The next Seameo-Spafa International Conference on Southeastasian Archaeology will happen at Bangkok, Thailand, from 17 to 21 June 2019. Hubert Forestier, and Roxane Tsang, on behalf of the Papuan Past Project, will give a presentation about our recent work in the East Sepik Province:
- Forester et al., “Thirty years after P. Gorecki and D.S. Giellieson in Papua New Guinea: New data on the Holocene settlement of East Sepik, upper Karawari-Arafundi region”.
- Tsang et al., “Rock Art and long-distance prehistoric exchange behaviour: a case study from Awim, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea”.
Thirty years after P. Gorecki and D.S. Giellieson in Papua New Guinea: New data on the Holocene settlement of East Sepik, upper Karawari-Arafundi region
H. Forestier, J. Kariwiga, H. Baills, R. Tsang, S. Puaud, K. Miampa, S. Plutniak, A. Kuaso, F.-X. Ricaut, M. G. Leavesley
In 2017-2018 the French Prehistoric Mission in Papua New Guinea, co-directed by F.-X. Ricaut and M. Leavesley, undertook archaeological surveys and excavations in the Paimbumkanja (PBK) rock shelter located in the upper Karawari-Arafundi region of East Sepik. Prehistoric research in the lowlands is scarce and dates back to the pioneer work of P. Gorecki and D.S. Giellieson in the late 1980s in the neighbouring valley of Jimi-Yuat. Our research at PBK uncovered an archaeological sequence dating back to the late Holocene between 2956 and 1 00 years Cal BP (1006 BC to 650 AD). Two stratigraphic units (SU1 and SU2) contained lithic industries but no faunal remains, and were separated by a layer rich in blocks. Raw material used for knapping were mainly local: cobble quartz and quartzite from the puddingstone forming the awning of the shelter, with some rare pieces of flint, jasper and volcanic rocks. The modalities of the knapping process follow a “chaîne opératoire” associating debitage and shaping. Debitage is better represented; the objective was to produce artifacts preferentially narrow and elongated, resembling blades or small blades with or without utilized flake. Knapping on pebbles is relatively frequent with some macro-tools (e.g. choppers). A specific bifacial tool (chisel) made in exogenous volcanic rock with a transversal bevel was found. Human occupation in the PBK rock shelter is included in the recent Holocene chrono-sequence proposed in 1989 by P. Gorecki and D.S. Giellieson. This confirms flake production associated to macro-tools from 3000 years BP in the Sepik lowlands.
“Rock Art and long-distance prehistoric exchange behaviour: a case study from Awim, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea”
R. Tsang, W. Pleiber, J. Kariwiga, S. Plutniak, H. Forestier, F.-X. Ricaut, M. G. Leavesley
Since the 1960s, patrol officers, anthropologists and archaeologists have identified evidence of a pre-contact trading networks between New Guinea and the Torres Strait. Current research in the Lower Sepik River Basin reported various ethnographic descriptions relating to the important cultural material objects stencilled on various rock art sites in Awim as part of the broader Papuan Past Project, a collaboration between the University of Toulouse and the University of Papua New Guinea. Significantly, the Awim area is part of the Lower Sepik River Basin which contains a series of rock art sites, nominated by the Papua New Guinea (PNG) government to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List. In addition to the rock art, the area has one of the most environmentally intact fresh water basins with lowland rainforests and in Melanesia, famous for its architectural carvings and spirit houses. This presentation reports the new research that articulates local ethnographic knowledge about rock art with the art work itself. The rock art panels contain a wide range of stencils primarily consisting of hands but importantly, also including a number of other objects. One such object is the kina shell. The kina shell perhaps indicates the remarkable distance over which it was traded and traditionally used. The Awim case study is important because it is one of the relatively few sites across PNG for which we still have ethnography and therefore provides us with important insight to past rock art practises and concurrently notions of cultural continuity.