Abstract

Dazzling, highly retouched obsidian stemmed objects comprised part of the material world of people in West New Britain and beyond in Papua New Guinea sometime between 6000 and 3000 years ago. Geochemical characterisation studies of the region’s obsidian sources indicate that the source of Kutau-Bao dominated to the point where stemmed artefacts made from its obsidian have been found in abundance on nearby Garua Island where another obsidian source, Baki, is located. Furthermore, stemmed artefacts made from Baki obsidian are not found anywhere else except on Garua Island. Studies suggest the nature of production involved centralised knowledge and practices with specialist knappers located on Garua Island. We explore two different approaches in order to look at how such organisation was accomplished. Firstly, we conducted replication experiments to identify characteristic debitage of aspects of stemmed artefact making. Then, the debitage attributes identified were used to examine excavated material from three sites, one near the Kutau-Bao source and two on Garua Island to try to understand the practices employed at the two sources. Our results suggest that Garua Island was a special place where knappers came and used the Baki source to learn, practise and hone their skills for making these dazzling artefacts.

 
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Bibliographic Data

Short Form
Rath and Kononenko, 2021. Tech. Rep. Aust. Mus., Online 34: 107–118
Author
Pip Rath; Nina Kononenko
Year
2021
Title
Negotiating social identity through material practices with stone. In From Field to Museum—Studies from Melanesia in Honour of Robin Torrence, ed. Jim Specht, Val Attenbrow, and Jim Allen
Serial Title
Technical Reports of the Australian Museum online
Volume
34
Start Page
107
End Page
118
DOI
10.3853/j.1835-4211.34.2021.1746
Language
en
Date Published
12 May 2021
Cover Date
12 May 2021
ISSN
ISSN 1835-4211 (online)
Publisher
The Australian Museum
Place Published
Sydney, Australia
Subjects
ANTHROPOLOGY; ARCHAEOLOGY
Digitized
12 May 2021
Available Online
12 May 2021
Reference Number
1746
EndNote
1746.enw
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