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Exploring spatial relationships between material culture and language in the Upper Sepik and Central New Guinea.


One of the most important and enduring debates associated with the prehistory of Melanesia has concerned the migration of Austronesian speakers into the region. The geographical distribution of this family of languages ranges from Taiwan in the north to New Zealand in the south. Its east-west distribution is significant, spanning the area between Madagascar and Easter Island, and includes the Indonesian Archipelago, the Philippines and Polynesia. It is thought that migrations resulting in this distribution began somewhere around 5,500 Before Present (BP) and culminated in a final wave of migration from Melanesia into remote Oceania around 3,200 BP (Bellwood 1991).

Evidence for retracing the origin and course of Austronesian dispersals has been sought initially through assessments of lexicostatistical relationships among the hundreds of Austronesian languages (Gray & Jordan 2000). This evidence has given rise to a number of models of Austronesian dispersal (Greenhill & Gray 2005: 32-3). Three of the models have the Austronesian origin as Taiwan from which populations moved into South East Asia then east to Melanesia and Polynesia. (1) The only significant differences between these 'Out of Asia' models are the length of time in which the migration is assumed to have taken place and the number and intensity of migration episodes. (2)

The 'Entangled Bank' hypothesis provides an alternative model which proposes that present population and language distributions within Melanesia and Polynesia are best explained by demographic changes occurring within established populations in Melanesia inclusive of an intense network of interaction between Austronesian speakers and local populations across Melanesia and east South East Asia (Hurles et al. 2003; Terrell 1988; Terrell et al. 2001). (3) It has been suggested these factors would have given rise to the kinds of seafaring and agricultural innovations that enabled populations to access and colonise remote Oceania.

Those who support the 'Out of Asia' models have proposed the Lapita complex (3200-2600 BP) as a cultural marker for the Austronesian migration eastwards across the north coast of New Guinea and into the Bismarck Archipelago. Elements of this complex include domesticates and agriculture: dogs, pigs, chickens and a distinctive adze technology, as well as the introduction of a new settlement pattern comprising clusters of stilt houses built over protected and shallow coastal waters (Gosden & Webb 1994; Spriggs 1993: 192). The most significant material characteristic of the complex, however, is a dentate-stamp decorated ceramic ware that has been found at archaeological sites almost entirely within Melanesia but including Fiji, Tonga and Samoa. Its most westerly occurrence is on the north coast of New Guinea.

The interpretation of Lapita as a marker for the arrival of Austronesian peoples in Melanesia derives from a traditional archaeological viewpoint that abrupt occurrences of cultural phenomena in the temporal record are best explained by the arrival of a new population (Jones 1997: 16-7). The lack of any pre-Austronesian ceramic precursor to the elaborate incipient Lapita ware, coupled with the co-occurrence of other parts of the complex, has been seen as evidence that it was brought into the area fully developed (Gosden & Webb 1994; Kirch 1996; Kennedy 1981). Uncertainty as to the function of the ceramic ware, its distinctive design and stylistic qualities as well as the tradition's relatively short span of less than five hundred years, has led to the proposition that it was an important socio-cultural marker for the colonising populations (Sand 1997: 4-6). It is assumed that there was a significant pause and consolidation in the Bismarck Archipelago during the colonisation process that gave rise to the emergence and florescence of a network of exchange and interaction, including a development of a localised Lapita culture, before population movement continued south-east to Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Fiji and eastwards into western Polynesia (Green 1991). Once Lapita had been distributed as far as Fiji and Samoa, isolation and localised spheres of interaction resulted in a number of stylistic provinces and gradually the ornate design gave way to plainware (Anson 1986; Green 1978; Kirch 1990)

A contrasting theory supported by the proponents of the 'Entangled Bank' model sees Lapita as an innovation originating in the Bismarck Archipelago that diffused along overlapping spheres of interaction between existing and recent arrivals westwards along the north coast of New Guinea and south-eastwards to Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Fiji (Allen 1984). (4) This model is also supported by some important archaeological facts: there has been no Lapita style pottery found in the supposed origin of Austronesian peoples in South East Asia; Lapita has been found only as far east as Samoa and Tonga within the Polynesian sphere; and both physical and decorative qualities of Lapita ware exhibit characters reflecting an inclination for locally sourced materials and techniques (Ambrose 1997; Chiu 2003; Galipaud 1988).

Nevertheless, it is possible that elements of the Lapita tradition may have derived from a number of sources and questions have arisen as to what kind of features belonging to Lapita ceramics are pertinent to exploring questions surrounding the arrival of Austronesian speakers (Green 1988). Most attention has been focused on the dentate designs and their component elements but in reality there are a bewildering number of stylistic, technological and material features that demonstrate considerable diversity throughout Melanesia. As Green (2003: 102) has recently argued, there is a need to
   sort elements of the Lapita Cultural Complex into separate piles as a
   strategic part of the approach to improving understanding of the
   various processes at work with respect to the history of each of the
   topics, traits, clusters or particular elements under discussion.

There have been some attempts to isolate particular material, morphological and technological elements of Lapita ware and track their distributions but these have been limited in their regional scope (e.g. Chiu 2003; Galipaud 1988; Summerhayes 2000). There remains considerable work to do, not only in assessing the range of styles and techniques associated with the tradition, but also in the task of constructing a range of attribute levels that can be tracked co-ordinately across Lapita sites throughout the Pacific.


The Lapita puzzle has significant relevance to the questions that have preoccupied anthropologists and archaeologists concerning the emergence, spread and evolution of cultural packages and whether such packages can be used to identify populations who may share genes, languages and indeed common histories (Bellwood 1996; Terrell 2001).

In an attempt to provide answers to such questions, a team at the Field Museum, Chicago, undertook an investigation of the relationships between material culture, language and distance along a 600 kilometre stretch of the north coast of New Guinea by using a dataset of over 6,000 items collected in the region by the ethnographer Albert B. Lewis between 1909 and 1913. (5) The environment of this region is relatively homogeneous and without a need to factor in the influence of a varying environment and geography, the relationship between material culture and language distribution was presumably easier to explore.

The Field Museum team used the dataset to gauge the level of similarity between assemblages from villages within the study area. Each object within an assemblage was classified according to its functional/operational mode. This classification was seen as a method of indicating the presence of certain cultural practices that involved the use of those objects. Presence and absence of object classes was used to determine assemblage similarity or dissimilarity. Even though the assemblages used in their study largely consisted of objects collected by one person, they found marked differences in the number of objects and the number of classes of objects in the samples representing each language area. They also found that the number of classes present at each village was closely related to sample size and accordingly factored this into the analysis (Welsch et al. 1992:581). (6)

Welsch et al. (1992: 582) constructed a language matrix from existing assessments of the language relationships. (7) Geographical distance between each pairing of villages was measured and used as the counter variable to language in the analysis. Multiple and partial regressions were then carried out to measure the relationships between the variables. They found that sample size accounted for most of the similarity between assemblages; the rest demonstrated a greater relationship with distance than with language (Welsch et al. 1992: 583-88).

The Field Museum study was seen by many as significant because it has brought to anthropology and archaeology
   [a] model set of data that represents an era that is of historical
   importance and could not be duplicated today. Given the quality,
   complexity, and completeness of the data together with the
   theoretical relevance of the variables of propinquity, language, and
   material culture, it is certain to become a classic data set (Moore
   & Romney 1994: 370-71).

But the Field Museum method has since come under criticism for two reasons: firstly, the study did not compare morphological differences among class members and by not doing this the Field Museum study failed to acknowledge that objects that are considered functionally equivalent may vary in form. Appropriately, Peter Bellwood (1995: 777) asked
   ... what would the Welsch et al. analysis have shown had it been
   focused not on gross functional categories of items but on
   fine-tuned stylistic variations (eg. in shape and decoration) within
   these categories? What would be the patterns with respect to
   linguistic differentiation if one were to extend this kind of
   analysis to the whole of Melanesia, including the New Guinea

Functionally/operationally equivalent objects are often made with a range of different materials and techniques at different localities. These often provide a better means of establishing cultural ties, indeed as A. B. Lewis himself pointed out:
   [The design on string bags] and the character of the weave of the
   narrow band around the mouth of the bag, indicate the local place of
   origin. A native who is familiar with these styles can tell what
   village a bag came from by looking at it (cited in Welsch

Secondly, in using matrices of assemblage similarity and dissimilarity constructed from presence/absence binary data, they did not quantify the frequency distribution of individual classes which would have enabled the exploration of more discrete relationships between sites.

Soon after the Field Museum analysis, anthropologists of the Department of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine, undertook a reanalysis of the Field Museum data (Moore & Romney 1994; Roberts et al. 1995). Rather than using presence and absence to gauge similarity/dissimilarity, they used class frequency data in both correspondence analyses and log-linear modelling and found that language and distance equally accounted for the total variance in the data.

More recently, Stephen Shennan, and Mark Collard (2005), both of the University College London, applied a range of multivariate analyses on the Field Museum dataset. They were able to demonstrate a significant difference between the assemblages of Papuan and Austronesian speaking communities. (8) Importantly, nearest-neighbour tests established that Austronesian villages were more likely to be similar to each other regardless of propinquity. As Austronesians were relatively new arrivals they also argued that a phylogenetic signal may be evident in their cultural set. Accordingly, they undertook cladistic analysis and found that branching (phylogenesis) rather than blending (ethnogenesis) better explained the Austronesian set.

Nevertheless, while the University College London and University of California analyses may have provided a better means to quantify and analyse the distribution of functional classes, the fact that they were unable to quantify the formal relationships between members of the same class means that the majority of potential variability within the A.B Lewis dataset has remained unexplored.


The Upper Sepik-Central New Guinea Project (USCNGP) is a multi-disciplinary project undertaken jointly by the South Australian Museum and the Department of Geographical and Environmental Studies at the University of Adelaide. Its purpose is to quantify and explore relationships between material culture, geographic distance, language, and the environment. (9) It has sought to further contribute to the debates that have arisen from the Field Museum study by applying similar analyses to a dataset from the Upper Sepik and Central New Guinea regions of Papua New Guinea.

This paper presents an overview of results from preliminary analyses undertaken by the Project. These analyses focus on the two most ubiquitous and important functional/operational classes from the study area. One class comprises arrows made by men and used by them for hunting and fighting, the other the diverse range of string bags made by women, which are essential in the daily and ritual lives of both women and men. Importantly, each class provided a comprehensive range of technical and stylistic variability that was able to be codified.

Among others that will be discussed below, there are two crucial reasons why the use of these two classes is seen as having great potential. Firstly, due to their complexity and ubiquity they offer a fine-grained measure of cultural similarity/dissimilarity between the communities of the study area. Secondly, as these classes are exclusively products of either gender their respective attribute distributions are likely to reflect differences that exist between the genders' social patterns. In doing so they should not only provide an insight into the differences between the way men and women socialise and move through geographical space but they would also enable better discrimination of more discrete cultural patterns, most importantly those that best reflect either the language picture or relative spatial positions.


The Project's study area can be defined as the region intersected by the course of the Sepik River and its tributaries upstream from its confluence with the May River to its source in the highlands where it shares a large watershed with the Fly and Digul rivers. The Bewani Mountains form the northern limit of the study area (thus precluding the north coastal zone of West Sepik Province), and the southern slopes of the highlands of Central New Guinea (CNG) define the southern limit.

The area can be subdivided into three geographical regions: a dramatic mountainous zone consisting of around 13,000 square kilometres of CNG, a lowland zone immediately to the north that encompasses over 6,000 square kilometres of the Upper Sepik Basin (USB), and a hilly zone to the northwest of around 1,200 square kilometres known as the Border Mountains (Maps 1 and 2).

Central New Guinea

The highlands of CNG are essentially a cordillera running east-west with an apex that follows the Western Province and West Sepik Province border. The Star Mountains form the highest range in the system, reaching an altitude of around 4,000 metres in the western extreme of CNG in Papua New Guinea. They continue into Indonesia where they cover approximately 2,600 square kilometres of [West] Papua (Brongersma & Venema 1962).

This geologically diverse and rugged region is characterized by limestone karst formations with massive escarpments along the southern edge (Gillieson & Hope 1990: 28; Reynders 1962: 46). The slopes of the central range are serrated and complex, consisting of sedimentary rock which is unstable and prone to slippage due to the heavy rainfall (Hyndman 1979: 59; Hyndman & Menzies 1990; Morren 1986: 67). Along the centre of the highlands is a series of broad inter-montane valleys between 1,450 and 1,800 metres above sea level, forming the source basins for the Strickland, Sepik and Digul Rivers.

Hyndman and Menzies (1990) have identified three zones of forest for CNG. The foothills north and south of the highlands (100 to 500 metres), including the West Range, provide stands of sago palms in the valley floors and tropical forest of mixed composition on the slopes and ridges (Hyndman 1979: 79; Hyndman & Menzies 1990: 245).

The mid-altitude zone (500 to 1,500 metres), south and north of the central range, is rich in wild plant resources and various animals, but cloud and excessive rain restrict the success of tuber crops such as taro and sweet potato (Gillieson & Hope 1990: 29-30; Hyndman 1979: 61,78ff; Hyndman & Menzies 1990: 244; Hyndman & Morren 1990: 16-8; Morren 1986: 68-71).



In the highlands above 3,000 metres cloud forest and alpine tundra dominate; these are generally poorer in plant resources but the former supports a greater diversity of marsupials desirable as prey (Morren 1986: 71). The inter-montane valleys, located around 1,500 metres, provide relatively stable micro-climates; within them are situated primary and secondary stands of temperate rain forest especially on the surrounding slopes. Considerable tracts of cane and kunai grass (Miscanthus and Imperata sp.) caused by centuries of sustained shifting agriculture cover much of the valley floors (Gillieson & Hope 1990: 29).

In CNG, most people live between 1,250 and 1,800 metres. The mid-altitude fringe is lightly populated with settlements mainly concentrated in the larger valleys. The most densely populated areas are found within the inter-montane valley system as these broad and open valleys have the lowest precipitation of the highland region, as well as better exposure to sunlight, and therefore provide the best environment for shifting agriculture (Cranstone 1990: 35-6).

The Upper Sepik Basin

In contrast to the highlands of CNG and the Border Mountains, the Upper Sepik Basin (USB) is a relatively featureless alluvial plain situated between 50 and 100 metres with a few isolated hills exceeding 200 metres. It is drained by several tributaries of the Sepik River and large tracts are flooded in the wet season (November to April).

There are three major environments in the USB. One consists of lightly timbered swamps that are recharged by flooding in the wet season and floodplain forest with a rather low canopy. Within these are extensive stands of sago palms and swamp grasses. Another environment consists of mature or secondary rainforests with a diversity of plant species and trees (Morren 1986: 68). Two subdivisions of such forest have been identified and described by Reiner and Robbins (1964: 32-3) for the lowland hills and plains of the middle Sepik to the east and, from descriptions found throughout patrol reports and ethnographies, the forest structure of the USB conforms to their observations. Alluvial forests exist in the lowlands above the flood zones and a lowland hills rainforest of more mixed composition, which is relatively analogous to that in the hills proper, is found at the higher fringes of the plain (Clunie 1978: 4-6). By and large both these forest subdivisions have three strata with canopies reaching up to fifty metres.

The last major environment type consists of stands of anthropogenic grassland also comprising rhizomatous grasses. Two very large stands are located away from the major riparian flood zones near the Green River and Yellow River stations (Jeffries 1950; Kelm & Kelm 1980: 3-10).

The most variable environmental section of the Basin, for which Thurnwald (1914: 5-6-translated by Harry Beran) provides an excellent description, is on and near the banks of the Sepik and the other major rivers:
   The banks are similar all along the upper course of the main river:
   steep and wooded on the outside of the curves, while on the inside,
   sandbank or wild sugar cane and behind, young forest with numerous
   wild breadfruit trees. One frequently comes across signs of
   alterations in the river's course--new breaches and devastated
   woods, the mouths of old streams, and lagoons.

Because much of the Basin lacks the environmental diversity found in the hills and mountains, communities traditionally took advantage of areas where riparian zones, alluvial forest and swamp were adjacent because diverse resources could be accessed relatively easily. Consequently, large tracts of swamp were left relatively unpopulated.

The Border Mountains

The topography of the Border Mountains, like that of the slopes and foothills of CNG, is complex (Gell 1975: 8-9; Huber 1979; Peter 1990: 245). From swampy forests at around 50 metres, thirty kilometres east of the border with Indonesia, they rise to a maximum of just over 1,000 metres at the border, some forty kilometres north of the Sepik. From here they extend a similar distance into [West] Papua. In total they span approximately fifty kilometres north to south.

Huber's (1979: 131) description of Anggor territory on the eastern flank of the mountains provides a vivid and accurate picture for the region:
   ..... the terrain is steep and irregular. It consists of an
   intricate dendritic drainage pattern of small, even miniscule
   watercourses. These are separated by steep narrow ridges, forming an
   outline that articulates and complements the stream pattern. In any
   locality the overall altitude gradient is obscured or distorted by
   small, prominent mountains and by the myriad oblique intersections
   of streams and ridge crests. The ridge crests are narrow, five to
   ten meters, and the hillsides are commonly in excess of thirty
   degrees in slope.

Much of the Border Mountains is composed of limestone outcrops with valley floors and hollows composed of fine sedimentary clays. The lowest ground is generally swampy and includes stands of sago palms. Dense primary and secondary forest dominates the rest of the terrain and there are no significant grasslands. Most settlements are located on ridges between 300 and 500 metres.

The Languages of the study area

A recent assessment of the study area's linguistic situation was undertaken by Martin Steer for the Project. He summarises (2005: 4):
   The languages of the upper Sepik and of CNG differ markedly in the
   character of their genetic relationships. The Sepik catchment
   exhibits a degree of genetic diversity unequalled anywhere in the
   world with 200 languages belonging to perhaps as many as ten
   unrelated families together with several genetic isolates, and the
   upper Sepik has diversity commensurate with this. The CNG region, by
   contrast, is linguistically relatively homogeneous.

Sixteen languages are found in the USB and Border Mountains (see Map 3). The majority of these were originally assigned by linguists to three phyla (Laycock 1973; 1975; Wurm & Hattori 1981):

* Trans-New Guinea (Waina and Amanab of the Bewani Family and Dera and Anggor of the Senagi Family);

* Kwomtari (Fas and Kwomtari in the Kwomtari Family, and Baibai and Biaka in the Baibai Family);

* Sepik-Ramu (Abau constituting its own Family within the Upper Sepik Stock and Namie, Ak and Awun in the Yellow River Family/Stock).

Four languages were unclassified and now considered to be isolates, i.e. unrelated to any other languages (Yuri in the Border Mountains, Nagatman and Busa in the Upper Sepik lowlands, and Amto in the West Range).

Recent linguistic research has called for revisions to the classification of these languages. Membership of the Senagi Family in the Trans-New Guinea Phylum has been questioned with suggestions that these languages are more likely to be distantly related to languages of the Sepik (Steer 2005:18-9). Also Foley (2005) has questioned the integrity of the Sepik-Ramu Phylum and has placed the languages into two separate 'families' (Lower Sepik-Ramu and Sepik); this does not affect the determination of relationships between the languages of the study area.

At present eight languages are identified for CNG; all of them belong to the Trans-New Guinea Phylum (Map 3). The Ok Family of languages has been sub-divided into Mountain Ok and Lowland Ok (Healey 1964), the former are located in CNG and the latter inhabit the lowlands to the south. The Mountain Ok Sub-Family has three apparent divisions in linguistic relatedness: one includes the Ngalum in the west; another includes the Mianmin in the north; and the last includes all remaining Mountain Ok language found in the central and eastern part of the region: Kauwol, Tifal, Telefol, Faiwol and Bimin. Oksapmin is a Trans-New Guinea Phylum-level isolate that is spoken in the extreme east of CNG.

Steer has provided the Project with a matrix of relatedness (Tables 1 and 2). It 'implies a relative chronology' and was constructed on the basis of shared cognates with some consideration of morphology and structure (Steer 2005: 7-8; see also Laycock 1973: 70-1).



Subsistence systems found in the Border Mountains, USB and CNG have basic similarities and dissimilarities. The most significant similarity is that all populations practise shifting agriculture where suckers or cuttings are transplanted with the use of digging sticks, although there is variation as to whether people use mulching or burning in the preparation of gardens (Hyndman 1979:89-91; Huber 1974: 66-9). Another important similarity is that there is usually only one cropping before a fallow period of between fifteen and thirty years. However, in parts of the highlands where the cultivation of sweet potato is more important, fallow periods are somewhat shorter and multi-cropping does occur (Allen et al. 2002; Bourke et al. 1993).

The major difference between the three regions at the time the collections were made was the degree to which people relied on horticulture for their staples. People of the lowland plains and to a lesser extent the hills environment of the West Range and Border Mountains, intensively harvested stands of sago and complemented this with a diversity of fruit and nuts that could be collected during the sago harvesting process. Consequently gardening was only a subsidiary activity that included a diversity of cultivars such as taro, sweet potato, yams, breadfruit, bananas and coconuts (Craig 2002: 2; Huber 1974: 62-81; Jeffries 1950; Kelm & Kelm 1980: 115; McCarthy 1936). It is also important to note that the climate in the lowlands is moderately seasonal; planting occurs with the coming of the wet and this means that the diet varies somewhat over the course of a year.

In contrast, in large parts of CNG, people practised a virtual monoculture dominated by taro. (10) Their gardening regimes involved shorter cycles of shifting cultivation with a series of plantings being made throughout the year, providing gardens at various stages of maturity (Ohtsuka 1994). Over the last four or five decades, however, there has been an increasing reliance on sweet potato which, unlike taro, matures within a single year, thrives above 1,500 metres, can grow on lower valley slopes and floors that have poor soils unsuitable for taro, and provides excellent pig fodder (Eggertsson 2003: 19-22; Hyndman & Morren 1990; Jones 1980:11-6; Kuchikura 1990; Morren 1986: 90-100, Poole 1976: 255-300).

The use of sweet potato provides another measure of difference in the study region, as it was important in some areas during the period in which the major collections were made. It must be pointed out here that the economic and social changes brought about by sweet potato for other New Guinea highland societies--what has been termed the 'Ipomean revolution'--had not occurred in CNG (c.f. Watson 1965). Rather, the adoption of sweet potato has been argued to have been either a response to critical limitations of taro horticulture in the face of environmental degradation (Hyndman & Morren 1990:21); or to a need to increase domesticated pig populations to replace wild animal stocks lost through loss of forest (Craig 1990).

While it must be acknowledged that there have usually been higher population densities in other regions, where sweet potato is the dominant staple, in CNG there was no large scale gardening that could provide a surplus and lead to major changes in social patterns. On the whole, there are no major differences in social complexity between CNG groups that favoured either sweet potato or taro, although sweet potato dominant groups do tend to have smaller settlements.

In both the lowlands and highlands, hunting involved the exploitation of a broad range of marsupials, cassowaries, birds and fish, but the main focus was on the hunting of feral pigs, which are found across the range of environments (Huber 1980; Jorgensen 1981, 1983; Kelm and Kelm 1980: 59). The major difference was that lowland groups had access to a greater diversity of mammals and reptiles, and, most importantly, feral pigs were more abundant, as was fish, as an alternative protein source.

Because of the relative paucity of game, highland groups developed a form of pig husbandry involving a stock of semi-domesticated breeding sows which for much of the time were allowed to roam free, enabling them to consume wild fodder and to be impregnated by feral boars (Cranstone 1990: 40; Morren 1986: 88-9). While lowland groups did not traditionally practise pig husbandry, they sometimes supplemented their protein by rearing captured feral piglets (Gell 1975: 17; Juillerat 1982: 287).

In essence, differences between the geography and environments of the regions is reflected in some crucial differences between the subsistence patterns. In the relatively homogenous environment of the lowland plains, resources are more evenly distributed and accessible, and subsistence activities are less regimented and require little intensification. In the relatively heterogeneous environments of CNG and Border Mountains, wild resources and arable land are distributed more irregularly and are limited. Subsistence activities, undertaken by the family or spousal unit, were more geared towards horticulture and required more mobility.

The hills environments are a transitional zone but more closely resemble that of the plains because the exploitation of sago was the dominant subsistence activity, one that also provided opportunities to hunt and gather wild foods. It is important to note here that some highland fringe groups, such as the Mianmin in the northern limit of CNG, in more recent times have moved into lowland zones in the foothills of the West Range and consequently have adopted some lowland subsistence strategies (Morren 1986: 283).


Population density throughout the study area was, and still is, relatively low averaging below three persons per [km.sup.2]. When most of the ethnographic material was collected, around 20,000 people lived in the USB and Border Mountains, and around 30,000 in CNG. Unlike some villages further down the Sepik River and in the highlands to the east that have populations up to a thousand people, settlements throughout have comprised relatively small populations of between fifty to 250 persons.

Traditional settlements in the study area followed four basic forms that correspond to particular intervals in demographic size (e.g. Allen 1983: 18). These four classes of settlement and their composition can be described thus:

1) homesteads: two to three houses, twenty to thirty people;

2) large communal houses: one house, twenty to fifty people;

3) hamlets: up to five houses, forty to ninety people;

4) villages: more than five houses, 100 to 250 people.

In villages, where there were many houses, they were usually set around a plaza and some larger settlements included non-family residential buildings such as permanent ritual structures, menstrual huts and separate men's houses (Craig 1969).

Access to land for gardening or hunting and gathering determined the position of the settlement. All settlements had a defined territory with land dedicated to horticulture and to hunting and the gathering of wild resources (Huber 1980: 45; Morren 1986: 249; Ohtsuka 1994). There were significant ecological constraints determining settlement size, most importantly the nature of rainforest soil, which is usually exhausted after a year of cropping. Even where gardens did provide a greater proportion of the diet, the short period of cropping and long fallow required that gardens be established at increasing distances from the settlement. In some CNG and Border Mountains communities, this problem was overcome somewhat by garden housing (eg. Jorgensen 1981:151). In other areas, the settlements, or parts of them, were rebuilt close to the new gardens every generation, or at least once every second generation (Barth 1971: 188; Morren 1986: 198-202). The few lowland groups that were more reliant on gardening shifted every few years (Thurnwald 1914: 342-43). However, where sago was the main staple and horticulture of less significance, settlement relocation was more often related to the depletion of wild game and social instability (Barry Craig pers. comm. 2006).

Sometimes the pressure to relocate provided the opportunity for a split in the community resulting in part of the population moving to new territory or joining another community (Juillerat 1992a: 5; Morren 1986: 245-47). Major settlement shifts were also caused by misfortune befalling a community, such as sickness (sorcery), a perceived decline in fecundity, or conflict (Barth 1975: 22).

In parts of CNG, the Border Mountains and in the Yellow River area of the USB, communities lived in dispersed affiliated hamlets or hamlet clusters of up to 200 people, or villages of 100 to 200 people. Hamlets were the most common settlement form throughout CNG and the northern region of the Border Mountains, while villages were more apparent in the eastern Border Mountains, Yellow River and in the inter-montane valleys and southern slopes of CNG. In the inter-montane valleys, villages and hamlets were located on the wide valley floors (Craig 1969). In the northern slopes of the highlands, and in the hilly country of the Border Mountains, villages and hamlets were located on ridges above narrow valleys for security, while still providing reasonable access to gardens on the slopes and to stands of sago in the valley bottoms (Bercovitch 1989; Huber 1974: 33; Morren 1986: 72-5).

Both of these settlement patterns, the village and hamlet cluster, could involve a dual residence pattern, the settlement proper often remaining relatively vacant with a large proportion of residents living as conjugal or family units in garden houses; a practice that caused difficulty for anthropologists and patrol officers alike (Huber 1980: 46). This was done to not only tend gardens but also so that individuals and couples could enjoy a period of relative privacy (Barth 1975: 26; 14; Huber 1980: 46; Gell 1975: 79; Jorgensen 1981: 151).

Confederacies of villages, hamlets or hamlet clusters represented the largest form of communal unit, commonly referred to as a 'parish' in the literature, due to members being linked through local cult obligations, fictive descent and a network of marriage ties (R. Craig 1969; Morren 1974; Perey 1973; Pouwer 1964). Parishes were geographically delimited within large valleys and watersheds and were relatively stable. In CNG, all parishes included a centrally located settlement with a cult house or cult houses where people from settlements within the parish congregated for ritual occasions and male initiation (Barth 1971: 174; Craig 1969; Hyndman 1979; Jones 1980: 25). Thus social and domestic organisation was partitioned according to gender. The village living space was divided into male and female zones: the women, girls and pre-pubescent boys lived in individual family houses set around the central plaza and the men slept together in one or two men's houses located at the 'top' (upstream) end of the settlement (Craig 1988: 26; Jorgensen 1981 : 149-55). (11)

Many communities of the USB are now located along the course of the Sepik River and its tributaries. This is a relatively recent development made possible by the pax Australiana. Previously, most riverine settlements were small, set a little distance from the river on natural levees or high ground between the rivers and swamps. This provided a degree of security against flooding and raids from the river (Thurnwald 1914: 6). Elsewhere in the USB, settlements were located on the fringe of grassland or lowland alluvium forest close to swamps where stands of sago grew (Bragge 1964). In much of the USB, people lived in small homesteads, or large communal houses that contained a number of families or extended families (Conrad & Dye 1975: 11; Schultze-Jena 1914: passim). However, independent family dwellings have become more common due to government and missionary influence in the area since the 1950s (Craig 2002: 1-2; Craig 2008; Gell 1975: 11, Peter 1990: 247).


Weakly asserted descent units are features of many societies throughout New Guinea and kinship has often been framed as a product of a tenuous dialectic between obligation and optation that results in a 'looseness' or 'flexibility' in social relationships (Barnes 1962; Brown 1962; Harrison 1985: 415; Heider 1970: 6; Kaberry 1967; Lepervanche 1967; Watson 1970). Such observations are no less common, indeed are very apparent, in ethnographies for the study area. Reckoning of descent is usually patrilineal, with bilateral associations often given considerable weight. There appear to have been few social conventions to obstruct individuals who wished to establish ties beyond their close kin (Bercovitch 1989: 76; Craig, R. 1969: 177; Huber 1974: 9; 20; Hyndman 1979: 49; Jorgensen 1981: 180; Morren 1986: 175; Pouwer 1964: 144).

An important feature of many New Guinea societies that has been seen as undermining the objectification of descent relationships is the relative lack of formal leadership coupled with an ideal of equivalence which meant that there was little to be gained from filiation (Bercovitch 1994; Read 1959: 427-29; Scheffler 1985). This can be considered even more so for the study area for there was no counterpart to the 'Big Men', evident in other highlands societies of Papua New Guinea, who commonly accumulated wealth (Bercovitch 1994: 504; Brumbaugh 1980: 29; Huber 1974: 214). (12) Therefore there was no incentive to trace descent to any depth in these societies. Such knowledge was a residual of any continuity in residential patterns through generations and most informants were unable to recount genealogies beyond three generations (e.g. Brumbaugh 1980: 109; Jorgensen 1981: 211).

What is most apparent in the ethnographic accounts is that the sibling and cousin relationship was pivotal to the formation of social units. These relationships united conjugal units for the formation of extended corporate units and the cross-sex sibling relationship was, of course, crucial in linking men from different social units (Brumbaugh 1980: 86, 112; Gell 1975: 43; Jones: 1980: 68; Juillerat 1996: 337ff; Pouwer 1964: 141; Wheatcroft 1975: 94).

The most important and 'conspicuous' social unit for the study area was the nuclear family as it was an 'independently operating work, residential, consumption and property-owning unit, usually with its own house, garden plot, and routine' (Pouwer 1964: 141). Cooperation between them most commonly involved gardening or sago processing.

Families usually formed households whose adult membership comprised brothers or cousins and their wives or, where endogamy, bilocality and/or uxorilocality were in operation, a married brother, his sister and her husband. These units were important because they comprised two sets of producers one of which could provide a regular supply of food, when sickness or garden failure afflicted members of the other (Brumbaugh 1980: 30; Gell 1975: 10; Juillerat 1996: 92-99; Pouwer 1964: 141).

Although social relationships were weighted according to these bilateral associations, even for the most mobile of populations in the study area residency was largely determined by a male's patrilineal association because this usually determined rights to land and the structure of land guardianship (Juillerat 1996:128). A wife's or mother's father's land could be accessed but this would usually require approval by their close male relations (Brumbaugh 1980: 60). The territory through which a community moved was superimposed with a mosaic of different land-holding histories connecting male members of the larger communal unit.

The consequence of this system of land tenure was that almost all social groups for which data are present comprised patrilineages resulting from the succession of male siblings maintaining residency over a number of generations. In the USB these lineages were exogamous and often synonymous with the settlement. Nevertheless, they were by and large small and shallow, links to a common ancestor commonly went back only three or four generations and almost all numbered below fifty people and commonly comprised less than twenty (Fyfe 2009:106-15). Therefore it is clear that the lifespan of these lineages was relatively short, no doubt largely due to high mortality, sibling rivalry and the constant fissioning of communities.

Clan structures were reported for the Border Mountain and some sectors of CNG, most commonly for settlements of more than sixty people. In most cases these were the same size or barely larger than the largest lineages and had very little function beyond providing an alliance structure and performing the role as the exogamic unit where lineages were particularly small (Gell 1975: 37-40; Juillerat 1996: 291. What is clear, however, is that the strength of affinal ties between lineages of different clans determined the composition of future clans after a community fissioned.

Some Mountain Ok populations, most specifically Telefol and Tifal speaking groups, lacked segmentation, and large cognatic descent units of approximately one hundred to two hundred people were reported; often with members in several hamlets and villages (Brumbaugh 1980: 109; Jorgensen 1981:160). (13) Sometimes, as was often the case for Tifal speakers, cognatic descent units were synonymous with the parish (Hyndman 1979: 53; Wheatcroft 1975: 29; 96).


Most information about marriage systems in New Guinea has come from the highlands where exchange tended to take place between relatively large segmentary cognatic descent units. Such systems included an emphasis on establishing and extending new ties countered by a prerogative for maintaining some ties to groups with whom there was a history of association (Barnes 1962; Glasse & Meggitt 1969; Strathern & Strathern 1969: 154). Large clans may have had a number of exchange relationships, the majority involving neighbouring settlements with whom they maintained alliances underpinned by ritual and military obligations. A minority of exchanges were distant and these tended to have greater economic significance (Barnes 1962: 8).

Where there were large cognatic descent units, these tended to be segmented and relatively endogamous, with taboos specifically preventing individuals from marrying too close (Cook 1969: 105; Glasse 1969). Marriage was regulated according to a prescribed number of generations or by a system of delayed and sometimes indirect exchange--and accompanied by bride-wealth--in order to better distribute ties among the small agnatic units within the larger community (Strathern 1984; 45-6; Strathern & Strathern 1969: 141).

Where information has been provided for the sparsely populated lowland areas of inland New Guinea, connubial patterns have been described as localised and involute, whereby contiguous larger communal entities or small agnatic residential units are engaged in cycles of reciprocal exchange of women. Neighbouring groups form a sphere of ties, the strength of which may lead to some residential aggregation of small social units or movement of social segments between communities (e.g. Stasch 2003).

Apart from the northern and eastern Border Mountains and parts of CNG, there are mostly qualitative observations concerning the constitution and boundaries of exogamic units, the preferred exchange modes, the extent of marriage taboos, and information as to how rigorously the existing marriage rules were followed (Fyfe 2009:118-26). What is apparent from the data is that differences between marriage patterns were a corollary of demographic and settlements patterns, which were strongly regulated by the environment. Exchanges could take place between proximal but autonomous communal units or between lineages or kindred units in villages or parishes. Where settlements or more mobile social aggregates were small (less than sixty persons), they appear to have been almost exclusively exogamic, but where settlements were over a hundred individuals, the majority of marriages were endogamous.

On the whole the small exogamic segments, the bilateral nature of kinship, the loose definition or lax compliance to marriage taboos, and the tenuous nature of communal unity contributed to a situation where affinal ties and filiative ties were somewhat superimposed. It appears the majority of marriages did take place within a relatively stable network of ties, regardless of whether communities were composed of clans, lineages or kindreds. Indeed, in many circumstances restricted connubial spheres may have been seen as not only more expedient but also as vital for maintaining security and demographic viability (Jorgensen 1981: 223; Juillerat 1996: 291,298). Communities at some distance from linguistic boundaries seemed rarely to have had an opportunity, or reason, to undertake marriage exchanges with communities that spoke a different language. As indicated above, where there was some concentration of marriage ties, these were commonly followed by some residential aggregation of segments belonging to the communities involved. Essentially larger communities were constituted according to matrilateral and affinal ties linking men.


One important conclusion stemming from this investigation of the ethnographic data was that, at least at the time the data were collected, it is likely that the patrimony of men and women followed relatively similar patterns of residency regardless of the rules of marriage. Essentially, women were exchanged between two exogamous units either within a communal unit comprising a single settlement or settlement cluster, or exogamous units belonging to two contiguous settlements or settlement clusters. As these units had a social structure with a strong bilateral emphasis, membership within such units was somewhat tenuous and with any social instability there was a tendency for these units to fission. Subsequent emigration, as individuals, family groups or kin group segments, was determined according to ties that had been established by marriage prior to fissioning. Therefore any migration of men essentially retraced the paths of their mothers.

After migration, subsequent generations of men were able to gain rights to land near the communities where they were born and sometimes new lineages were formed which in some contexts became an exogamous unit or part of a larger descent unit. These could be involved in exchanges with contiguous groups and because of the bilateral structure of relationships, after a few generations they too could wane or split and recombine, or be absorbed into another segment or group.

In terms of this history, it is unlikely there would be much difference in the way that cultural practices belonging to men and women would have been patterned. Rather than residency, it would have been the relative mobility of women and men that would have determined any difference in the way that each gender's cultural practices were distributed through space.

It can be argued that men's mobility demonstrated a different spatial dynamic and range to that of women. In terms of factors such as ritual and trade, there would have been several incentives for men to extend their social networks to groups outside their immediate affines (Fyfe 2009: 128-54). Importantly, male mobility started early. Indeed the greatest amount of mobility between friendly communities is attributed to young men, or bachelors (Morren 1986: 242). In societies where bride-wealth was expected, many bachelors started their trading apprenticeship largely due to the need to accumulate or ensure their own bride-wealth (Brumbaugh 1980: 42). At maturity, men were expected to demonstrate some facility for securing ties in other communities and a man's social worth was sometimes measured according to the number and value of these allegiances. Ethnographies suggest that communities typically contained men of remarkable sociability who ended up having reciprocal partners in many villages and were instrumental in facilitating and preserving ties between more distant communities; in many cases there were no marriage relations between these communities (Bercovitch 1989: 258; Brumbaugh 1980: 41; Juillerat 1996: 225). Along with trade items important men conveyed ideas and knowledge across social boundaries that most other members of their communities rarely if ever crossed.

Women's mobility, both before and after marriage, seems to be entirely different. As Litteral (1978: 28) pointed out for the Anggor of the Border Mountains, women 'were not direct participants in the intertribal communicative network'. Indeed, Bercovitch observed that among the Atbalmin 'the majority of women have never travelled further than a day's walk from their local..... valley [while] the majority of men have travelled many times to areas at least four or five days' walk away'. A woman's network of friends would have also been much smaller, rarely extending beyond close kin (Bercovitch 1989: 282). An endogamous woman would have very little reason to travel beyond her own village unless relations were bad with both her husband and consanguines, thus convincing her to flee her village (Huber 1974:178).

It is also important to point out that exogamous women often maintained a strong relationship with their natal village, most especially through the enduring and complementary relationship they held with their brothers (Juillerat 1996: 341). Indeed, many seemed to have returned to their natal village and even remarried there when their husband died or the marriage failed in their affinal community (Juillerat 1996: 295). This would have restricted somewhat the social connections between exogamous and local women and inhibited transmission of ideas between them. Consequently, women's cultural forms and the ideas behind their conception would more likely be restricted to smaller spheres of contiguous communities, especially considering the relative low level and scope of regional trade (Fyfe 2009:128-41). Therefore, if material culture is able to provide clues to historical relationships between populations it would seem more likely that these would be found in artefacts generated by women.


Around 11,000 objects made up the Project's larger dataset. These collections, the approximate number of objects they hold, and the museums in which they are housed, are given in Tables 3 and 4. (14) Approximately fifty five percent are from the USB and Border Mountains and forty five percent from the highlands of CNG. (15) The collection came from 237 settlements/location points across the study area.

The sample includes all manner of objects from the most basic utilitarian tools to highly elaborate paraphernalia used in ritual. Many utilitarian classes were common throughout the study area because of regional similarities in hunting, gathering and horticulture. These include readily made items such as diggings sticks, bamboo knives and fire tongs to technologically complex items such as stone adzes, string bags and arrows. Throughout the study area there was also little in the way of clothing. The woman's skirt, of which there were various forms, was the major form of clothing in the study area, although in CNG a type of bark cape was worn by women for protection against wind and rain. The men, on the other hand, had no major form of body covering other than the phallocrypt, which functioned simultaneously as a protective device and a form of ornament or insignia.

While there is little in the way of clothing there is a significant assemblage of body ornaments and personal items made with such material as feathers, seeds, bones, dogs' teeth, pigs' tusks and shells. These sometimes required minimal manipulation of materials while some were intricately fashioned. Where such ornaments consisted of valuable and exotic items such as teeth and shells, they were sometimes used for marriage payments. It is also important to note that the foundation for many body ornaments was provided by looped string bands made by women.

Two important personal items included the smoking-gourd and bamboo smoking tubes, crafted locally by men for the consumption of tobacco throughout the study area. The other important piece of apparatus for intoxication, ubiquitous throughout the lowlands, was the locally crafted lime-gourd for carrying lime used in chewing the areca ('betel') nut. These were ubiquitous throughout the lowlands and were also crafted locally.

As for musical instruments, hand drums and jaw harps were found throughout the study area. Hand drums were hourglass-shaped and made from immature tree trunks hollowed out with the use of embers and gougers. Their distal ends were decorated with carved and painted designs and their tympana made of lizard skin tuned with wax knobs. The only other musical instrument of significance was the wooden trumpet found in some parts of the USB and the Border Mountains. Hand drums and trumpets were used by men during ceremonies, while jaw harps, made from a short section of bamboo, were usually played by men and boys during times of leisure. (16)

Apart from the bow and arrow, carved and painted wood shields were used in warfare throughout most of the study region. They ranged in size and shape and were used as a defensive shelter from arrows rather than to parry (Beran & Craig 2005: 75-7; Craig 1967; 1970; 1976; 1988: 31-44; 2005a: 117-26. Where the shield was absent, especially throughout the Border Mountains, the cuirass (rattan body armour) was used for protection (Tiesler 1984). In CNG some groups used both shields and cuirasses.

As far as the visual arts are concerned, the region lacked the figural traditions and the monumental architecture and sculpture found in the lower and middle Sepik regions. The decorative programs found in the Upper Sepik are predominantly geometric and were carved and painted with mineral and organic pigments. The common media for decorative art were arrows, hand drums, shields and, in CNG, architectural facades (house boards) with designs similar to those of the shields (Craig 1970; 1988; Cranstone 1967; 1968).

The other important media for painting tradition were masks and plaques used in sickness-curing and sago-fertility rituals performed throughout the USB and Border Mountains. Masks often consist of flattened sheets of sago petioles or coconut palm fibre, and were painted with a range of natural pigments. They were commonly attached to conical frames constructed of bamboo or rattan. In the Border Mountains, the designs tended to be more figurative than those in the lowlands (Gell 1975: 174-5; Gell 1992: 130-31; Juillerat undated; Juillerat 1992b: 27-42).

Other forms of decorative art can be found on gourd phallocrypts, gourd lime containers and bamboo smoking tubes. These were either pyrograved or incised with vaguely figurative or geometric patterns and stained with organic or mineral pigments (Craig 1988; 1990; 2005b).


There were several reasons why string bags and arrows were seen as offering good potential for the identification of socially significant patterns in material culture distributions.

Firstly, they were both ubiquitous to the study area and crucial to the most important activities undertaken by men and women: gardening, hunting and fighting.

Secondly, string bags and arrows were important personal and cultural items as well as being particularly visible (Barth 1975: 68, 160-61, 188,233; MacKenzie 1991: 136-38). Whenever a man left his settlement he carried his bow and arrows; both men and women carried a personal string bag during daily activities (Gell 1975: 142-43; Jorgensen 1981: 68; MacKenzie 1990: 94-5). Essentially, they were excellent vehicles for individuals to express and measure social distance.

Thirdly, these classes include structurally and technologically more complex artifacts than most others found in the region. Their manufacture was labour intensive and a single example may have had a number of technical features, each of which required different skills to complete. They were also often highly elaborated, either with intricate arrangements of applied materials, such as feathers, shells, or seeds, or with patterns, such as those carved into the heads or foreshafts of arrows, or looped into the fabric of bags using string dyed with natural pigments. Therefore they potentially offer a wealth of formal variability that can he used in this kind of comparative exercise.

Lastly, as they were made exclusively by either men or women, the conceptual and technical qualities apparent in these objects potentially reflect the different social prerogatives and transmission paths of each gender, therefore enabling an additional means of determining social factors affecting cultural variability.

String bags

Throughout the study area, the creation of string bags is the primary objective of the craft of looping. String bags provide a flexible and portable container for which there is no comparable substitute. Some large bags are specifically made to carry garden produce, firewood and babies. Other smaller bags are designed to hold more personal possessions such as tools, smoking tubes and, in the lowlands, areca nut chewing paraphernalia. In CNG personal bags belonging to men are often provided with feathers to signify their initiation status. The smallest range of bags are a form of amulet containing magic charms worn to provide success in hunting and gardening, to cure illness or even to secure a sexual partner.

All string bags within the study area are constructed with hand-spun string made from the treated inner bark (bast) of saplings. In the lowlands, fibre from the bark of the tu-lip (Gnetum gnemon) is reported as having been the most commonly used material (Kelm & Kelm 1980: 178; Kooijman 1962: 21), although Phaleria sp. has been reported for some groups in the Border Mountains (Juillerat undated). In the highlands, fibre traditionally comes from Ficus sp. (Hyndman undated; MacKenzie 1991: 69-70).

Before the spinning process, the bast could either be treated by smoking or by soaking in water for a period of time. In the highlands, it was the women who treated and shred the bark while in the lowlands the bast was sometimes beaten and prepared by men (Kelm & Kelm 1980: 178; MacKenzie 1991: 73-4). To make the string, the treated fibre was rolled and twisted with the flat of the hand on the upper thigh (Kelm & Kelm 1980: 178; MacKenzie 1991: 78-9).

Across the study region, there are numerous techniques used to form string bags. Maureen MacKenzie's fieldwork in CNG has provided the most comprehensive body of work from the study area concerning string bag production and the variability of techniques in the region (1990; 1991). Characteristics MacKenzie identified as diagnostic of particular group preferences include:

* the nature of bag components (e.g. mouthbands, edgings and strap types);

* the method of construction and co-joining;

* bag shape or form.

Following from MacKenzie's work, lowland bags were assessed in a similar manner (Bolton & Fyfe forthcoming; Fyfe 2009: 198-203). In line with MacKenzie's findings, nine different looping techniques were identified as being used in the study area to construct the full range of bag components. Additionally, there were some different ways in which straps and mouthbands were attached from those discussed by MacKenzie. It was found that some techniques were more suited to a particular range of bag sizes but there was significant overlap.


As string bags were for women's craft, the arrow was the centerpiece of male craft. The degree of attention and effort that men dedicated to the creation of arrows was considerable (Craig 1988: 47; Jorgensen 1981: 68; Morren 1986: 272-73). High quality arrows conferred prestige on their makers and owners, and were readily sought out by men and sometimes traded and gifted between men from different communities (Bush 1985: 257; Cranstone 1990: 38; Jorgensen 1981: 69).

Arrows can be divided into functional sub-classes, most of which are ubiquitous to the study area. Major sub-classes of arrows can be determined according to whether arrows have a single pointed tip, multiple tips (prongs) or are blunt (percussive); the latter two were reserved for small animals. For this analysis only single tipped arrows were used as they were by far the largest part of the sample and more or less operationally analogous.

Single tipped arrows have two or three of the following structural components:

* a 'head' or 'blade' that varies in size and shape according to the prey and the type of wound intended;

* a weighting device;

* a shaft.

As the arrows are not equipped with fletching to stabilise their flight they are long, relative to fletched arrows, and weighted towards the tip. The most commonly used methods of weighting involved either:

* using a foreshaft made from palmwood;

* binding a small stone to the base of the arrow blade;

* applying a paste made from marl or lime to the binding when joining the shaft to the head; or

* adjusting the length of the head, where the head was made of a hard heavy wood.

The arrow shafts were made with a cane from reeds or sword grass. (17) They were cut to length according to the types of head that they would carry and the mode of weighting used.

Arrowheads were made of bamboo or a hard wood, typically one of the many varieties of palmwood that grow in the lowlands and lower slopes. (18) Bamboo arrowheads are lancet or blade-like and have cross-sectional tendencies that produce either a deep piercing or a gash-like wound. (19) Throughout the study area, bamboo-blade arrows were most commonly reported as being intended for war, or for hunting pigs and cassowaries. Those with thick, heavily beveled culm sections were invariably reported as fight arrows in the lowlands while sharp wide and open blade arrows were more commonly reported as being intended for pigs and cassowaries. In the highlands, on the other hand, where thick, beveled bamboo-blade arrows were less common, semi-tubular and open blades were both reported as fight arrows. (20) A feature of the bamboo-blade arrows from the study area is that sometimes barbs are cut into one or both edges of the blade of those intended for fighting.

Palmwood arrowheads have the greatest diversity in morphology. Palmwood heads can comprise a simple tapering length of round or oval cross-section, or be carved with a range of barb forms and cross-sections. Barbs follow a range of tendencies. Sometimes the whole length of the head is carved with barbs while some arrows have just one or two barbs near the end. In other cases heads are incised so that the tips will break leaving a portion in the victim's body. (21)

The third most significant class of arrowhead consists of palmwood headed fight arrows with a detachable bone tip; these tips are intended to stay in the body once the arrow has been removed to cause infection in the wound of the victim. (22)

The most important technical features used to secure the various arrow components are the bindings. These are composed of braided, wound, or knotted strips of plant material. The number and position of bindings are determined by the structure of the arrows. The largest range of binding positions, and also techniques, is found on bamboo-blade arrows with foreshafts. These usually have at least two, and sometimes up to five, independent bindings that vary according to their function and their position on the arrow. There is also a range of possible binding techniques for each position and it is apparent that while variation in braiding, whipping or knotting is somewhat determined by choice, the nature of the head and the structure of the arrow to some degree determine the method of binding. For example, wide blades were more likely to be fastened with whippings using straight or alternating winding techniques while, where narrower arrowheads and foreshafts have been used, and inserted into the shaft, the juncture may be reinforced with a small braided ring on the shaft that acts as a ferrule.


The preliminary analysis involved languages for which both string bags and arrows were well represented. Included were all six CNG languages on the Papua New Guinea side of the border, two adjacent groups from the lowland plains, Abau and Namie, and the contiguous language of the Border Mountains, the isolate Yuri. There were 397 bags and 1,389 arrows in the sample.

To create the dataset each arrow and string bag was initially considered in mechanical terms. This led to the identification of a complete set of possible components belonging to the two classes' samples which provided a set of possible 'attributes' arranged according to a logical order of functional contingency: a particular combination of attributes was seen as indicative of discrete functional and operational properties. Each attribute level was then assessed technically and a set of variants was established for each. This provided values to assign to each artefact where the relevant attributes were present--a more detailed account of this process is given in Fyfe (2009: 176-214).

Separate analyses were then carried out for each string bag and arrow attribute level. Assessments were made by comparing the relative position of each language in terms of material culture similarity to that of their respective linguistic relationship, shown in the language matrix (Table 2). Assessment of the effect of distance was determined from a comparison with the languages' respective geographical positions (Map 3).


The first analyses focused on counts of attribute states whereby correspondence in the proportions of counts would be the measure of relatedness. Correspondence analysis (CA) was chosen because it is considered a useful tool to explore the association between discrete (categorical) values, and therefore ideal for quantifying the formal and modal attributes derived from the sample of arrows and string bags (Sherman 1988: 283-88). CA both quantifies association between discrete categories by measuring relationships between rows and columns in two-way or multiple-way frequency tables. This enables the establishment of scaled distances between categories according to their relative scores along the sequence of corresponding rows and columns. As expected values are those in which rows and columns demonstrate complete independence from one another, the sum deviation from expected values will give an [x.sup.2] value. Dividing [x.sup.2] by the number in the sample (n) provides a measure of this deviation. CA provides a means of extracting several factors and their dimensions which individually account for a percentage of this deviation: the two dimensions accounting for the greatest percentage of this inertia can be used as axes to construct a map onto which the column or row values can be plotted thus providing a visual representation of the relationships.


The quantification of metric data involved the use of analysis of variance (ANOVA) which is appropriate for exploring relationships between metric variables and discrete variables (Foster et al. 2005: 16ff). These tests would determine whether there was any significant difference between language group means in both the string bag and arrow samples. Analysing variance within the sample is done by comparing means' differences with variation due to random error (within-group sum of squared deviations (SS)). In such tests, overall variance for the samples' dependent variable(s) mean is calculated as SS from the overall mean, divided by the number of the sample minus one (n-1). Adding together the sums of squares within each group provides the Error variance, and subtracting this from the overall SS provides the Means Square Effect. Under the null hypothesis, within group and between-groups variance should be statistically equivalent; an F test is used to compare the two estimates of variance to establish whether there is a significant difference between groups.

Aside from the determination of significant difference between group means, another important feature of an ANOVA is that if the tests proved to be significant, the dependent variables can then be submitted to post-hoc tests that provide pair-wise comparisons of groups' means. These result in homogeneous subsets of groups whose means are not significantly different under the terms of the chosen [alpha]-level. (23)


The most significant trend in the analyses was the persistent relationship between the language groups' geographical positions and material culture attribute variability; essentially, lowland and highland languages clustered according to their relative positions in either of the study area's major geographic regions. (24) There was, however, only minor evidence for a relationship between language and material culture for either class. Nevertheless, there were differences in the degree to which attributes from either class exhibited a relationship to distance suggesting that techniques responsible for these attributes have been differentially transmitted according to the range of social relationships and contexts that commonly exist for individuals living in these societies. Most importantly, in terms of factoring in the possible effect of difference in mobility between men and women, attribute levels of each class exhibited different patterns in the way language groups clustered: arrow attributes demonstrated a more general relationship to the geographic distribution of language groups and tended to form fewer and less defined clusters while string bag attributes, particularly in the highlands, exhibited more discrete clustering that better reflected the group's geographical positions.


The following three CA plots are illustrative of patterns found in the majority of plots associated with arrow attributes. The first concerns cross-section tendencies found for carved palmwood-head/bone-tipped arrow head-cores. A 'core' in this regard refers to the part of the head prior to the tapering that results in the point. Cores can also have a lot to do with the primary differences between the barb carving techniques where barbs exist along the head and point. Two basic tendencies associated with carving are whether barbs are cut into a broad pre-shaped core, a process that leaves barb-like incisions, or whether the barbs are a result of the craftsman cutting back an un-shaped core at the end of a shaped stem, a process that leaves barbs projecting from a narrower cylindrical core. There was a greater preference for the former in the highlands while the latter was the preferred process in the lowlands. Where barbs were not present there was a smaller range of cross-sections. In all, eight core cross-sections were identified for the sample and included in the analysis (Fyfe 2009: 207).

As can be seen from plot (Figure 1) associated with these cross-section tendencies, the CNG groups are clustered to the right hand side with lowland groups spread out to the left. There is no further pattern to be determined for the highland groups but, in line with the geographical situation, the Abau are nearest to this highland cluster, with the Yuri positioned nearest to the Abau; the relatively geographically and socially remote Namie (Mitchell 1975) are positioned some distance from the rest.

The second plot (Figure 2) concerns bamboo-blade arrow structures of which three were present in the sample: arrows with foreshafts, arrows with cane shafts attached directly to the head, and arrows with pure palmwood shafts. As can be seen, this plot produces an even denser highland cluster, one largely resulting from a shared preference for foreshafts. Again there is no suggestion of additional divisions within this cluster and lowland languages remain positioned relatively as they do in geographic space. The most distinct outlier is the Mianmin which, although close to the other Mountain Ok languages along Dimension 1, demonstrate a divergence along Dimension 2 due to a number of pure palmwood-shafted arrows collected from this group.


The third plot (Figure 3) shows relationships determined for the presence and types of binds placed on the head/foreshaft near the juncture with the shaft: a binding position that is used as a buffering device; or as a decorative device derived from a buffering antecedent (Fyfe 2009: Appendix 27g, BIND B). This feature is common for palmwood headed arrows which, unlike bamboo-blade arrows, always have the head directly inserted into the culmpith cavity and therefore have greater need for such a buffering device. Importantly, it usually involved complex binding techniques involving braiding. In this regard most highland samples have braids almost exclusively at this position while a significant proportion of lowland arrows with this bind have those that involve whipping and knotting. The Mianmin sample falls between these two extremes while Oksapmin arrows are rarely equipped with a bind at this position.


While this plot again demonstrates strong correlation with the relative geographical positions, there is arguably a possible signal for language when one considers the minor divergence of the Mianmin and relative isolation of the Oksapmin group from an otherwise tight highland cluster.

There was one sequence of bamboo-blade arrow attributes for which discrete clustering within the highland group was evident, although it did not reflect linguistic affinities or any specific geographical factor beyond relative contiguity. This persistent clustering of highland groups was due to the presence/absence of a bamboo-blade arrow technology whereby blades were slotted into a notch carved into the palmwood foreshaft (Fyfe 2009: Appendix 26f, BBA-F-BATT 2), a feature almost absent from all other groups in the study area who typically bound the blade stem onto the outside of the foreshaft/shaft.

The plot shown on page 146 (Figure 4) concerns affinities determined by shared tendencies in bamboo-blade cross-sections. Bamboo-blade arrows had either a broad, fine and flat open blade; a thick strongly beveled blade; or a semi-tubular blade facilitated by bamboo cane with smaller diameters. Notched foreshafts, which arguably resulted in a more secure blade attachment, were particularly practical when using the former. Therefore greater proportions of fine and flat open blades were associated with the distribution of this technology.



While the plot again shows lowland groups spread out and set away from those from the highlands, two distinct clusters are evident for the highland groups. One, consisting of those who share the notched foreshaft technology--the northern Central New Guinea language groups, Telefolmin, Oksapmin and Mianmin--is positioned in the top right hand comer of the plot. The other, for which the technology is relatively absent, is shown at the bottom right hand comer, and includes three neighbouring groups all of which border the southern flank of the cordillera, Tifal Faiwol and Bimin.

This division of highland groups is intriguing, for the groups that share the technology also had a significant degree of mutual enmity with little in the way of exchange taking place between them (Morren 1986: 271ff; Perey 1973: 112). Importantly, the linguistic distance between them is as great as possible for pairings of highland languages. It is possible that interest in each other's arsenal lead to this distribution although their regional geographical position is an important factor as the notched foreshaft innovation is also found for the adjacent Asabano (Duranmin) population to the northeast and groups east of the Strickland River (Roscoe pers. comm. 2008). (25)

String bags

Like the arrow analyses, string bag plots persistently positioned lowland languages apart from highland groups, and most commonly in relation to their positions in geographic space. Unlike those for arrows, however, string bag plots exhibited a persistent clustering of highland groups in line with a south-east/north-west division of CNG. This division is important as there are significantly more topographical obstacles between the south-east and north-west regions than there are between groups within these regions. Not surprisingly there is also greater ethnographic evidence for interaction, involving trade, marriage, ritual co-participation, or conflict, between groups within these clusters than between groups belonging to either cluster (Fyfe 2009:passim). (26)

The first CA plot (Figure 5) for string bags involved the way string bags were constructed. Four basic methods were discerned and these concerned either: the looping of a bag up from a chain or cord, by starting directly from a looped row and spiraling up; looping a cylinder then sealing the bottom; or looping a panel that was the sealed on the sides (Fyfe 2009: Appendix 24b). It was thought that the patterning of these fundamental processes of creating the bags' basic forms, each of which in essence encompasses an extended procedure relying on a relatively inscrutable set of motor skills and motor adjustment, would be more likely to reflect deeper social relationships as they would conceivably require more intensive learning techniques (e.g. Pryor and Carr 1995). Indeed, this appeared to be the case as the plot, more than others associated with string bags, conforms somewhat to the linguistic picture: the Namie and Abau are now proximal, with the Yuri and Oksapmin positioned further towards the fringes.

The next sequence of plots is illustrative of the typical pattern found for string bag attributes. The first represent group relationships according to choice of looping methods used for string bag bodies. There were four methods identified in the sample and a description of these is given by MacKenzie (1991: 215-217, Appendix 2a) and Bolton and Fyfe (forthcoming).

As can be clearly seen in the plot (Figure 6), the above mentioned divisions between the south-east region (Faiwol, Bimin and Oksapmin) and that of the north-west region of CNG (Telefol, Tifal and Mianmin) are very apparent. Importantly, the lowland groups remain somewhat isolated with the Namie now positioned well away from the rest. The only deviation from an otherwise unequivocally geographical orientation is the positioning of the Yuri among the north-west CNG cluster.

This stronger relationship between material culture affinity and geography is more asserted in the following two plots. The first concerns looping techniques found for mouth finishing: edgings and mouthbands (Figure 7). Two edging and four mouthband looping techniques were found in the sample; the most common mouthband looping technique was present for all groups (Fyfe 2009: Appendix 25c). Significant differences between the highland clusters largely concerned the choice between the use of either mouthband or edging. The sample from the south-east cluster included a greater amount of bags, both large and small, with edgings and included an additional edging technique. Differences between the north-west and lowland samples were also due to difference in the relative proportions of edgings and mouthbands as well as mouthband techniques.




The second plot concerns the manner in which straps were attached to the bags (Figure 8). Seven different techniques were identified (Fyfe 2009: Appendix 25f). Five of these were used in the case of mouthbands, and all five were used in the case of the most common mouthband looping method. Four techniques were used where edging or no mouth finishing was present.

As can be seen, in both plots not only are the south-east and north-west divisions within CNG maintained but the Yuri, Abau and Namie assume their relative positions away from the highland clusters. Clearly these plots suggest that the distribution of string bag attributes more accurately reflects geographic positions, at least within CNG. One may be tempted to argue that some of this difference between arrow and string bag attribute patterns may be due to arrows being more regularly traded over greater distances but there is little to suggest that this was the case. Besides, this would still not detract from the implication that men were more likely to travel to and beyond contiguous communities and exchange information concerning material culture in the process. Therefore this difference must be due to women being restricted to smaller spheres of interaction.




In terms of evidence for a relationship between material culture and ecology the greatest was found in the relationship between altitude/subsistence patterns and arrow length/head weighting. As discussed above, homogeneous subsets of related means can be created as part of the ANOVA procedure. Table 5 provides homogeneous subsets of languages with related means for bamboo-blade arrow lengths with [alpha] = 0.1 ; similar patterns were found for palmwood-head arrow and head lengths (Fyfe 2009: Tables 20.7-10). In simple terms, high altitude groups invariably had shorter and lighter arrows than low altitude groups, with the mid-altitude fringe Mianmin having mean lengths and weights between those two; although across all arrow classes the Yuri varied in having arrows/arrowheads either slightly shorter or longer than the Abau. The Sepik languages, Abau and Namie, were closer to each other in this respect than to any other language, but rather than constituting evidence of any genetic relationship, this association likely reflects similarity in lowland subsistence strategies.

What must be considered when interpreting such results is that, firstly, highland peoples in New Guinea are commonly shorter in stature than those in the lowlands. For one thing, this is partly due to dietary differences, the most important of which is the normally smaller protein intake for highland populations (Dennett & Connell 1988: 275). Secondly, people of the lowland tropics tend to have longer limbs to facilitate better regulation of body heat (Eveleth & Tanner 1976: 271). But what is additionally clear in these data is that sweet potato-dominant highland groups are most affected in terms of physiological restriction, suggesting that the greatest proportion of sweet potato uptake has not resulted in a channelling of surplus to pig production but occurred as an adjustment to the decline of taro production due to environmental degradation and other demographic factors. The Tifal speaking groups are third highest in this tendency. As pointed out by Fyfe (2009: 38), the ethnographic evidence suggests that the Atbalmin, a large Tifal speaking population nearest the border with [West] Papua, was tending towards a sweet potato dominant regime. The data therefore confirm such observations. They also suggest that the least horticulture-intense, sago exploiting societies are the best nourished, although those living in the hilly environment of the Border Mountains, who have ready access to both sago and viable land for horticulture, would be very close.

String bags

Given the great variance in size within the string bag sample, and the obvious relationship between bag size and function, the relationship between size and language was not considered for analysis in the manner for arrows. Rather boxplots of bags' sizes were created for both language and string bag width and height ratios to gauge proportional tendencies and determine whether sampling problems had resulted in the unequal distribution of possible functional subclasses across language samples. A boxplot for size to language (Figure 9) revealed that there was considerable difference in bag size between language groups as well as a number of outliers.

Clearly, irregular sampling had occurred across the study area and a number of functional subclasses were likely to be poorly represented for some languages; this was most evident for Faiwol and Oksapmin samples. The boxplot for bag construction method (CM) and size (Figure 10), two variables likely to be strongly related, indicated similar problems although it was apparent that two out of the four CMs were more likely to be used for much smaller bags.

A boxplot (Figure l1) for CM, this time involving height to maximum width (HTMXW), indicated that bag proportions did not vary greatly according to the way that the bags were constructed. Nevertheless great variance was found for CM 2, which was understandable because the proportions of very small bags, such as the amulet bags for which this method has been commonly used, are not overly constrained by functional concerns, indeed curious shapes are commonly used for such bags (e.g. Fyfe 2009: appendix 20e).





A second boxplot for bag construction method and proportions (Figure 12), this time involving minimum to maximum width (MNTMXW), revealed the existence of a similar lack of constraint for CM 2 while at the same minor variance in dimensions for CM 4, a method also used for small pocket bags. In this case the lack of variance for CM 4 is a function of the construction method as it involves an initial panel of looping followed by folding and sewing of the sides and therefore little scope for the proportions to diverge from a one to one ratio.

The first solution to the problem of testing the sample for any significant variance between groups was therefore to remove CM 2 and CM 4 from the sample. The second solution was to remove significant outliers for CM 1 and CM 3 evident in the first boxplot (Figure 9) and in the second (Figure 10). It was decided to leave in outliers for CM 1 and CM 3, apparent in the third (Figure 11) and fourth (Figure 12) boxplots, for they were not as extreme as the others and less likely due to functional difference. This left a sample size of 305, a reduction of 88.

Considering that the sample had been reduced to belonging to either of two structural forms associated with construction method it was surprising to find significant non-random patterns apparent in the post hoc tests for between group differences concerning MNTMXW means. The relative differences in between group means appeared to be strongly related to distance and groups at the extreme ends of the distance scale--Namie, Oksapmin and Bimin--demonstrate the greatest difference from overall group comparisons. The table for post hoc homogeneous subsets again demonstrates the same lowland and highlands clusters as found for CA using nominal variables (Table 6). At an [alpha] -level of .05, subsets again reflect the south-east and north-west clusters that were observed for many of the string bag CA plots. Beyond these clusters it is important to note Subset 3 which includes all languages of the Mountain Ok sub-family.

This result was compelling because it revealed a significant pattern for a continuous variable associated with bag proportions that was not explicable to factors such as function and ecology (physiology). Rather it was one that was clearly related to geographical and social distance. Clearly bag shape was directed by socio-cultural factors as has previously been suggested by MacKenzie (1991 : 33).


Results for the Project so far reflect the findings of the researchers at the Field Museum for the New Guinea north coast data in that distance appears to be a stronger factor in the distribution of cultural traits than any particular relationship implied by language affinity. Overall, the transmission of a full range of attributes between groups appears to have been relatively strong for both string bags and arrows, and suggests that cultural differences between groups speaking closely related languages have largely emerged as a result of access to innovations from other groups rather than because of any internal factors that one would associate with the process of drift.

However, our findings go beyond those of the Field Museum. We have demonstrated that a material culture dataset can provide a number of different patterns some of which can provide means to determine an effect caused by more discrete social factors. We have done this by focusing on technology and material culture classes whose variance has important and arguably dichotomous social implications. The data have shown that for men's culture, specifically in the form of arrows, the intensity of social ties is less important, as attributes appear to be widely and indiscriminately disseminated. As concerns women's culture, however, attribute patterns are clearly more reflective of close social relationships between groups: ones that would entail some permanent movement of personnel between adjacent communities. In conclusion, women's crafts are likely to be a more appropriate tool than men's for determining the strengths of social and possibly historical ties between populations.

These observations should therefore have relevance to questions concerning Lapita. Clearly, material culture has been strongly shaped by interaction in the study area but in different ways for men's and women's crafts. It would be interesting therefore to consider regional distributions of Lapita attributes in light of what has been revealed here. Do the spatial patterns of Lapita attributes suggest a pervasive transmission of culture via large seafaring networks? Or, do Lapita attributes tend to form smaller clusters composed of relatively contiguous sites. For one thing Summerhayes (2000: 235) concluded that Lapita ware affinities across sites in West New Britain appear not to reflect broader exchange networks but rather more discrete 'social processes' including 'spouse exchange'. If this is so, these findings from the Upper Sepik and Central New Guinea should provide a compelling set of ideas for future Lapita research.


This paper is based on the data gathered by the Upper Sepik-Central New Guinea Project (USCNG). The Project was funded by an ARC-Linkage Grant LP0455756, which provided the APAI scholarship for my doctoral research. The USCNGP has been extended by a second ARC-Linkage grant LP0883050. The Linkage Partners for both grants are the South Australian Museum and Ok Tedi Mining Ltd. I wish to acknowledge the significant input of Barry Craig who is the founder of the USCNG Project. I would also like to thank the Principal Investigator for the Project, Graeme Hugo, for his advice and encouragement. Thanks should also be given to Martin Steer, Andrew Pawley and Bryant Allen from the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University, for linguistic and ecological data. Special thanks are extended to Jill Bolton, Stephen Sherman, Malcolm Fyfe and Paul Roscoe


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(1.) What gave rise to the predominant theory that Austronesians have migrated from North Asia is that Austronesian languages outside Taiwan, all part of the subfamily of Malayo-Polynesian, are closely related while all other subfamilies and their languages are found on Taiwan (see Greenhill & Gray 2005, 37).

(2.) The first of these was the 'Express Train' (Diamond 1988). Then there was the Voyaging Corridor Triple I model (VC Triple I). This model assumes five migration pulses with large pauses in between migrations. The second pulse, around 3,200 BP, coincides with Lapita complex which is seen as a result of the Triple I process (Intrusion, Integration and Innovation) (see Green 2003); The other is the 'Slow Train' which includes the same sequence as the Express Train, but with greater pauses between migrations.

(3.) This process had its origins in the initial human migration to the area around 40,000 BP (Golson 2005).

(4.) This was made possible by innovations in seafaring technology already taking place around the Bismarck group prior to the Austronesian arrival (Allen 1996; Egloff 1975).

(5.) From Jayapura in Irian Jaya ([West] Papua) to Madang in Papua New Guinea (Welsch et al. 1992).

(6.) They then constructed three subsets of assemblages containing 39, 47, and 54 classes respectively by discounting assemblages that had a 'very small number of objects as well as ... a very small number of object classes' (Welsch et al. 1992, 571). The subset considered most meaningful contained 47 and represented 31 villages. They also used Driver's G equation as one of four measures of similarity to account for missing data. Driver's G discounts similarity based on shared absences and this was seen as a way of eliminating flaws in the measure created by poor sampling.

(7.) Wurm & Hattori (1981) for both Papuan and Austronesian for one measure; Foley (1986) and Ross (1988) for Papuan and Austronesian respectively for the other.

(8.) Principal components and multiple regression analyses were carried out using logged artefact frequency data.

(9.) For more information concerning the Project see website:

(10.) Indeed some groups in CNG have over fifty varieties of taro (Hyndman & Morren 1990: 22).

(11.) In the Yellow River area, the arrangement was similar: the women and children lived in family houses set around a plaza and the men slept together in a large house at one end of the settlement (Craig 1975: 419-20, 440-41 ; Mitchell 1975:417; Thurnwald 1914: 347).

(12.) There was a prohibition concerning the use of staples such as taro as an exchangeable commodity; food was to be repaid only in kind. Negative reciprocity in the exchange of valuables was also deemed as unacceptable between members of the same community (Brumbaugh 1980: 29).

(13.) Jorgensen (1981: 163) has argued that the cognatic descent units of the Telefolmin of the Ifitaman Valley (known as tenum miit)are positioned to form a symmetrical and complementary division of the community in fulfillment of ritual obligations and this led to, or rather maintained, some degree of integration across parishes. Co-participation in ritual activity, especially those involving initiation rites, provided the mechanism through which members of descent units interacted and maintained ties (Barth 1971 ; Brumbaugh 1980: 303ff; Craig 1969b: 71; Hyndman 1979: 53). Extensive genealogies did not exist for such units; at best they comprised sequences of notable men going back half a dozen generations. Each member's genealogical position was obscure and membership was passed from either parent through both male and female children and sometimes an individual could identify more than one way of tracing links (Brumbaugh 1980: 108-109).

(14.) These figures are approximate because some registered objects have as yet to be located, some objects identified as belonging to the collection yet to be registered, and a number of objects identified as belonging to a specific collection have yet to be corroborated.

(15.) Additional information concerning the material culture, including photographs and an overview of the distribution of some forms can be found on the website:

(16.) Slit gongs were found in some Sepik River communities of the USB but they were relatively uncommon and probably derivative (Craig 2002: 2).

(17.) The most commonly identified are Miscanthusfloridulus and Saccharum sp. (Cranstone 1964b; 1990: 37; Kelm & Kelm 1980: 67; Hyndman 1979: 216)

(18.) Hyndman (1979: 216) provides the most comprehensive list for species of palmwood used by communities within the study region (e.g. Hydriastele, Nengella, Caryota).

(19.) Sillitoe (1988: 134-44) reported similar tendencies in Wola bamboo-blade arrows and also observed that different varieties of bamboo were sometimes chosen for the different blade types.

(20.) This is in keeping with Petrequin and Petrequin's (1990) observations concerning variability in what was considered appropriate fight arrowhead types across Dani communities in [West] Papua.

(21.) Some tendencies in head modification are found throughout the region, demonstrating that people readily adopt new weapons technology when it is assumed to be advantageous--a kind of 'arms-race' to counter the emergence of a technological advantage in warfare, coupled with the tendency to associate prestige with the ownership of such weaponry.

(22.) This device is used in many parts of New Guinea; in some areas the tips were made from sections of human fibulae but more commonly cassowary spurs, or a long thin section of fibulae bone of the cassowary, wallaby or tree kangaroo (Sillitoe 1988:145-51). In the USCNGP area, only tips made from fibulae are evident and the available data suggest these are marsupial fibulae (Kelm & Kelm 1980: 69).

(23.) In this study homogeneous subsets of related means for arrow lengths were created using Tukey's Honestly Significant Differences (HSD) Test.

(24.) In the subsequent text concerning CA results, 'lowland groups' will also refer to the Yuri.

(25.) The Asabano had strong exchange relations with the Oksapmin and antagonistic relations with Telefol speaking groups during this period (Lohmann 2000: 33-41).

(26.) To some degree this result is attributable to smaller amulet bags, which involve techniques that sometimes do not occur for larger bags, being more commonly collected in the south-east sector (see Figure 9). However, this still would not explain the extent of the division between these clusters, besides, for most part, different collectors were responsible for each language sample and therefore there was little scope for bias; accordingly any consistent difference in the content of either sample may be considered significant in itself.

Andrew Fyfe

University of Adelaide
Table 1. Scale of Linguistic relatedness for study area languages

1. Unrelated

2. Very distantly related (not enough putative cognates to establish
sound correspondences or to reconstruct the phonological history or a

3. Belonging to the same subgroup but extremely disparate, indicating
at least 3000 years of separation.

4. Belonging to the same subgroup and showing systematic similarities
in numerous subsystems, indicating separation within the past 1500-3000

5. Belonging to the same subgroup and showing evidence of having been
mutually intelligible as recently as 500-1500 years ago.

6. Well-differentiated dialects of the same language.

7. Little-differentiated dialects of the same group.

Table 2. Matrix of linguistic relatedness for study area languages

4        Waina
1        1       Baibai
1        1       2        Biaka
1        1       2        3       Kwomtari
l        1       1        1       1          Anggor
1        1       1        1       1          3        Dera *
1        1       1        1       1          1        1        Abau
1        1       1        1       1          1        1        2
1        1       1        1       1          1        1        2
1        1       1        1       1          1        1        2
1        1       1        1       1          1        1        1
1        1       1        1       1          1        1        1
1        1       1        1       1          1        1        1
1        1       1        1       1          1        1        1
1        1       1        1       1          1        1        1
1        1       1        1       1          1        1        1
1        1       1        1       1          1        1        1
1        1       1        1       1          1        1        1
1        1       1        1       1          1        1        1
1        1       1        1       1          1        1        1
1        1       1        1       1          1        1        1
1        1       1        1       1          1        1        1

3    Awun
3    3      Namie
1    1      1       Oksapmin
1    1      1       2          Ngalum
1    1      1       2          4        Mianmin
1    1      1       2          4        4         Bimin
1    1      1       2          4        4         5       Telefol
1    1      1       2          4        4         5       5
1    1      1       2          4        4         5       5
1    1      1       2          4        4         5       5
1    1      1       1          1        1         1       1
1    1      1       1          1        1         1       1
1    1      1       1          1        1         1       1
1    1      1       1          1        1         1       1

5       Faiwo   1
5       5       Kauwol
1       1       1        Amto
1       1       1        1      Busa
1       1       1        1      1      Yuri
1       1       1        1      1      1      Nagatman

* The Dera language was not inc1uded in Steers review

Table 3. Ethnographic collections from the USB/Border Mountains.

Collector            No. of   Year           Museum repository

Buller, A.           190      1959           Museum der Kulturen, Basel
Craig, B.           1120      1968,          PNG National Museum and
                              1969, 1972-3   Art
                                             Gallery (PNGNMAG), Waigani
Craig, B.            680      1968,1969      Australian Museum, Sydney
Craig, B.            680      1968,1969      Ethnologisches Museum,
Craig, B.            680      1968,1969      R.v.Volkenkunde-RVM,
Eve, H. D.           320      1938           Australian Museum, Sydney
Gerrits, G.          170      1972           PNGNMAG, Waigani
Huber R. P.          140      1970           PNGNMAG, Waigani
Juillerat, B.        255      1973-74        Musee du Quai Branly,
Juillerat, B.        255      1973-74        PNGNMAG, Waigani
Kelm, A. & H.        450      1970           Ethnologisches Museum,
Kelm, A. & H.         75      1970           PNGNMAG, Waigani
Lewis, M. J.          85      1963           South Australian Museum,
Miles, D.            550      1965           Australian Museum, Sydney
Peter, H.            750      1969-74        M.f. Volkerkunde, Vienna
Peter, H.             85      1969-74        PNGNMAG, Waigani
Peter, H.            150      1969-74        Gottingen University
Peter, H.             70      1969-74        Museum der Kulturen, Basel
Schuster, M. & G.    205      1965           Museum der Kulturen, Basel
Womersley, J. S.     100      1949           South Australian Museum,
Miscellaneous        100      Various        Various
TOTAL                c.6855

Table 4. Ethnographic collections from Central New Guinea.

Collector           No. of    Year      Museum repository

Barth, F.            90       1968      Bergen University Museum
Campbell, S.        125       1935-36   Australian Museum, Sydney
Craig, B.           320       1964      Australian Museum, Sydney
Craig, B.           120       1972      PNGNMAG, Waigani
Craig, B.            85       1983      PNGNMAG, Waigani
Cranstone, B.       490       1964      British Museum, London
Cranstone, B.       300       1964      PNG National Museum, Waigani
Star Mtns Exped'n   480       1959      R.v.Volkenkunde-RVM, Leiden
Eggetsson, S.        86       1994      Personal Collection, Reykjavik
Friend, M.          160       1981      British Museum, London
Friend, M.          200       1981      James Cook Universty Museum,
Hyndman, D.         100       1971      Queensland University Museum,
Hyndman, D.          70       1971      PNGNMAG, Waigani
MacKenzie, M.       110       1982-84   Australian Museum, Sydney
Morren, G.          100       1969      Personal Collection, New Jersey
Morren, G.          105       1969      PNGNMAG, Waigani
Perey, A.           255       1967      PNGNMAG, Waigani
Schuster, M.        480       1965      Museum der Kulturen, Basel
Wheatcroft, W.       90       1969      Penny Collection, SAM, Adelaide
Williams, W.        450       1935-6    Los Angeles County Museum
Miscellaneous       200       Various   Various
TOTAL               c.4095

Table 5. Homogenous subsets of languages with related means for
bamboo-blade arrow whole length, a = 0.1.

Tukey HSD     n   1        2        3        4        5
BIMIN         8   137.38
OKSAP        17   140.88   140.88
TIFAL        46   141.63   141.63
FAIW          5            147.8    147.8
TELEF        73                     152.74   152.74
MIAN         35                              156.89
NAMIE        56                                       164.89
ABAU        211                                       166.56
YURI         66                                       172.64
Sig.              .575     0.041    0.362    0.61     .012

Table 6. Homogenous subsets of languages with related means for string
bag maximum to minimum width, a = 0.5.Tukey HSD

LANGUAGE   n    1       2       3       4

NAMIE      51   70.10
ABAU       49   78.39   78.39
YURI       26   78.50   78.50
TIFAL      47           85.45   85.45
TELEF      42           85.83   85.83
MIAN       11           85.91   85.91
FAIW       12                   93.33   93.33
BIMIN      34                   93.68   93.68
OKSAP      33                           99.24
Sig.            .533    .678    .562    .890
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