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Kibo le Serment Grave, Essai de synthese sur les petroglyphes caledoniens.

Kibo le Serment Grave, Essai de synthese sur les petroglyphes caledoniens

By Jean Monnin and Christophe Sand Les Cahiers de l'Archeologie en Nouvelle-Caledonie 16, Noumea. ISSN 1264-1502 / ISBN 2-9519208-2-2. Pp 319. Price PFr1500 + postage.

While I have visited several of the petroglyph sites illustrated in this book and had a vague idea that such sites were prolific in New Caledonia, I had no idea how prolific or how diverse sites were until I turned the pages of this new and very comprehensive synthesis by Jean Monnin and Christophe Sand.

This volume builds on and extends earlier work, particularly that of Frimigacci and Monnin (1980), that has been largely neglected in English language syntheses of the rock art of the Pacific region. Chapter 1 provides an historical overview of earlier recording, research and theories about the petroglyphs. Chapter 2 presents a comprehensive coverage of the archaeological data on the petroglyphs of New Caledonia, provides definitions, gives a breakdown of sites region by region using the New Caledonia site registration codes and within each region gives a site by site inventory with drawing and photographs of motif panels and individual motifs.

Chapter 3 presents the motif typologies used in the volume which extend the typological framework used by Frimigacci and Monnin (1980). This chapter is very comprehensive as while it sets out a typology that allows all motifs to be incorporated with a motif category for analysis, it also provides for a degree of flexibility in that a visual guide to the diversity of motifs encompassed within each category is presented.

Chapter 5 presents an analysis of the petroglyph data in the context of design motifs on other mediums such as pottery and incised bamboo containers (yes, Lapita is there!) from New Caledonia and from elsewhere in Oceania. I found the approach used in this chapter refreshing as while chronology is touched on, it is more in the spirit of looking at transfer or transmission of motifs and style rather than concerned with making direct culture historical parallels and chronological connections. This chapter also explore the way that many of the motifs are incorporated into, and important in, contemporary Kanak traditions.

This volume will be an invaluable resource for everyone interested in rock art or more generally in style and design in the Pacific region. Even for readers hesitant to tackle the text, which is in French, the logic of the layout, clear site by site presentation of the data and the wealth of excellent illustrations and photographs of the petroglyphs make this book a pleasure to use. The volume also includes numerous useful Appendices including one which shows the regional distribution patterns of the different forms of the enveloped cross motif.

Like others in the series it is beautifully produced and illustrated and at the price (about AUD20.50) it is a steal.


Frimigacci, D and J. Monnin 1980. Un inventaire des petroglyphes de Nouvelle-Caledonie (Grande Terre et Iles). Journal de la Societe des Oceanistes 66-67, p. 17-99.


Australian National University

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Author:O'Connor, Sue
Publication:Archaeology in Oceania
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 2005
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