Dickinson, Paul. 2021. Narrow margins: standardised manufacturing of obsidian stemmed tools as evidence for craft specialisation and social networks in mid-Holocene New Britain. In From Field to Museum—Studies from Melanesia in Honour of Robin Torrence, ed. Jim Specht, Val Attenbrow, and Jim Allen.
Geochemical studies have shown that between ca 6000 and 3400 cal. BP, distinctive stemmed tools were produced at obsidian sources on New Britain and transported widely throughout the island and the Archipelago, implying extensive social networks linking communities across the region. Technological studies at the sources on Willaumez Peninsula of New Britain have suggested specialisation in the production of the two major types of stemmed tools, with implications for the nature of society at that time.
The present study extends this previous work through morphological and use-wear analyses of the stems of 148 obsidian Type 1 tools. It proposes that a group of skilled artisans worked together to systematically produce standardised obsidian blades, particularly with regards their stems that were designed to be hafted. It further argues that these artisans were organised in some kind of formal workshop that produced stemmed tools as valued items of social significance. These tools entered an array of exchange networks across the Archipelago and beyond. These networks are likely to have facilitated the later spread of the Lapita cultural complex across this island world.