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In Conversation with Dr Christopher Ballard- The impact and story of Vanuatu’s Kuwae eruption


Dr Christopher Ballard




Wednesday, 21 July, 2021 - 16:00 to 17:30

Kuwae 1452 AD, 2nd largest volcanic eruption of past 2000 years in world, oral traditions that describe exactly what happened, how people escaped and recolonised the remnant islands - both a Vanuatu story and a global one with implications for climate change

A massive volcanic eruption tore apart the South Pacific island of Kuwae in the middle of the 15th century. Amazingly, local chiefly oral histories extend back even deeper than the eruption, which is described in detail. Recent archaeological and volcanological research appears to confirm the local oral traditions, and the claim is now being made that this was the second-largest eruption anywhere in the world over the past 2000 years, shifting global climate and weather patterns.

In conversation with Dr Christopher Ballard, we talk about what ancient cataclysms, such as the Kuwae eruption, might have to teach us about possible responses to contemporary climate change. Dr Ballard draws his experience as an archaeologist and historian, and on a current ARC-funded project with CHL colleague Dr Stuart Bedford, to discuss ways in which ANU research is aiming to resolve some of the key issues around the Kuwae eruption and its consequences.


Dr Christopher Ballard is an Associate Professor of Pacific and Asian History at the School of Culture, History and Language. Dr Ballard is also an alumnus of the University having completed his PhD on ‘The Death of a Great Land, Ritual, History and Subsistence Revolution in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea’ in 1995.

Dr Ballard was one of the founding co-chairs of the ANU Pacific Institute and has had appointments as Directeur de Reserche at CNRS Marseille and EHESS Paris.

Dr Ballard also prepared the successful nomination of Vanuatu’s Chief Roi Mata’s Domain for World Heritage Status in 2007.

You can view Dr Christopher Ballard’s bio further on the new ANU Researcher resource.

If you would like to give to Dr Ballard’s research please contact the CAP Advancement Team at cap.advancement@anu.edu.au

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