Archaeological excavation of the Manim site (Highlands of Papua New Guinea)

Activities at Manim rock shelter (Photo: S. Plutniak).

Two years after the first 2017 survey in the Wurup valley by the Papuan Past Project, we finally started excavating an important Papua New Guinean archaeological site, the Manim rockshelter. This research in the highlands complements our investigations in the lowland region of the Sepik, on the history of settlement and interaction between these two regions.

A team composed of five researchers (Matthew Leavesley, François-Xavier Ricaut, Hubert Forestier, Sébastien Plutniak, and Jean-Pierre de Saint Aubert) and two students from the University of Papua New Guinea (Chloe Apo and Jeiven Andu) worked from the 24th of June to the 6th of July 2019. During the first week, they were accompanied by two filmmakers (Guy Beauché and Christophe Joly).

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Film-makers following the tracks of Denisova with the Papuan Past Project team

Film director Guy Beauché in front of handstencils in Kundumbu rockshelter (Photo: F.-X. Ricaut).

The research activities of the Papuan Past Project have gained interest beyond the scientific community, resulting in the project participating in a documentary film. One of the recent publications from the project, on the possible Denisova-Modern Humans admixture in New Guinea, has led the production house Galaxies/Scienti-Film to support a documentary on the exciting Denisova topic. The Papuan Past Project is the only research project to combine genetic and archaeological investigations, so an interesting project to cover in the film. A team composed of the film director Guy Beauché and sound engineer Christophe Joly joined the team from the 16th of June to the 2nd of July 2019. They filmed in the two regions that were the focus of the 2019 fieldwork: the Sepik and Highland regions. Footage from these locations will be complemented with footage from the Himalayas and Russia (Denisova cave) and research laboratories in Europe (e.g. France: University of Toulouse for the human genetic and National Museum of Natural History for the archaeological questions).

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Genetic and sociological fieldwork along the Arafundi River (East Sepik, Papua New Guinea)

“Singsing” dancers in Awim village, with the Esamkanja cliff in the background (Photo: F.-X. Ricaut).

From the 17th to the 24th of June 2019, a team of six people undertook the 3rd fieldwork of the Papuan Past Project in the Arafundi region. The team was composed of three researchers (Matthew Leavesley, François-Xavier Ricaut, and Sébastien Plutniak), one student from the University of Papua New Guinea (Reubenson Gegeu Hou) and two filmmakers (Guy Beauché and Christophe Joly). To complete the data collected during the 2017 and 2018 fieldworks, the team went back to the village of Awim. During this visit the filmmakers shot a film documentary about the arrival, 50-70 thousand years ago, of the first settlers to the Sahul (the landmass composed of New Guinea, Australia and Tasmania).

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February Fieldwork: on the top of highest mountain of Papua New Guinea

Team and community member at the front of the health center at Womatne (Simbu valley), following project presentation and anthropological sampling.

The Papuan Past project team has just returned from fieldwork in Mount Wilhelm area in the Highlands region (Simbu province). Dr Leavesley, Dr Ricaut, Dr Brucato and Mr Kariwiga participated to this fieldwork on one of the highest mountain (Mount Wilhelm culminated at 4500m asl) of the ancient Sahul landmass (New Guinea, Australia and Tasmania). Our last 2 weeks in Papua New Guinea included two periods of research.

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