Fire features and ritual: an ethnoarchaeological analysis in Fiji's Lau Group
This thesis examines the earth oven, a common Fijian feature, from an ethnoarchaeological perspective. Earth ovens are ubiquitous in the archaeological record of the Pacific, yet little attempt has been made to determine standardized criteria for distinguishing these features from another common fire feature, the domestic hearth. This study aims to lay out criteria for distinguishing these similar features, as well as begin to explore methods for investigating ritual and religion in the archaeological record through these features. It utilizes archaeological, ethnohistorical, and ethnographic data from Fiji's Lau Group to achieve these goals. Earth ovens hold an important role in contemporary household food preparation, as well as preparation for feasting and ceremonies. Historical accounts of the region directly following European contact also point to the use of earth ovens in associations with rituals, including feasts and cannibalistic practices. While these rituals are no longer practiced, analysis of suspected ritual features, examination of ethnohistorical records, and comparison with ethnographic parallels of everyday fire features can aid in the recognition and interpretation of prehistoric ritual sites.