Using GIS for data integration in interdisciplinary research in Papua New Guinea, East Sepik

As an interdisciplinary project, the Papuan Past Project involves a collaboration of specialists from genetics, archaeology, rock art, and ethnology, as well as data-sets at different scales of analysis (from the level of New Guinea Island, to the level of the local distribution of archaeological sites). Consequently, it is necessary to use a method that collectively organizes the research and integrates the heterogeneous data.

For this purpose, a GIS has been set up for the project, run by QGIS open software. Its aims include:

  • to provide a unique digital framework to gather the data produced by the project’s specialists and by previous researchers;
  • to facilitate the creation of maps;
  • to constitute an archive of the projects’ data (using stable file format as .csv).

In this post, a brief description of the current layers and features of the GIS is presented.

Physical and administrative information

A set of useful generic layers is integrated for cartographic purposes, including political borders related to the administrative spatial divisions of Papua New Guinea, rivers and river basins.

Data produced by the Papuan Past Project


GPS positions of archaeological sites, survey points, campsites location, tracks, etc., from the fieldwork are integrated.

Data extracted from previous work


Using publications of previous research in our study area, we extract the location of sites excavated or surveyed by other researchers and integrate them in the GIS. This helps to produce maps and make comparisons.

Georeferencing old maps


Spatial locations of the sites studied during the 20th century, before GPS devices became common, are not always available in publications. A specific effort is made to identify their exact locations, using old maps, published (or not). They are georeferenced and integrated in the GIS. The accuracy of the georeferencing procedure can vary according the quality of the old map or the possibility to identify known points. This gives a powerful way to cross and to complement spatial information (locations, toponyms, hydronyms, etc.).

Vectorization of old maps


Once georeferenced, raster maps can be vectorized if it is useful. It has been done for the geologic map of our study area in East Sepik.

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