Roviana is the name given to a large lagoon on the south coast of New Georgia in the Western Solomon Islands, to the people living on the shores of this lagoon, and to the language spoken to these people. The people of Roviana were one of the few peoples in the Solomon Islands to practice headhunting. In the second half of the nineteenth century, the Roviana and their allies conducted extensive headhunting raids upon islands to the east, resulting in widespread depopulation.

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Traditional Culture(1902)Expand All +
Belief +

Supernatural Beings

Nature Spirits Absent (Source)
Thomas (2003)
Ancestral spirits Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Thomas (2003), pp. 82
Deified ancestor(s) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Thomas (2003), pp. 85-88
God(s) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Thomas (2003), pp. 180-181

Supernatural Punishment

Supernatural punishment for impiety Present (Source)
Aswani (2000), pp. 59
Thomas (2003), pp. 82

Afterlife and Creation

The actions of others after one has died can affect the nature of one's afterlife Principal determinant of one's afterlife (Source)
Thomas (2003), pp. 82
Culture hero(es) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Thomas et al (2001), pp. 566-567

General Features

Forces of nature are controlled by or imbued with the supernatural Present (Source)
Thomas (2003), pp. 180-181


Mana as a spiritual or religious concept Present (Source)
Thomas (2003), pp. 236
Walter et al (2004), pp. 154
Mana linked to genealogy Present, linked to both paternal and maternal lines (Source)
Walter et al (2004), pp. 154
Aswani & Sheppard (2003), pp. S55
Mana and social status Moderately associated (Source)
Walter et al (2004), pp. 154
Sheppard et al (2000), pp. 11
Mana as a personal quality Present (Source)
Walter et al (2004), pp. 154
Mana related to social influence or technical skill Present (Source)
Practice +

General Supernatural Practices

Headhunting Present (Source)
Goldie (1909), pp. 26
Costly sacrifices and offerings Present (Source)
Walter et al (2004), pp. 153
Political and religious differentiation Some overlap (Source)
Aswani (2008), pp. 181, 183-184
Thomas (2003), pp. 112


Tooth pulling Absent from culture (Source)
Somerville (1897), pp. 362-365, 394
Scarification Present in culture, but not as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Somerville (1897), pp. 365
Piercing Present in culture, but not as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Somerville (1897), pp. 361-362
Tattooing Absent from culture (Source)
Somerville (1897), pp. 365
Genital cutting Absent from culture (Source)
Somerville (1897), pp. 394
Social Environment +
Population 3500 (Source)
McCracken (2000), pp. 50-51
Population of largest political community 100-999 (Source)
Nagaoka (2011), pp. 318
Importance of Patrilateral descent Medium (Source)
Walter et al (2004), pp. 154
Thomas (2003), pp. 100
Importance of Matrilateral descent High (Source)
Walter et al (2004), pp. 154
Thomas (2003), pp. 100
Polygamy Monogamy preferred, but exceptional cases of polygyny (Source)
Goldie (1909), pp. 27


(No) external warfare Frequent, occurring at least yearly (Source)
Goldie (1909), pp. 25-26
Thomas (2003), pp. 107-108
Conflict within community High (Source)
Aswani (2008), pp. 186
(No) internal warfare Common, at least every five years (Source)
Aswani (2008), pp. 186
Thomas (2003), pp. 107-109
Isolation +
Contact with other cultures Frequent, through trade, warfare, travel, etc. (Source)
Aswani & Sheppard (2003), pp. S56, S62
Distance to closest landmass inhabited by a different culture (km) 0.0 (Source)
Tryon & Hackman (1983), pp. 23
Distance to nearest continent 1474.0 (Source)
Tryon & Hackman (1983), pp. 23
Daft Logic Distance Calculator (2014)
Pre-Austronesian population Present: Clear evidence of human occupation prior to Austronesian settlement (Source)
Bellwood (1995), pp. 109
Nagaoka (2011), pp. 25
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)
Aswani & Sheppard (2003), pp. S62
Subsistence and Economy +

Land-based means of subsistence

Agriculture / Horticulture Medium (Source)
Walter & Sheppard (2000)

Commercial Activity

Trade / wage labour as a source of food Principal (Source)
Sheppard & Walter (2013), pp. 3138, 142, 144-145
Physical Environment +

Geographical Range of Culture

Number of islands inhabited by culture Four or more (Source)
Sheppard et al (2000), pp. 12

Features of Island with Largest Culture Population

Island type (island with largest culture population or largest island if unknown) Volcanic high island (Source)
Walter & Sheppard (2000), pp. 299
Island Size (km²) 3365.0 (Source)
Clark & Bedford (2008), pp. 64
Maximum elevation (meters) 860.0 (Source)
Clark & Bedford (2008), pp. 64


Latitude -8.1 (Source)
Thomas (2003), pp. 2
Google Maps (2014)
Longitude 157.5 (Source)
Thomas (2003), pp. 2
Google Maps (2014)
Post Contact History(1902-2014)Expand All +
Religious History +


Role of social status in conversion process Mixed / Neither (Source)
Luxton (1955), pp. 23-49
Use of force in conversion Low (Source)
Luxton (1955), pp. 23-49
Adoption of a world religion Present and predominant (Source)
Walter & Sheppard (2000)
Resident missionary involvement in conversion process Present, and from non-Austronesian societies (Source)
Luxton (1955), pp. 23-49

Syncretic Movements

Syncretic religious movements Present, and survived to the present day (Source)
McDougall (2008), pp. 4
Nagaoka (1999), pp. 119
Secular History +

Demographic and Social Changes

Foreign government systems Present, and of high importance (Source)
Thomas (2003), pp. 133
Kile et al. (2000), pp. 7-8
Immigration Absent (Source)
Aswani (2002), pp. 275-278
Foreign education systems High (Source)
Terrill & Dunn (2003), pp. 191

Economic Changes

Changes in means of subsistence Medium (Source)
Aswani & Furusawa (2007), pp. 549
Exportation of goods to other cultures Present and substantial (Source)
Aswani & Furusawa (2007), pp. 549

Modern Infrastructure

Vehicles and roads Present but rarely used (Source)
Furusawa & Ohtsuka (2006), pp. 30
Google Maps (2014)
Air travel Absent (Source)
Furusawa & Ohtsuka (2006), pp. 30
Sea port Present (Source)
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (2009), pp. 180
Daft Logic Distance Calculator (2014)

Loss of Autonomy

Nature of loss of autonomy Largely involuntary (Source)
Walter & Sheppard (2000), pp. 298
Thomas (2003), pp. 132
Loss of political autonoomy High (Source)
Walter & Sheppard (2000), pp. 298
Thomas (2003), pp. 133
Current Culture(2014)Expand All +
Belief +

Religious Demographics

Institutional religious syncretism Medium (Source)
McDougall (2008), pp. 4
Nagaoka (1999), pp. 119
Dominant world religion Christianity (Source)
Walter & Sheppard (2000), pp. 316
McDougall (2008), pp. 4
External Links
Aswani, S. (2000). Changing Identities: The Ethnohistory of Roviana predatory Headhunting. Journal of the Polynesian Society, 109, 39-70. Retrieved from

Aswani, S. (2002). Assessing the Effects of Changing Demographic and Consumption Patterns on Sea Tenure Regimes in the Roviana Lagoon, Solomon Islands. Ambio, 31 (4), 272-284. Retrieved from

Aswani, S. (2008). Forms of Leadership and Violence in Malaita and in the New Georgia Group, Solomon Islands. In Stewart, P.J. & Strathern, A. (Eds.), Exchange and Sacrifice (pp 171-193). Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.

Aswani, S., & Furusawa, T. (2007). Do Marine Protected Areas Affect Human Nutrition and Health? A Comparison between Villages in Roviana, Solomon Islands. Coastal Management, 35 (5), 545-565. DOI: 10.1080/08920750701593394.

Aswani, S., & Sheppard, P. (2003). The Archeology of Ethnohistory of Exchange in Precolonial and Colonial Roviana: Gifts, Commodities, and Inalienable Possessions. Current Anthropology, 44, 51-78. Retrieved from

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.

Brunton, R. (1989). The Abandoned Narcotic: Kava and Cultural Instability in Melanesia. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Clark, G.R. & Bedford, S. (2008). Friction Zones in Lapita Colonisation. In G.R. Clark, G.R, S. O'Connor & B.F. Leach, Islands of Inquiry: Colonisation, Seafaring and the Archaeology of Maritime Landscapes (pp 59-73). Canberra, Australia: ANU Press.

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

Daft Logic Distance Calculator. (2014).

Furusawa, T. & Ohtsuka, R. (2006). Inter-Household Variations in Subsistence Strategies within a Rural Society of Roviana, Solomon Islands: An Analysis of Agricultural Production and Cash Income in relation to Socio-Demographic Factors. Tropics, 15 (1), 29-27.

Goldie, Rev, J.F. (1909). The People of New Georgia. Their Manners and Customs, and Religious Beliefs. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Queensland, 22, 23-30. Retrieved from:

Google Maps (2014). Retrieved from

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.

Luxton, C.T.J. (1955). Isles of Solomon: A Tale of Missionary Adventure. Auckland, N.Z.: Methodist Foreign Missionary Society of New Zealand.

McCracken, E. H. (2000). Fragments of Headhunters: The Pattern and Causes of Depopulation in the New Georgia Group, Western Solomon Islands. (Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation). University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.

McDougall, D. (2008). Religious institutions as Alternative Structures in post-conflict Solomon Islands: Cases from Western Province. Governance in Melanesia Discussion Series, 08/05, Australian National University.

Nagaoka, T. (1999). Hope Pukerane: A Study of Religious Sites in Roviana, New Georgia, Solomon Islands (Unpublished Masters Thesis). University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

Nagaoka, T. (2011). Late Prehistoric-Early Historic Houses and Settlement Spac on Nusa Roviana, New Georgia Group, Solomon Islands (Doctoral Thesis). University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.

National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (2009). World Port Index Nineteenth Edition. Bethesda, MD: National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

Sheppard, P. & Walter, R. (2013). Diversity and networked independence in the Western Solomon Islands. In G. Summerhays & B. Hallie (eds.), Pacific archaeology: Documenting the past 50,000 years, papers from the 2011 Lapita Pacific archaeology conference (pp. 138-147). Dunedin, New Zealand: University of Otago Studies in Archaeology.

Sheppard, P.J., Walter, R. & Nagaoka, T. (2000). The Archeology of Head-hunting in Roviana Lagoon, New Georgia. The Journal of Polynesian Society, 109(1), 9-38.

Somerville, B.T. (1897). Ethnographic notes in New Georgia, Solomon Islands. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 26, 357-412.

Terrill, A. & Dunn, M. (2003). Orthographic Design in the Solomon Islands: The Social, Historical and Linguistic Situation of Touo (Baniata). Written Language and Literacy, 6 (2), 177-192. Retrieved from

Thomas, T., Sheppard, P., & Walter, R. (2001). Landscape, Violence and Social Bodies: Ritualized Architecture in a Solomon Islands Society. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 7 (3), 545-572. Retrieved from .

Thomas, T.D. (2003). Things of Roviana. (Doctoral Thesis). University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Tryon, D. T., & Hackman, B. D. (1983). Solomon Islands languages: An internal classification. Canberra, Australia: Department of Linguistics, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University.

Walter, R,; Thomas, T.; & Sheppard, P. (2004). Cult Assemblages and Ritual Practice in Roviana Lagoon, Solomon Islands. World Archaeology, 36 (1), 142-157. Retrieved from

Walter, R. & Sheppard, P. (2000). Nusa Roviana: The Archaeology of a Melanesian Chiefdom. Journal of Field Archaeology, 27 (3), 295-318.