Rethinking Old Problems: Matriliny, Secret Societies and Political Evolution
MY EARLY INTEREST in the comparative study of male initiation rites and secret societies in Melanesia (Allen 1967) had been in large measure generated through reading the old ethnographies that dealt with the great variety of elaborate male rites found in the Torres, Banks and north Vanuatu islands. The early workers, especially Rivers (1914), but also Layard (1942) and Deacon (1935), devoted considerable attention to the task of understanding the contemporary distribution of cultures. Impressed by the complex and seemingty unpredictable way in whiGh similar cultural items appeared in diverse social contexts in neighbouring communities, they concluded that the resultant patterns of distribution must be consequences either of internal evolution, as in the supposed advance from matriliny to patriliny, or of the historical movement of peoples and cultures.
The University of Sydney acknowledges that its campuses and facilities sit on the ancestral lands of Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander peoples, who have for thousands of generations exchanged knowledge for the benefit of all.