The Premise and Potential of Model-based Approaches to Island Archaeology: A Response to Terrell

In a recent paper published in The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology, John Terrell (2020) objected to the proposition that islands can offer model systems to study human behavior and ecodynamics (see Cherry and Leppard 2018; DiNapoli and Leppard 2018; DiNapoli et al. 2018; Fitzpatrick and Erlandson 2018; Kirch 2007; McLaughlin, Stoddart, and Malone 2018; Pilaar Birch 2018). He argues that a review of insular model systems in the study of non-human taxa (Warren et al. 2015) is empirically flawed and theoretically incoherent and implies that these flaws also characterize islands as models for the study of humans. He further asserts that islands have no distinguishing features that facilitate the comparative study of human cultural and ecological processes over the long term, that the category “island” is not a useful scientific concept, and that a model systems approach is not relevant to contemporary island communities. We disagree with Terrell’s characterization of model systems thinking, but we welcome his challenge, as it provides an opportunity to clarify the rationale and advantages of this approach to island archaeology. Here, we show how the concept of “island” is intellectually coherent and analytically useful within model systems approaches and provide examples drawn from a range of research to demonstrate this utility.



Work Title The Premise and Potential of Model-based Approaches to Island Archaeology: A Response to Terrell
Open Access
  1. Thomas Leppard
  2. Robert DiNapoli
  3. John Cherry
  4. Kristina Douglass
License In Copyright (Rights Reserved)
Work Type Article
  1. Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology
Publication Date April 21, 2021
Publisher Identifier (DOI)
Deposited July 15, 2021




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  • Created
  • Added JICA_Response_to_Terrell_final_3_.docx
  • Added Creator Thomas Leppard
  • Added Creator Robert DiNapoli
  • Added Creator John Cherry
  • Added Creator Kristina Douglass
  • Published
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