuatu and the wider Pacific. In M.C. Langley, M. Litster, D. Wright and S.K. May (eds) 2018. The Archaeology of Portable Art: southeast Asian, Pacific, and Australian Perspectives, pp. 125-141. London and New York: Routledge.

Bedford, S., M. Abong, R. Shing and F. Valentin 2017. From First Encounters to Sustained Engagement and Alienation: European and ni-Vanuatu Contact from 1774 to 1915, Port Sandwich, Malakula, Vanuatu, Southwest Pacific. In M. Cruz Berrocal and C-h. Tsang (eds), Historical Archaeology of Early Modern Colonialism in Asia-Pacific, pp. 92-112. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.

Bedford, S.  2015. Going beyond the known World 3000 years ago: Lapita exploration and colonization of Remote Oceania. In C. Sand, S. Chiu and N. Hogg (eds), The Lapita Cultural Complex in time and space: Expansion routes, chronologies and typologies, pp. 25-48. Archeologica Pasifika 4. Nouméa: Institut d’archéologie de la Nouvelle-Calédonie et du Pacifique.

Bedford, S. and M. Spriggs 2014. The archaeology of Vanuatu: 3000 years of history across islands of ash and coral. In E. Cochrane and T. Hunt (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Prehistoric Oceania, pp. 162-185. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bedford, S. 2014. Melanesia. In C. Renfrew and P. Bahn (eds), The Cambridge World Prehistory. pp. 622-631. Volume 1.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bedford, S. 2006.  Pieces of the Vanuatu Puzzle: Archaeology of the North, South and Centre. Terra Australis 23. Canberra: Pandanus Press, The Australian National University.

Bedford, S. and G. Clark, 2001. The Rise and Rise of the Incised and Applied Relief Tradition: a review and reassessment.  In Clark, G., A. Anderson and T. Sorovi-Vunidilo (eds) The Archaeology of Lapita Dispersal in Oceania, pp. 61-74.  Terra Australis 17. Canberra: Centre for Archaeological Research and Department of Archaeology and Natural History, RSPAS, ANU.

Journal Articles

Bedford, S., M. Spriggs, J. Flexner & A. Naupa. 2022. Grassroots badly burnt: the loss of ni-Vanuatu archaeologists whose careers spanned 50 years. Journal of Pacific Archaeology 13(1): EPUB: Ahead of Print.

Roberts, P., K. Douka, M. Tromp, S. Bedford, S. Hawkins, L. Bouffandeau, J. Ilgner, M. Lucas, S. Marzo, R. Hamilton, W. Ambrose, D. Bulbeck, S. Luu, R. Shing, C. Gosden, G. Summerhayes and M. Spriggs 2022. Fossils, fish and tropical forests: Prehistoric human adaptations on the island frontiers of Oceania. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 377: 20200495. 

Flexner, J., S. Bedford and F. Valentin 2019. Who was Polynesian? Who was Melanesian? Hybridity and ethnogenesis in the South Vanuatu Outliers. Journal of Social Archaeology, 19(3):403-426.

Tromp, M., E. Matisoo-Smith, R. Kinaston, S. Bedford, M. Spriggs and H. Buckley 2019. Exploitation and utilization of tropical rainforests indicated in dental calculus of ancient Oceanic Lapita culture colonists. Nature: Human Behaviour, 4:489-495.

Lipson, M., P. Skoglund, M. Spriggs, F. Valentin, S. Bedford, R. Shing, H. Buckley, I. Phillip, G.K. Ward, S. Mallick, N. Rohland, N. Broomandkhoshbacht, O. Cheronet, M. Ferry, T.K. Harper, M. Michel, J. Oppenheimer, K. Sirak, K. Stewardson, K. Auckland, A.V.S. Hill, K. Maitland, S.J. Oppenheimer, T. Parks, K. Robson, T.N. Williams, D.J. Kennett, A.J. Mentzer, R. Pinhasi and D. Reich 2018. Population Turnover in Remote Oceania shortly after initial settlement. Current Biology, 28:1-9.

Posth, C., K. Nägele, H. Colleran, F. Valentin, S. Bedford, K. Kami, R. Shing, H. Buckley, R. Kinaston, M. Walworth, G.R. Clark, C. Reepmeyer, J. Flexner, T. Maric, J. Moser, J. Gresky, L. Kiko, K. J. Robson, K. Auckland, S.J. Oppenheimer, A.V.S. Hill, A.J. Mentzer, J. Zech, F. Petchey, P. Roberts, C. Jeong, R.D. Gray, J. Krause and A. Powell 2018. Language continuity despite population replacement in Remote Oceania. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2:731-740.

Bedford, S., P. Siméoni and V. Lebot 2018. The anthropogenic transformation of an island landscape: evidence for agricultural development revealed by lidar on the island of Efate, central Vanuatu, south-west Pacific. Archaeology in Oceania, 53(1): 1-14.

Skoglund, P., C. Posth, K. Sirak, M. Spriggs, F. Valentin, S. Bedford, G. Clark, C. Reepmeyer, F. Petchey, D. Fernandes, Q. Fu, E. Harney, M. Lipson, S. Mallick, M. Novak, N. Rohland, K. Stewardson, S. Abdullah, M. Cox, F. Friedlaender, J. Friedlaender, T. Kivisild, G. Koki, P. Kusuma, A. Merriwether, F-X. Ricaut, J. Wee, N. Patterson, J. Krause, R. Pinhasi and D. Reich 2016. Ancient genomics and the peopling of the Southwest Pacific. Nature, 538(7626):510-513. doi:10.1038/nature19844

Valentin, F., F. Détroit, M. Spriggs, and S. Bedford 2015. Early Lapita skeletons from Vanuatu show Polynesian craniofacial shape: Implications for Remote Oceanic settlement and Lapita origins. PNAS, 113(2): 292-297.

Valentin, F., E. Herrscher, S. Bedford, M. Spriggs and H. Buckley 2014. Evidence for Social and Cultural Change in Central Vanuatu Between 3000 and 2000 BP: Comparing Funerary and Dietary Patterns of the First and Later Generations at Teouma, Efate.  The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology, 9:3, 381-399.

Kinaston, R., S. Bedford, M. Richards, S. Hawkins, A. Gray, K. Jaouen, F. Valentin, H. Buckley. 2014. Diet and Human Mobility from the Lapita to the Early Historic Period on Uripiv Island, Northeast Malakula, Vanuatu. PLoS ONE, 9(8): e104071.

Kinaston, R. H. Buckley, F. Valentin, S. Bedford, M. Spriggs, S. Hawkins, E. Herrscher 2014. Lapita Diet in Remote Oceania: New Stable Isotope Evidence from the 3000-Year-Old Teouma Site, Efate Island, Vanuatu. PLoS ONE, 9(3): e90376.

Bedford, S., H. Buckley, F. Valentin, N. Tayles and N. Longga 2011. Lapita Burials, a New Lapita Cemetery and Post-Lapita Burials from Malakula, Northern Vanuatu, Southwest Pacific. Journal of Pacific Archaeology, 2(2):26-48.

Valentin, M. Spriggs, S. Bedford and H. Buckley 2011. Vanuatu Mortuary Practices over Three Millennia: Lapita to the Early European Contact Period. Journal of Pacific Archaeology, 2(2):49-65.

White, A., T. Worthy, S. Hawkins, S. Bedford and M. Spriggs 2010. Megafaunal meiolaniid horned turtles survived until early human settlement in Vanuatu, Southwest Pacific. PNAS, 107:15512-15516.

Bedford, S. and M. Spriggs 2008. Northern Vanuatu as a Pacific Crossroads: The Archaeology of discovery, interaction and the emergence of the ‘Ethnographic present’. Asian Perspectives, 47:95-120.

Bedford, S., M. Spriggs and R. Regenvanu 2006. The Teouma Lapita site and the early human settlement of the Pacific Islands. Antiquity, 80:812-828.

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