Also known as: Mandegugusu; Eddystone Island

Simbo, known locally as Mandegugusu, is a small island in the western Solomons. Historically, headhunting played a major role in the indigenous religion, although its precise meaning is debated. In the second half of the nineteenth century, headhunting raids by the Simboese and their allies from Roviana led to the near-depopulation of other parts of the Solomon Islands. Soon after the British forcibly put an end to these raids, the anthropologists W.H.R. Rivers and Arthur Hocart conducted fieldwork on Simbo (then known as Eddystone), and interpreted the abolition of headhunting as having brought about cultural and demographic decline. Pat Barker's Booker-winning novel 'The Ghost Road' (1995) contains powerful passages detailing Rivers' memories of his time on this island.

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Traditional Culture(1908)Expand All +
Belief +

Supernatural Beings

Nature Spirits Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Hocart (1922)
Nature god(s) Present, but not a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Hocart (1922)
Ancestral spirits Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Dureau (2000)
Deified ancestor(s) Absent (Source)
Hocart (1922)
Dureau (1994)
God(s) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Hocart (1922)

Supernatural Punishment

Supernatural punishment for impiety Present (Source)
Hocart (1922)
Dureau (2000)

Afterlife and Creation

One's actions while living can affect the nature of one's afterlife One factor in determining one's afterlife (Source)
Dureau (2000)
The actions of others after one has died can affect the nature of one's afterlife Principal determinant of one's afterlife (Source)
Dureau (2000)
Myth of humanity’s creation Present, and creationist (Source)
Hocart (1922)
Scheffler (1962)
Primordial pair Absent (Source)
Hocart (1922)
Culture hero(es) Absent (Source)
Hocart (1922)

General Features

Forces of nature are controlled by or imbued with the supernatural Present (Source)
Hocart (1922)

Classes of Tapu

Social hierarchy tapu Absent (Source)
Hocart (1922)
Dureau (2000)


Mana as a spiritual or religious concept Present (Source)
Dureau (2000)
Mana linked to genealogy Present, linked to both paternal and maternal lines (Source)
Dureau (2000)
Scheffler (1962)
Mana and social status Moderately associated (Source)
Dureau (2000)
Mana as a personal quality Present (Source)
Dureau (2000)
Mana related to social influence or technical skill Present (Source)
Practice +

General Supernatural Practices

Headhunting Present (Source)
Dureau (2000)
Costly sacrifices and offerings Present (Source)
Hocart (1922)
Largest religious community Whole society or larger (Source)
Scheffler (1962)
Political and religious differentiation Some overlap (Source)
Scheffler (1962)
Dureau (1994)


Tooth pulling Absent from culture (Source)
Cheyne (1852), pp. 64-65
Scarification Absent from culture (Source)
Cheyne (1852), pp. 64-65
Piercing Present in culture, but not as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Cheyne (1852), pp. 64-65
Tattooing Absent from culture (Source)
Ambrose (2012), pp. 15
Cheyne (1852), pp. 64-65
Genital cutting Absent from culture (Source)
Hocart (1935B), pp. 22
Rivers (1926), pp. 69-70
Social Environment +
Population 400 (Source)
Bayliss-Smith (2006), pp. 31-34
McCracken (2000), pp. 47-49
Population of largest political community 100-999 (Source)
Scheffler (1962)
Importance of Patrilateral descent Medium (Source)
Scheffler (1962)
Importance of Matrilateral descent High (Source)
Scheffler (1962)
Marital residence Ambilocal - with either wife's or husband's kin (Source)
Scheffler (1962), pp. 143


(No) external warfare Common, at least every five years (Source)
Scheffler (1962)
Conflict within community Moderate (Source)
Scheffler (1962)
Hocart (1931)
(No) internal warfare Common, at least every five years (Source)
Scheffler (1962)
Hocart (1931)
Isolation +
Contact with other cultures Frequent, through trade, warfare, travel, etc. (Source)
Sheppard & Walter (2013)
Bayliss-Smith (2006), pp. 31-32
Distance to closest landmass inhabited by a different culture (km) 8.0 (Source)
Hocart (1922)
Daft Logic Distance Calculator (2014)
Distance to nearest continent 1422.0 (Source)
Daft Logic Distance Calculator (2014)
Pre-Austronesian population Present: Clear 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)
Bayliss-Smith (2006), pp. 31-32
Subsistence and Economy +

Land-based means of subsistence

Agriculture / Horticulture Major (Source)
Bayliss-Smith & Hviding (2015)

Water-based means of subsistence

Fishing and water-based hunting performed by one or more groups Major (Source)
Hocart (1935A)
Hocart (1937)
Fishing and water-based hunting performed by individuals Minor (Source)
Hocart (1937)
Hocart (1935A)
Water-based gathering Medium (Source)
Hocart (1937), pp. 261

Commercial Activity

Trade / wage labour as a source of food Major (Source)
Bayliss-Smith & Hviding (2015)
Physical Environment +

Geographical Range of Culture

Number of islands inhabited by culture One (Source)
Scheffler (1962)

Features of Island with Largest Culture Population

Island type (island with largest culture population or largest island if unknown) Volcanic high island (Source)
Scheffler (1962), pp. 135-137
Island Size (km²) 12.0 (Source)
Bayliss-Smith (2006), pp. 38
Maximum elevation (meters) 330.0 (Source)
Petterson et al (2008), pp. 149


Latitude -8.3 (Source)
Hocart (1922)
Google Maps (2014)
Longitude 156.5 (Source)
Hocart (1922)
Google Maps (2014)
Post Contact History(1908-2014)Expand All +
Religious History +


Use of force in conversion Low (Source)
Dureau (2001B)
Adoption of a world religion Present and predominant (Source)
Dureau (2001B), pp. 145
Resident missionary involvement in conversion process Present, and from Austronesian societies only (Source)
Dureau (2001B), pp. 145

Syncretic Movements

Syncretic religious movements Absent (Source)
Dureau (2012)
Secular History +

Demographic and Social Changes

Foreign government systems Present, and of high importance (Source)
Lauer et al (2013), pp. 42, 44
Dureau (1998), pp. 243
Immigration Absent (Source)
Lauer et al (2012), pp. 177
Dureau (2012), pp. 12-13
Language shift Low (Source)
Lauer et al (2013), pp. 42
Foreign education systems High (Source)
Dureau (1998), pp. 243

Economic Changes

Changes in means of subsistence Medium (Source)
Dureau (1998), pp. 243
Dureau (2012), pp. 12-13
Exportation of goods to other cultures Present and substantial (Source)
Dureau (1998), pp. 243, 260

Modern Infrastructure

Vehicles and roads Absent (Source)
Lauer et al (2013), pp. 42
Air travel Absent (Source)
Petterson et al (2008), pp. 150-151
Google Maps (2014)
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)
Bayliss-Smith (2006), pp. 107
Loss of political autonoomy High (Source)
Dureau (1994), pp. 107
Current Culture(2014)Expand All +
Belief +

Religious Demographics

Institutional religious syncretism Medium (Source)
Dureau (1998), pp. 252-253
Dominant world religion Christianity (Source)
Dureau (2012), pp. 240
External Links
Ambrose, W. (2012). Oceanic Tattooing and the Implied Lapita Ceramic Collection. Journal of Pacific Archaeology, 3 (1), 1-21. Retrieved from

Bayliss-Smith, T. (2006). Fertility and the Depopulation of Melanesia: Childlessness, Abortion and Introduced Disease in Simbo and Ontong Java, Solomon Islands. In S.J. Ulijaszek, (Ed.), Population, Reproduction and Fertility in Melanesia (13-52). New York, NY: Berghahn Books.

Bayliss-Smith, T. P., & Hviding, E. (2015). Landesque capital as an alternative to food storage in Melanesia: Irrigated taro terraces in New Georgia, Solomon Islands. Environmental Archaeology, 20(4), 425-436.

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.

Blust, R. (2007). Proto-Oceanic *Mana Revisited. Oceanic Linguistics, 46(2), 404-423. Retrieved from

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

Burman, R. (1981). Time and Socioeconomic Change on Simbo, Solomon Islands. Man, 16 (2), 252-257. Retrieved from

Cheyne, A. (1852). A Description of Islands of the Western Pacific Ocean, North and South of the Equator. London, UK: J.D. Potter. Retrieved from

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

Daft Logic Distance Calculator. (2014).

Dureau, C. (1998). From Sisters to Wives: Changing Contexts of Maternity on Simbo, Western Solomon Islands. In Ram, K. & Jolly, M. Maternities and Modernities: Colonial and Postcolonial Experiences in Asia and the Pacific. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from

Dureau, C. (2000). Skulls, Mana and Causality. The Journal of the Polynesian Society, 109 (1), 71-97. Retrieved from

Dureau, C. (2001A). Mutual Goals? Family Planning on Simbo, Western Solomon Islands. In Jolly, M., and Ram, K., (Eds.) Borders of Being: Citizenship, Fertility, and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan.

Dureau, C. (2001B). Recountering and Remembering ‘First Contact’ on Simbo. In Mageo, J.M. (Ed.), Cultural Memory: Reconfiguring History and Identity in the Postcolonial Pacific (pp 130-162). Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii.

Dureau, C. (2012). Death of a Key Symbol. The Journal of the Polynesian Society, 121 (1), 11-32. Retrieved from

Dureau, C. M. (1994). Mixed blessings: Christianity and history in women's lives on Simbo, Western Solomon Islands (Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation). Macquarie University, North Ryde, Australia.

Google Maps (2014). Retrieved from

Hocart, A.M. (1922). The Cult in the Dead in Eddystone of the Solomons. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 52, 259-305. Retrieved from

Hocart, A.M. (1931). Warfare in Eddystone of the Solomons. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 61, 301-324. Retrieved from

Hocart, A.M. (1935A). The Canoe and the Bonito in Eddystone Island. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 65, 97-111. Retrieved from

Hocart, A.M. (1935B). Initation and Manhood. Man, 35, 20-22. Retrieved from

Hocart, A.M. (1937). Fishing in Eddystone Island. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 67, 33-41. Retrieved from

Lauer, M. (2012). Oral Traditions or Situated Practices? Understanding How Communities Respond to Environmental Disasters. Human Organisation, 71 (2), 176-187. Retrieved from

Lauer, M.; Albert, A.; Aswani, S.; Halpern, B.S.; Campanella, L. & La Rose, D. (2013). Globalization, Pacific Islands and the Paradox of Resilience. Global Environmental Change, 23, 40-50. DOI: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2012.10.011.

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.

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

Petterson, M.G.; Tolia, D.; Cronin, S.J. & Addison, R. (2008). Communicating Geoscience to Indigenous People: Examples from the Solomon Islands. In Liverman, D.G.E.; Pereira, C.P.G. and Marker, B. (Eds.) Communicating Environmental Geoscience. London, Geological Society (Special Publications). DOI: 10.1144/SP305.13

Rivers, W.H.R. (1926). Psychology and Ethnology. New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace & Company. Retrieved from

Scheffler, H. W. (1962). Kindred and Kin Groups in Simbo Island Social Structure. Ethnology, 1 (2), 135-157. Retrieved from

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.