About the project

Artefacts of Encounter is a 3-year project (April 2010 – March 2013) based in the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA) at the University of Cambridge. The research aims to track down artefacts collected on more than 40 voyages that entered Polynesia between 1765-1840, and to use those artefacts as primary evidence of the nature and legacy of encounters between European explorers and Pacific islanders.

These artefacts include the objects that were exchanged, many of which survive in museums, as amongst the only primary sources of evidence from the Polynesian side of these transactions. The research also examines the intellectual and artistic traditions into which these important exchanges were immediately and subsequently incorporated.

Where other scholars have focused on the eighteenth century, when some of the earliest transactions took place, this research extends well into the nineteenth century, recasting the study of cross-cultural encounter through an unprecedented emphasis on cultural dynamism and change over an extended period of cross-cultural interaction.