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International Cosmos Prize

The Prizewinner 2021

Name Dr. Peter Bellwood
Born on August 10, 1943
Nationality British and Australian
Title Emeritus Professor,
Australian National University

Reason for Awarding

Dr. Peter Bellwood is a distinguished archaeologist whose main research theme has been human life in Oceania and Southeast Asia during the Neolithic Age. From a global perspective, he has explored how farming spread—closely correlating with human migrations—through intercontinental comparative analysis as to the advent of farming and the migration and dispersal processes of early farmers. His major achievements can be summarized into the following three aspects.

Firstly, using archaeological methodologies, Dr. Bellwood clarified the process by which Polynesian culture was formed; the Lapita culture (1,500–1,000 BC) that emerged in the Melanesian islands moved eastwards and changed to adapt to the diverse environments of these islands, which resulted in the formation of Polynesian culture. He has also traced the migration tracks of the Austronesian language family (a large group of various peoples in Taiwan, the Southeast Asian Archipelago and the Pacific islands who speak Austronesian languages), taking an interdisciplinary approach based on joint research with specialists in archaeology, anthropology, linguistics and other scientific disciplines. By integrating these research findings, Dr. Bellwood elucidated that, in the case of Austronesians, fueled by the development of maritime skills, human dispersals had a close connection with the migrations and expansions of early food-producing populations.

Secondly, Dr. Bellwood carried out interregional comparative studies regarding the origins and spread of farming on a global basis. By reproducing the conditions of agricultural dispersals in various regions worldwide in an interdisciplinary manner, he succeeded in making global comparisons of the early farming expansion process in the prehistoric period. He considers that farming dispersal was accompanied by human migrations, and that languages also spread along with human migrations. Based on this idea, he came up with a method of investigating farming dispersal in conjunction with the spread of language families. In other words, Dr. Bellwood showed that the relationship between the expansions of food-producing populations and language families could be applied not only to the Austronesian speaking peoples but also to many other major language families around the world. He advanced the “early farming dispersal hypothesis,” which postulates that human population movements were intimately correlated with farming and language dispersals.

Thirdly, Dr. Bellwood conducted research into the process of human adaptation to island environments. Beginning from Homo erectus, which reached Java approximately 1.3 million years ago, to Homo floresiensis and down to Homo sapiens, humans have migrated also to island regions and adapted themselves to the new environments there. Drawing on archaeological and paleoanthropological examples primarily from Southeast Asian islands, he illustrated the biological and cultural processes of human adaptation to island environments, from an interdisciplinary perspective. Moreover, he made reference to the migration of Homo sapiens 50,000 years ago before the beginning of agriculture, as well as the spread of Austronesian peoples and languages from southern China.

As mentioned above, albeit starting from archaeological research into the formation of Polynesian culture, Dr. Bellwood put forward the “early farming dispersal hypothesis,” which is closely associated with linguistic studies. In so doing, he has examined the correlation of human population migrations with farming dispersals from a global viewpoint, as part of his work to illuminate the relationship between nature and humankind.

In the field of global environmental studies, scientists consider that along with the transition from hunter-gatherer societies to farming societies, human settlements increased and populations grew, and motivated by a reliance on domesticated plants such as wheat and rice, human beings transformed vast areas of natural vegetation into croplands, thereby having a significant impact on the global environment. Consequently, we have witnessed, for instance, phenomena where closer contact between human society and wildlife has given rise to new infections. Amid the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, we have reached a new turning point regarding the way of looking at the relationship between nature and humans. In this context, we have recognized that Dr. Peter Bellwood has accomplished important research achievements that provide us with a foundation for reflecting on the “Harmonious Coexistence between Nature and Humankind,” the principle upheld by the International Cosmos Prize.

Professional Preparation

1966 B.A. University of Cambridge (King’s College)
1969 M.A. University of Cambridge
1980 Ph.D. University of Cambridge


1967-1972 Lecturer in Prehistory, University of Auckland, New Zealand.
1973-1975 Lecturer in Prehistory, Australian National University.
1976-1983 Senior Lecturer in Prehistory, Australian National University.
1984-1999 Reader in Archaeology, Australian National University.
2000-2006 Professor of Archaeology, Level E1, Australian National University.
2007-2013 Professor of Archaeology, Level E2, School of Archaeology and Anthropology,
Australian National University (retired to Emeritus status in September 2013)
2013-now Emeritus Professor, Australian National University

Selected Publications

1. Bellwood, Peter S. 1978 The Polynesians, London, Thames and Hudson.
    邦訳:『ポリネシア』大明堂, 1985

2. Bellwood, Peter S 1978 Man’s Conquest of the Pacific, Auckland and London, Collins, North American edition,
    Oxford University, Press.
    邦訳:『太平洋-東南アジアとオセアニアの人類史』法政大学出版局, 1989

3. Bellwood, Peter S. 1985. Prehistory of the Indo-Malaysian Archipelago. Academic Press., Sydney.

4. Bellwood, Peter S. 2005 First Farmers: The Origins of Agricultural Societies, Oxford Blackwell.
    邦訳:『農耕起源の人類史』京都大学学術出版会, 2008

5. Bellwood, Peter S. ed. 2013 First Migrants: Ancient Migration in Global Perspective. Chichester, Boston and
    Oxford, Wiley Blackwell.

6. Bellwood, Peter S. 2017. First Islanders: Prehistory and Human Migration in Island Southeast Asia. Chichester,
    Boston and Oxford, Wiley Blackwell.

7. Bellwood, Peter S. ed., 2019, The Spice Islands in Prehistory: Archaeology in the Northern Moluccas, Indonesia,
    ANU Press, Canberra.