Our 2018 fieldwork in Papua New Guinea is ending! A brief outline of our work in Port Moresby, Highlands and East Sepik

Rock art hand stencils in the rockshelters surveyed (middle Arafundi area).

The Papuan Past project team has just returned from fieldwork in East Sepik. We stayed few days in Port Moresby for preliminary analyses to organize logistics and various debriefing before departing Papua New Guinea. Our last month in PNG included two periods of research: the first one at the University of PNG focusing on the return of preliminary results through a series of presentations and the collection of additional biological anthropology samples (genetic and phenotypic data collection), and the second one in East Sepik focusing on archeological survey and excavation, with additional time given over to anthropobiological sampling and ethnographic data collection.

Biological anthropology at the University of Papua New Guinea: 17th to 28th of May

Meeting with project participants discussing the results of the genetic history of PNG study at the UPNG Archaeology Laboratory.
  • 17th May: N. Brucato and F.-X. Ricaut gave a presentation at UPNGs Main Lecture Threatre to present the project and the preliminary results.
  • 18th – 24th May: Brucato and Ricaut gave a series of lectures at the UPNG Archaeology Laboratory on the population genetic history of PNG and preliminary results. The team concurrently performed genetic and phenotypic sampling from UPNG community volunteers.
  • 19th May: Brucato and Ricaut met the French Ambassador in Papua New Guinea and discussed the project.
  • 24th May: Brucato left PNG for Australia to begin the analysis of some of the collected samples.
  • 24th and 25th May: Ricaut and Leavesley went to the National Museum and Art Gallery to meet with staff and collect the archaeological research permit.
  • 26th – 27th May: Ricaut prepared the archaeological equipment for the East Sepik fieldwork.
  • 27th May: Arrival in Port Moresby of the rest of the team: H. Forestier, S. Plutniak and W. Pleiber.
  • They joined the UPNG part of the team – M. Leavesley, R. Tsang, J. Kariwiga – at the UPNG Archaeological Laboratory, and finalised the preparations for fieldwork.

Fieldwork in East Sepik: 29th May to 12th June

Map of the New Guinea Island with the location of the two fieldwork areas: the Sepik floodplain (yellow dot) and the Highlands (red dot). Click to enlarge.
Crossing the Ymas lake on the way to the foot hills of Enga.
  • 28th May: The team traveled to Mount Hagen (Waghi Valley, Western Highlands Province).
  • 29th May: We met our local collaborator, Dr John Muke who guided us to the famous Kuk World Heritage site. Then we revisited the Poga village where potential excavation sites were identified and visited last year. We discussed the extension of our research project in the Waghi Valley.
Community meeting to discuss the results (middle Arafundi villages).
  • 30th May: We flew with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) in a small ten seater plane (Caravan) to Karawari airfield at Amboin (East Sepik Province). Then we took a canoe driven by Sebi – our local informant – up the Karawari and Arafundi rivers, crossing the Ymas Lakes and following the Endum river up to Auwim village. During the evening we held a meeting with Auwim people to return results from our 2017 visit and to discuss on the organization for the coming weeks.
  • 31th May to 3rd June: The team settled-in at the Angerecker camp two hours south of Auwim. We surveyed four rock-shelters – belonging to four different clans – looking for rock art sites and archaeological potential for excavation. All the sites visited have been documented by photography and mapping. The 3rd June the team came back to Auwim.
  • 4th June: The team briefly split in two. Leavesley, Ricaut, Forestier reached the Paimbumkanja rock-shelter guided by the owners of the cave and his relatives, and established a base camp in the shelter. Plutniak, Tsang, Pleiber and Kariwiga stayed in Auwim.
Excavation at the Paimbunkanja site (Auwin).
  • 4th to 6th June: The team in Paimbunkanja started the excavation on a 1 square meter test spit. Meanwhile Plutniak, Tsang, Pleiber and Kariwiga conducted ethnographic recording and biological sampling in Auwim.
  • 6th and 7th June: All the team worked together in Paimbunkanja. Leavesley and Ricaut left on the 7th morning to survey up the Arafundi river heading for Imboin.
  • 7th to 8th June: Leavesley and Ricaut reached Imboin village. They presented the project, performed biological sampling and identified potential sites for further rock art study and archaeological excavation. Meanwhile the team at Paimbunkanja extended the excavation (opening a 2nd square meter test spit).
  • 9th June: After reaching bed rock samples were collected for sedimentology and dating, all the team closed the site and came back to Auwin.
  • 10th June: Ricaut, Forestier, Pleiber and Kariwiga surveyed another site suggested by Auwin community. Plutniak and Tsang continued the ethnographic interviews and make a map of the village, while Leavesley organized and pre-analysed the archaeological remains. At the end of the day the Auwim community organized a farewell ceremony (“sing-sing” dance and music) to celebrate the end of our visit.
  • 11th June: All the team traveled back to the Karawari airfield.
  • 12th June: On the way back to Mount Hagen, MAF flight stopped briefly to Kompiam district hospital (Enga province), a district up the Arafundi river corridor. The team then flew to Port Moresby after a brief transit in Mount Hagen.
  • 13th to 15th June: We unpacked the archaeological equipment and materials at the UPNG Archaeology Laboratory, started the preliminary analysis, and organized the last team meeting. Before leaving we met and discussed the project with the French Ambassador.
  • 16th June: Ricaut, Forestier, Plutniak and Pleiber leaved Papua New Guinea for Europe.

This fieldwork, which last over one month, was successful in all of its different components. On one hand, we have built a cohesive and efficient French-Papua New Guinean team. On the other hand, the strengthening of our relations with the communities along the Arafundi and Endum rivers allowed us wider access to the archaeological and anthropological potential of this area.
This potential will be further investigate during the next year fieldwork

 

Wombromas village on the Arafundi river.

Credits

Redaction: Ricaut & Plutniak.
English correction: Leavesley.
Publishing: Plutniak.