skip to primary navigationskip to content

Matthew Spriggs Leverhulme Lecture

Matthew Spriggs, (Leverhulme Trust Visiting Professor, University of Cambridge, 2016-2017) - LEVERHULME LECTURE From prestige goods to prestige practices: Lapita long-distance interactions in the Western Pacific
When May 23, 2016
from 05:30 PM to 06:30 PM
Where McDonald Institute Seminar Room
Contact Name
Attendees All welcome
Add event to calendar vCal


In this seminar I want to explore whether there is a place for the idea of ‘prestige practices’ alongside the more commonly considered ‘prestige goods’ in discussions of long-distance interactions. I use the Western Pacific during the period of the Lapita culture around 3000BP to try to tease the two ideas apart. It is argued that in some cases exotic goods found in sites are merely incidental to the movement of people engaged in prestige-making activities rather than having any transcendent value themselves as prestige items; as such they may give clues as to what these prestige practices might be, as can the iconography on the elaborately decorated Lapita pottery.

Prestige practices in the Western Pacific in Lapita times could have included being a boat-builder or navigator, the ability to mediate across languages and cultures that a scout or trader might possess, tattooing, wood-carving, ritual specialisms of various kinds, healing and bone-setting, tactical skill in warfare and/or hunting, the magic of being the exemplary first farmer in a region and establishing a new settlement, or of being a prospector and/or stone axe maker or metalworker. Being a chief is in itself a prestige practice, one that has to be reinforced constantly through performance. I pose the question as to whether archaeological interest in “things” and “thingness” may have gone too far?



Prof. Matthew Spriggs is an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow at the Australian National University. He is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Uppsala, Sweden and the Honorary

Showcasing research highlights and outreach for the academic year 2016-2017

Read more

Upcoming events

Ivory Identification 2018

Sep 21, 2018

Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge

Upcoming events

An Oral History of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research