Also known as: Lord Howe islanders; Luangiua; Ontong Javanese

Ontong Java, also known as Lord Howe Atoll, is a large atoll north of the main Solomon Islands chain. As it is culturally Polynesian but is considered to be geographically outside Polynesia, it is considered one of the "Polynesian Outliers". The name "Ontong Java", bestowed by Abel Tasman, is misleading - the island is far from (and geographically dissimilar to) Java itself, and the people of Ontong Java share only a distant cultural relationship (by virtue of speaking an Austronesian language) with the Javanese. The atoll is sometimes known as Lord Howe, or as Luangiua, although the latter properly refers to only one of the two islets making up Ontong Java. Ontong Javanese society differed from many other Polynesian societies in having only a weakly developed concept of hereditary rank. Religion in Ontong Java was based on the worship of ancestors - there were apparently no gods.

Show Map of Location

Traditional Culture(1899)Expand All +
Belief +

Supernatural Beings

Nature Spirits Present, but not a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Hogbin (1930a)
Nature god(s) Absent (Source)
Hogbin (1930a)
Ancestral spirits Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Hogbin (1930a)
Deified ancestor(s) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Hogbin (1930a)
God(s) Absent (Source)
Hogbin (1930a)

Supernatural Punishment

Supernatural punishment for impiety Present (Source)
Hogbin (1934), pp. 143-165

Afterlife and Creation

One's actions while living can affect the nature of one's afterlife Absent (Source)
Hogbin (1934), pp. 143-144
The actions of others after one has died can affect the nature of one's afterlife Absent (Source)
Hogbin (1934), pp. 143-144
Myth of humanity’s creation Absent (Source)
Hogbin (1934), pp. 168-172
Primordial pair Absent (Source)
Hogbin (1934), pp. 168-172
Culture hero(es) Absent (Source)
Hogbin (1930a)
Hogbin (1934), pp. 168-172

General Features

Forces of nature are controlled by or imbued with the supernatural Present (Source)
Hogbin (1930a)

Classes of Tapu

Social hierarchy tapu Present (Source)
Hogbin (1934), pp. 150-151
Resource management tapu Absent (Source)
Hogbin (1934), pp. 95-100, 143-165
Kinship tapu Present (Source)
Hogbin (1934), pp. 161

Mana

Mana as a spiritual or religious concept Absent (Source)
Blust (2007)
Blevins (2008)
Keesing (1984)
Mana as a personal quality Absent (Source)
Blust (2007)
Blevins (2008)
Keesing (1984)
Mana related to social influence or technical skill Absent (Source)
Practice +

General Supernatural Practices

Headhunting Absent (Source)
Hogbin (1934)
Costly sacrifices and offerings Absent (Source)
Hogbin (1934), pp. 143-209
Largest religious community Larger than a local community, no larger than the largest political community in the culture (Source)
Hogbin (1934), pp. 93-94, 224, 231
Political and religious differentiation Some overlap (Source)
Hogbin (1934), pp. 93-94, 166-168, 210-231

Rites

Piercing Present in the culture as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Hogbin (1930b)
Tattooing Present in the culture as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Hogbin (1930b)
Social Environment +
Population 2000 (Source)
Bayliss-Smith (1974)
Population of largest political community 1,000-9,999 (Source)
Hogbin (1934), pp. 93-94, 224, 231
Bayliss-Smith (1974)
Importance of Patrilateral descent Medium (Source)
Donner (1991), pp. 254
Importance of Matrilateral descent Medium (Source)
Donner (1991), pp. 254
Kinship system Hawaiian (Source)
Donner (1991), pp. 254
Polygamy Limited polygyny (Source)
Hogbin (1931)
Marital residence Matrilocal or uxorilocal - with wife's kin (Source)
Donner (1991), pp. 254
Hogbin (1934), pp. 117-118

Conflict

(No) external warfare Rare or never (Source)
Bayliss-Smith (1974)
Hogbin (1934)
Hogbin (1931)
Conflict within community Moderate (Source)
Hogbin (1934), pp. 93-94, 200, 225
(No) internal warfare Rare or never (Source)
Hogbin (1934)
Isolation +
Contact with other cultures Frequent, through trade, warfare, travel, etc. (Source)
Bayliss-Smith (1974)
Donner (1991), pp. 253
Distance to closest landmass inhabited by a different culture (km) 50.0 (Source)
Daft Logic Distance Calculator (2014)
Distance to nearest continent 1852.0 (Source)
Daft Logic Distance Calculator (2014)
Pre-Austronesian population Absent: No evidence of human occupation prior to Austronesian settlement (Source)
Bellwood (1995), pp. 109
Hindu / Buddhist influence on supernatural belief No evidence of influence and not in region of known contact (Source)
Cribb (2000), pp. Map 2.21
Islamic influence on supernatural belief No evidence of influence and not in region of known contact (Source)
Cribb (2000), pp. Map 2.23
Christian influence on supernatural belief No evidence of influence but in a region where contact is likely (Source)
Donner (1991), pp. 253
Subsistence and Economy +

Land-based means of subsistence

Animal husbandry as a source of food Absent (Source)
Hogbin (1934), pp. 95-100
Bayliss-Smith (1974)
Land-based hunting performed by individuals Minor (Source)
Hogbin (1934), pp. 95-100
Bayliss-Smith (1974)
Land-based gathering Minor (Source)
Hogbin (1934), pp. 95-100
Bayliss-Smith (1974)
Land-based hunting performed by one or more groups Absent (Source)
Hogbin (1934), pp. 95-100
Bayliss-Smith (1974)
Agriculture / Horticulture Principal (Source)
Hogbin (1934), pp. 90
Bayliss-Smith (1974)

Water-based means of subsistence

Fishing and water-based hunting performed by one or more groups Major (Source)
Hogbin (1934), pp. 95-97
Bayliss-Smith (1974)
Fishing and water-based hunting performed by individuals Absent (Source)
Hogbin (1934), pp. 96-97
Water-based gathering Minor (Source)
Hogbin (1934), pp. 95-100
Bayliss-Smith (1974)

Commercial Activity

Trade / wage labour as a source of food Absent (Source)
Hogbin (1934), pp. 95-100
Metalworking Absent (Source)
Hogbin (1934), pp. 95-100
Physical Environment +

Geographical Range of Culture

Number of islands inhabited by culture One (Source)
Bayliss-Smith (1986), pp. 1
Google Maps (2014)

Features of Island with Largest Culture Population

Island type (island with largest culture population or largest island if unknown) Atoll (Source)
Donner (1991), pp. 253
Island Size (km²) 8.0 (Source)
Bayliss-Smith (1986), pp. 1
Maximum elevation (meters) 2.0 (Source)
Rasmussen et al. (2009), pp. 3

Location

Latitude -5.5 (Source)
Hogbin (1934), pp. 90
Google Maps (2014)
Longitude 159.7 (Source)
Hogbin (1934), pp. 90
Google Maps (2014)
Post Contact History(1899-2014)Expand All +
Religious History +

Conversion

Use of force in conversion Low (Source)
Nau & Davidson (1996), pp. 21-64
Adoption of a world religion Present and predominant (Source)
Donner (1991), pp. 255
Resident missionary involvement in conversion process Present, and from non-Austronesian societies (Source)
Nau & Davidson (1996), pp. 23-34

Syncretic Movements

Syncretic religious movements Absent (Source)
Nau & Davidson (1996), pp. 21-64
Secular History +

Demographic and Social Changes

Foreign government systems Present, and of high importance (Source)
Donner (1991), pp. 254
Immigration Absent (Source)
Kile et al. (2000)
Language shift Medium (Source)
Eberhard (2020)
Foreign education systems High (Source)
Donner (1991), pp. 254

Economic Changes

Changes in means of subsistence High (Source)
Christensen (2011)
Exportation of goods to other cultures Present and substantial (Source)
Donner (1991), pp. 254
Christensen (2011)

Modern Infrastructure

Vehicles and roads Absent (Source)
Google Maps (2014)
Air travel Absent (Source)
Christensen (2011), pp. 10
Sea port Absent (Source)
Christensen (2011), pp. 10

Loss of Autonomy

Nature of loss of autonomy Largely voluntary (Source)
Donner (1991), pp. 253-254
Loss of political autonoomy High (Source)
Donner (1991), pp. 253-254
Current Culture(2014)Expand All +
Belief +

Religious Demographics

Dominant world religion Christianity (Source)
Kile et al. (2000), pp. 8
External Links
References
Bayliss-Smith, T. (1974). Constraints on population growth: The case of the Polynesian outlier atolls in the precontact period. Human Ecology, 2(4), 259-195. DOI: 10.1007/BF01531318

Bayliss-Smith, T. (1986). Ontong Java Atoll: Population, Economy and Society, 1970-1986. Armidale, NSW: University of New England.

Bayliss-Smith, T.P. (1975). Ontong Java atoll—depopulation and repopulation. In V. Caroll (Ed.), Pacific Atoll Populations (pp 417-484). Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press.

Bellwood, P. (1995). Austronesian Prehistory in Southeast Asia: Homeland, Expansion and Transformation. P. Bellwood, J.J. Fox, & D. Tryon (Eds.), The Austronesians: Historical and Comparative Perspectives (pp 113-114). Canberra, Australia: ANU Press.

Blevins, J. (2008). Some Comparative Notes on Proto-Oceanic *Mana: Inside and Outside the Austronesian Family. Oceanic Linguistics, 47 (2), 253-274. Retrieved from http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/ol/summary/v047/47.2.blevins.html

Blust, R. (2007). Proto-Oceanic *Mana Revisited. Oceanic Linguistics, 46(2), 404-423. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20172322

Christensen, A. E. (2011). Marine Gold and Atoll Livelihoods: The Rise and Fall of the Bêche-de-mer Trade on Ontong Java, Solomon Islands. Natural Resources Forum, 235, 9-20. DOI: 10.1111/j.1477-8947.2011.01343.x

Cribb, R. (2000). Historical atlas of Indonesia. Surrey, UK: Curzon Press.

Daft Logic Distance Calculator. (2014). http://www.daftlogic.com/projects-google-maps-distance-calculator.htm.

Donner, W. W. (1991). Ontong Java. In Hays, T.E. (Eds.) In Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 2 Oceania (pp. 253-255). New York, NY: G. K. Hall and Company.

Eberhard, D. M., Simons, G. F., & Fennig, C. D. (eds.). (2020). Ethnologue: Languages of the World (23rd ed.). Dallas, TX: SIL International. Retrieved from http://www.ethnologue.com

Fortes, M. (1959). 331. Descent, Filiation and Affinity: A Rejoinder to Dr. Leach: Part II. Man, 59, 206-212.

Google Maps (2014). Retrieved from maps.google.com

Hogbin, H. I. (1930)a. Spirits and the healing of the sick in Ontong Java. Oceania, 1(2), 146-166. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40327318.

Hogbin, H. I. (1930b). Transition rites at Ontong Java (Solomon islands). The Journal of the Polynesian Society, 39(2(154)), 94-112. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20702304.

Hogbin, H. I. (1931). The Social Organization of Ontong Java. Oceania, 1(4), 399-425. doi: 10.1002/j.1834-4461.1931.tb00014.x

Hogbin, H. I. (1934). Law and order in Polynesia: A study of primitive legal institutions. London, UK: Christophers.

Keesing, R. M. (1984). Rethinking "mana". Journal of Anthropological Research, 40(1), 137-156, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3629696.

Kilé, N., Lam, M., Davis, D.C. & Donnelly, R.J., 2000. Managing the live reef food fish trade in Solomon islands: the role of village decision-making systems in Ontong Java, Roviana and Marovo Lagoons. Discussion Paper No.2. Report to Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. ACIAR, Canberra.

Nau, S. & Davidson, A.K. (Ed.) (1996). The Story of my Life: The Autobiography of a Tongan Methodist Missionary who worked at Ontong Java in the Solomon Islands. Fiji: Institute of Pacific Studies USP.

Rasmussen, K., May, W., Birk, T., Mataki, M., Mertz, O., & Yee, D. (2009). Climate change on three Polynesian outliers in the Solomon Islands: Impacts, vulnerability and adaptation. Geografisk Tidsskrift-Danish Journal of Geography, 109(1), 1-13.