New publication: Lithic drill points, an ethno-historic case study from Motupore Island (Papua New Guinea)

Members of the Papuan Past Project published a study in September 2020 in the Proceedings of the XVIII UISPP World Congress which explores lithic tools from Motopure island (central Province of Papua New Guinea), and reveals their use for craft activities in the hiri trading system.


Motupore is the name of an island and the archaeological village site located upon it in the Central Province of Papua New Guinea. The occupants of this site have been described as specialist manufacturers of earthenware clay pots. During the late 1800s and early 1900s ethnographers recorded 15 different pot types, two of which were dominant in the assemblage. The pots were transported by voyaging canoes to the Gulf of Papua and primarily exchanged for sago. This exchange network, known as the hiri, began when the site was first occupied about 800 years ago. A recent excavation on Motupore Island in 2016, led by M. Leavesley and T. Beni, found a series of 80 lithic pieces with relatively standardized dimensions. These pieces were collectively categorized as ‘drill points’ based on their relative homogeneity, but this categorization can be misleading. The first aim of the study was to analyze lithic tools from a techno-morphotypological perspective to better characterize the drill points on Motupore Island. Specifically, our objective was to determine whether a standard production process was followed to manufacture homogeneous points or conversely did production processes vary to manufacture heterogeneous drill points with a few dominant types. Based on quantitative and qualitative characteristics, five morphotypes were identified: truncation, shouldered piece, triangle, bore and point. The second aim of the study was to propose functional uses of these ‘drill points’ based on macroscopic observations of retouch on the surface of pieces, and to test hypotheses proposed by ethno-historical sources.


  • Forestier H., Beni T., Baills H., Ricaut F.-X., Leavesley M.G. 2020. “Lithic drill points: an ethno-historic case study from Motopure Island (Papua New Guinea)” in Hermann A., Valentin F., Sand C., Nolet E. (Eds.), Networks and Monumentality in the Pacific, Proceedings of the XVIII UISPP World Congress (Paris): Archaeopress Archaeology, Oxford. 35-48.