Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Details

Szabo, K. & Amesbury, J. R. (2011). Molluscs in a world of islands: the use of shellfish as a food resource in the tropical island Asia-Pacific region. Quaternary International, 239 (1-2), 8-18.


The vast Asia-Pacific region, spanning from the islands of Indonesia and Borneo in the west through Melanesia, Micronesia, and West Polynesia in the east, is a panorama of water and islands. Encompassing the " coral triangle" , this region is the most speciose of the global marine biogeographic provinces with a mosaic of high-biomass habitats such as mangrove swamps and coral reefs as well as rocky shores, seagrass meadows and beaches. The importance of molluscs across this region, as a consistent source of food as well as providing raw materials for artefacts, can hardly be overestimated. The western parts of this region have Pleistocene human occupation records, with some zones of Indonesia yielding non-sapiens hominin remains (Homo erectus and Homo floresiensis). For most of the tropical Pacific Islands, the archaeological record commences at ∼3.5-∼1 ka BP. Rather than conducting an exhaustive survey of knowledge of the human use of molluscs over this vast span of space and time, the focus here is on central issues regarding the use of molluscan resources for food. Four major issues are discussed; (1) the evidence for shellfish collection by non-sapiens hominins; (2) the character of early Homo sapiens shellfish-gathering relative to discussions of coastal adaptations; (3) what was the effect on shell-gathering practices as seas rose in the Holocene; and (4) where do shellfish fit into the notions of early subsistence in Oceanic Micronesia and Melanesia-West Polynesia? © 2011 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA.