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On the Margins of Sustainability

Prehistoric settlement of Utr?k Atoll, Northern Marshall Islands

Marshall I. Weisler


The 34 islands that comprise the Marshall group lie in the Pacific Ocean some half way between Hawaii and New Guinea. This study, incorporating landscape, habitation sites, chronologies, and material culture, is a detailed archaeological survey of Utrôk Atoll (in the Northern Marshall Islands) by the former Chief Archaeologist for the Historic Preservation Office, Republic of the Marshall Islands. Low coral atolls are the most precarious of Pacific island landscapes. Utrôk Atoll was colonized and settledfor nearly 2000 years, and that resource depression and extinctions were not more visible archaeologically may signal that human populations lived in a sustainable manner. Future investigations may reveal different patterns of resource use, and it is with this comparative approach that we may come to understand the breadth of atoll adaptations – technological, economic, and social.