Islands Out of Time

Towards a Critique of Island Archaeology


  • Paul Rainbird University of Wales



islands, Anglo-American thought, archaeologists, island societies


Island biogeography was developed in the 1960s but derives from a long heritage of treating islands as distinct and special places when compared to continental situations. The ancestry of such views can be traced through western literature since the 16th century and, it is proposed here, has led to a bias against island peoples in Anglo-American thought. In this paper the bias is traced through popular literature, anthropology and on to its incorporation in contemporary island archaeology. In conclusion, it is proposed that island archaeologists - whether they work in the Mediterranean, the Pacific, the Caribbean or elsewhere - need to relinquish this inheritance and look to alternative ways of understanding in order to develop an even-handed and more appropriate interpretation of island societies in the past.

Author Biography

Paul Rainbird, University of Wales

Paul Rainbird completed his doctoral research at the University of Sydney in 1995. Following this he lectured in Cultural Heritage Studies at Charles Sturt University, Australia, and since 1998 has been a lecturer in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Wales, Lampeter. His doctoral research focused on the islands of the northwest tropical Pacific and he has published the only major synthesis of that region's archaeology in the 'Journal of World Prehistory' (1994). He has also conducted fieldwork in Australia and Europe. He is the Convenor of Lampeter's integrated Archaeology and Anthropology degree scheme.



How to Cite

Rainbird, P. (2000). Islands Out of Time: Towards a Critique of Island Archaeology. Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology, 12(2), 216–234.



Discussion and Debate