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Learning the lithic landscape: using raw material sources to investigate pleistocene colonisation in the Ivane Valley, Papua New Guinea.


Recent research in the Ivane Valley has shown that it was first occupied during the late Pleistocene between 43-49,000 years cal. BP, making this area one of the earliest colonised in Papua New Guinea. At an altitude of 2000 metres above sea level, occupation also marks the first time that modern humans pushed into the high altitude montane regions within Sahul. Part of the process of familiarisation with a landscape involves the identification of lithic sources. The importance of lithic sources for the landscape learning process is that, unlike plant foods and animals, it can be assumed that the colonisers had little a priori knowledge of their location before arriving in a particular landscape. If lithic sources are available, then their successful use would require a process of learning the locations and properties of the different raw material sources, thus creating an intimate level of knowledge of a landscape. By examining how modern humans familiarised themselves with the Ivane landscape through the use of lithic sources, we may be able to understand further the processes of colonisation and adaptation to particular landscapes.

Keywords: colonisation, stone tools, raw material sources, Ivane, Papua New Guinea


New research in the Ivane valley (Summerhayes et al. 2010, 2009), located within the Owen Stanley Ranges of Papua New Guinea, has pushed back initial colonisation of this site to between 43,000-49,000 years cal. BP, placing it within the earliest stages of occupation of Papua New Guinea and thus Sahul. The significance of this early occupation is that, at almost 2000 metres above sea level, the Ivane valley is located within a high altitude environment, which during the late Pleistocene, was located close to the treeline, at a junction between montane forest and subalpine grasslands (Hope 2009). The colonisation of this valley marks the first time in the Sahul region that modem humans move into this type of high altitude environment. The importance of this occupation is that it may have required new adaptations to not only an unfamiliar landscape, but also to an unfamiliar habitat.

This paper will examine the process of familiarisation with a landscape, what Rockman (2003) terms as "landscape learning", through examining how people both colonised and adapted to specific landscapes over time, using a geoarchaeological data set of lithic sources. With a subsistence technology involving the use of stone tools, the location and quality of these sources would have been important resources to initially identify. The importance of lithic sources for the landscape learning process is that, unlike plant foods and animals, it can be assumed that the colonisers had little a priori knowledge of their location before arriving in a particular landscape. If lithic sources are available within a landscape, then their successful use would require a process of learning the locations and properties of the different raw material sources, thus creating an intimate and detailed knowledge of a landscape. This familiarisation process may then provide further insights into the strategies used by modem humans to colonise and adapt to particular landscapes.

Learning the lithic landscape

The exploitation of new environments and habitats in Sahul suggests that changes in subsistence strategies will occur as modem humans become familiar with new resources such as plant foods and a marsupial fauna. Part of the process of changing the focus of subsistence strategies is learning the landscape; becoming more familiar with the specific resources available and how they can be used. Part of that landscape includes the lithic sources, which are only found at fixed locations, meaning that no previous knowledge of their location or qualities can be assumed prior to moving into a particular landscape. In order to use these sources successfully, a process of familiarisation of landscape must occur, where time is taken to locate and test different types of raw materials before selecting appropriate raw materials for use. Thus lithic sources provide a unique opportunity for exploring the acquisition of knowledge of a particular landscape itself, the landscape learning process.

One of the difficulties that may be encountered when attempting to colonise a new area is the ability to procure stone of a quality to cater for both new and existing technological demands. The ability to make tools, whether of new or old design, is invariably constrained by the quality of raw materials available within the landscape. Movement into unknown areas thus runs the risk that a lack of good quality raw material, or raw material altogether, may be encountered. Different strategies, what Kuhn (1995) refers to as technological provisioning, can be implemented to cater for this risk. This may include provisioning of the individual (Kuhn 1995; 2004), that is, that people carried with them a mobile tool kit or quality raw material in order to ensure that sufficient stone tools or the ability to make them was available. This type of provisioning was common amongst Paleoindian assemblages in their rapid colonisation of North America, where a reliable and portable tool kit was needed to cope with a high level of residential and logistical mobility (Kelly and Todd 1988). Therefore the presence of exotic material in the earliest levels of any assemblage may indicate a high level of technological planning to cater for unknown landscapes, thus minimizing risks.

Alternatively, if only local raw material was used, then this may suggest a high degree of flexibility and innovative behaviour in the ability of early colonisers to adapt to and use different raw materials for subsistence tasks. This type of behaviour is similar to what Kuhn (2004) notes as provisioning of activity, where stone artefacts are produced as needed. Whilst this ability to use whatever raw materials are available suggests a low level of forward planning, it does show that the stone tool makers had the flexibility to procure required implements in a variety of different landscapes. This would, on one hand, mean that the stone tool makers were less constrained by their immediate surroundings, however, on the other, the stone tool makers were also introducing risk into their subsistence strategies by assuming that suitable raw materials would be found when needed for particular procurement activities, such as encountering animal or plant foods.

There is also potential to identify the provisioning of place (Kuhn 2004), which involves the storage of raw material in a particular location for a particular use. For provisioning of place to occur implies regular, planned use of a landscape, where known activities will be carried out in known locations. If the Ivane valley was occupied for a particular purpose, such as the location of a particular seasonal resource, and if exploitation of this resource required particular lithics, then it is also possible that storing of appropriate raw materials could occur. Again, if present, this would imply a high level of technological planning. However, for provisioning of place to occur certain conditions must be met, including a lack of readily available and suitable raw material, and a known exploitable resource. These conditions will be addressed further below but it is more likely that provisioning of place is an adaptive strategy that will develop over time, rather than occur as an initial colonising strategy.

Over time, we may expect to see changes in lithic procurement strategies as behaviours are adapted to the local landscape. Lithic sources are unique in that they are fixed locations within the landscape, therefore a certain level of landscape learning (Rockman 2003) must be evident for their efficient use. As the Ivane occupants became familiar with the range of lithic resources available both within and outside the Ivane valley, we may, therefore, see changes in raw material selection, as different types of raw materials are located, tested and practised with, and found suitable or unsuitable for particular tasks. Choices made in the use of particular raw materials are highly important as they have the ability to indicate different behavioural strategies.

Whilst it is usually expected that local sources of raw materials may be used, in order to minimise the carrying of weight around the landscape (Blumenschine et al. 2008; Kuhn 2004), other factors may also influence raw material choices. These may include economic factors such as the suitability of raw materials for particular functions or technological requirements, including specific properties of raw materials, size and abundance; distance to more preferred sources, and whether special trips would need to be taken to access these sources or whether they could be embedded within other procurement strategies; level of mobility (Blades 1999; Blumenschine et al. 2008), and whether this decreased or increased over time in response to environmental, social and political factors; and ease of extraction of raw material, whether extensive quarrying was needed to access raw material or whether it was readily available as surface material (Ford 2007; Pavlides 1999; Webb et al. 2007). Most of these factors are investigated through examining best-practice use of lithic sources, or what would be the optimal procurement strategy of raw material in regards to issues such as risk minimization and cost reduction.

Social and political factors may also influence raw material selection. In other studies of lithic procurement strategies, the role of territoriality in restricting access to particular raw material sources (Bettinger 1982; McBryde 1984; Ross et al. 2003; Torrence 1986; Webb 1998) or exchange in enabling access (Bradley and Edmonds 1993; Dixon et al. 1971; Ericson 1977; Perles 1992; Renfrew 1969; Swete Kelly 2001; Tibbett 2002) or maintaining social relations (Baales 2001), are usually considered and discussed. In the early stages of occupation within the Ivane valley, however, these types of social/political factors may not have been relevant, due to a lack of other populations within the landscape. Currently, the only other possibly contemporary Pleistocene sites identified on the mainland of Papua New Guinea are found on the north coast (Bobongara and Lachitu), with later montane sites in the Highlands region to the northwest, the earliest of which is Nombe at approximately 25,000 years BP (Evans and Mountain 2005). As there is little evidence for other Pleistocene occupation within the area surrounding the Ivane valley, it is difficult to establish the effects of social or political interaction over time.

Modelling raw material selection

From the above review, it can be observed that several different models of raw material selection may occur. These models can be divided into two stages of the landscape learning process, both of which require a different investigative approach. The first of these is the initial colonisation process, where primarily the choice appears to be whether to use locally available raw material or to carry the required amount with you; or even a combination of these two. As discussed above, the choices here have direct implications for the type of colonising strategies employed, such as the level of flexibility or planning. Contrasting the level of exotic raw material versus local raw material in the earliest levels of the assemblage should there provide a key insight into what strategies were employed during initial colonisation.

The second stage of the landscape learning process is the subsequent adaptation to the landscape. This should show an increasing level of familiarity with the lithic sources, both their location and their quality. It is proposed that over time, occupants of the Ivane valley will use the most suitable raw materials for their subsistence tasks. Suitability of raw material will of course rely on a number of factors, including economic, social and political. However, whilst other factors cannot be discounted, at this stage the most parsimonious method of research is to attempt to rationalise the use of lithic sources based on universal economic strategies (Ford 2007). By understanding the optimal procurement strategies for lithic resources, based on a consideration of costs versus benefits, an economic baseline is created. Variations from this baseline can then be used to identify whether other factors, such as social or political considerations, were contributing to the procurement strategies.

To create an economic baseline, a complete knowledge of the geological landscape from which the Ivane occupants could choose their raw materials is required. The second approach to investigating raw material selection is to create a geological baseline for the Ivane valley based on four major factors: (1) what raw materials are available; (2) what are the specific properties of those raw materials and their implications for use as stone artefacts; (3) what was the distance to these sources; and, (4) what was the extractive nature of those sources with implications for time and effort to procure. This baseline can then be used to assess the raw material choices of the Ivane inhabitants and whether they show evidence for a process of familiarisation and adaptation to the Ivane landscape over time.


The Ivane Valley

The Ivane valley is located approximately 135 kilometres north of Port Moresby, in the Central Province of Papua New Guinea (Figure 1). The Kosipe mission itself sits on a volcanic spur, overlooking a large, fiat, intermontane valley, predominantly consisting of swampland. Two major rivers cut through the valley; the Ivane River, which flows northwards, draining the Kosipe swamp, before turning west, and the Kosipe River, which flows from east to west across the top of the valley, before joining the Ivane. Hope (2009: 2262) has suggested that the gravel floodplain associated with the Kosipe River may have blocked the northern end of the valley, thus backing up the Ivane and causing the swamp to build up. Volcanic ash falls from Mt Lamington between 60-80,000 years BP may have fallen into the swamp, turning this area into peat swamp by 38-42,000 years cal. BP, which then gradually spread south to turn the Ivane basin into a peatland (Hope 2009: 2270).

Smaller streams run down the steep slopes surrounding the valley system. Today, the mountain slopes are mainly covered with montane forest vegetation (Hope 1982: 214; Hope 2009: 2262). The valley contains a mixture of agricultural land and anthropogenic grassland, with swamp forest and tall sedgeland in the swamp areas.

Originally excavated by Peter White in the 1960s (White et al. 1970), stone artefacts were found at the Kosipe Mission (PNG Site Code AER) site in layers which were then radiocarbon dated to 26,000 years BP. These included the distinctive waisted tools, which are a feature of many of the early PNG sites, including the Bobongara site on the Huon Peninsula (Groube et al. 1986). Since 2005, further excavations have been conducted in the Ivane valley by a team led by Glenn Summerhayes (Summerhayes et al. 2010). In four seasons of excavation, several new sites were located within the valley system, with most sites lying on spurs overlooking the valley floor, and two sites on the valley floor itself. Whilst the valley floor sites date to the Holocene, all of the spur sites were initially occupied in the Late Pleistocene, with dates older than 43,000, and possibly up to 45-49,000 years cal. BP at the sites of Vilakuav, South Kov and Airport Mound, and initial dates of 37-38,000 years cal. BP at Joes Garden and Kosipe Mission.

Stone artefacts have been recovered from all of the excavated sites. These artefacts include tools, cores and manufacturing debris, as well as some unmodified cobbles. Four of the sites excavated by will form the basis of the following discussion: Vilakuav, South Kov, Airport Mound and Joes Garden (Summerhayes et al. 2010). These sites have been selected due to their long-term occupation, from initial occupation during the late Pleistocene, until their abandonment just prior to the Last Glacial Maximum, at approximately 26,000 years cal. BE Reoccupation occurred in the early Holocene at approximately 7-8000 years cal. BP, when the valley was used sporadically until modern times.

All four of the sites selected for the current study have very similar stratigraphy, which has been noted as extending over most of the slopes leading down to the swamp in the Ivane valley (Summerhayes et al. 2010; Hope 2009). This stratigraphy has been discussed in more detail elsewhere (Summerhayes et al. 2010) but in brief consists of five layers, with Layers 4, 3 and 2 containing stone artefacts that will form the basis of the current discussion. Layers 4 and 3 date to the Late Pleistocene, and Layer 2 to the reoccupation during the Holocene.

The nature of the Ivane valley occupation is difficult to ascertain. It is unlikely that these sites were permanently inhabited. Instead, they were most likely inhabited on a short-term, seasonal base (Fairbairn et al. 2006; Summerhayes et al. 2009). The temporary occupation of particular sites is not unknown in montane New Guinea, with the Nombe rockshelter, first occupied c. 25,000 years BE also proposed as a temporary shelter for hunting both montane and subalpine mammals (Evans and Mountain 2005). Evidence of exploitation of seasonal resources in the Ivane is present, including the presence of pandanus nuts within all Pleistocene sites, with the exception of Airport Mound (Summerhayes et al. 2010). However, it is clear from the abundance of lithics scattered over a wide area within the valley that the Ivane was a location to be regularly visited, regardless of duration or timing of visits. The continuity in raw material use and also in specific lithic types also suggests that there was an ongoing connection to the valley. It is the development of this familiarity with the Ivane landscape that may provide valuable insights into how modern humans moved through and learned new and different environments in their global colonisation.

Geological landscape

To construct a geological baseline, the first step is to investigate the landscape of the Ivane valley itself to determine what raw materials are available. The Ivane lies within a diverse geological setting, part of the Wharton Ranges, which are a southern offshoot of the Owen Stanley Ranges (Figure 2). The Owen Stanley Ranges are a high, steeply inclined, mountain range, which form the central spine of southeastern Papua New Guinea, separating north from south. Peaks between 3000 and 4000 metres occur, including Mt Albert Edward, which at 3990 metres above sea level, overlooks the Ivane basin.

In the Ivane region, the southern face of the Owen Stanley Ranges consists of the sialic Kagi Metamorphics, which are located to the north and east of Ivane, and also to the west of the Mt Davidson Volcanics, thus forming a large part of the geological landscape. The Kagi Metamorphics are composed of leucocratic felsic chlorite-muscovite -quartz-feldspar schist (low grade greenschist facies), some garnet-mica schist and minor metabasite (Department of Mineral Resources, unpublished).

To the south, the Kagi Metamorphics have been subject to detailed field survey by Pieters (1978) and are divided into three different zones, based on a Barrovian type of metamorphic facies series, where there are west-east changes from a chlorite zone, through a biotite zone, to a garnet zone. This type of zoning is common in areas of orogenic metamorphism, associated with convergent plate margins. Whilst this type of detailed analysis is not available for the Ivane area, there is some evidence of zoning based on the variable metamorphic minerals identified during the petrographic analysis (see below).

Although composed predominately of greenschists, directly to the east of the Kosipe Swamp and extending eastward almost to the Neon basin, the Kagi Metamorphics are inferred to consist of massive and thick bedded quartzite (Figure 2). However, this prediction is based on photo-interpretation, rather than groundproofing and needed to be verified through fieldwork.

To the south of the Kosipe mission are the Talama Volcanics, which consist of andesitic to basaltic agglomerates, tufts, lava breccias, lavas, intercalated volcanogenic conglomerates, sandstones and minor mudstones (Department of Mineral Resources, unpublished). Apart from a small pocket to the northwest of Kosipe, the mission site sits close to the northern extent of the Talama Volcanics, which extend southwards, down the western margin of the Ivane swamp, before broadening to the east. The Woitape-Kosipe Road follows the western boundary of the Talama Volcanics. To the west of the Talama Volcanics, occupying a tongue approximately 5-8 km wide, are the Mt Davidson Volcanics. These volcanics terminate to the northwest of Ivane, and are identified as consisting of basaltic and minor andesitic agglomerate, tuff, lava, lava breccia, massive to vesicular olivine and angite-phyric basalt (Department of Mineral Resources, unpublished).

Geological sampling strategy

Much of the geological landscape of the Ivane area has been based on photointerpretation and research in neighbouring areas rather than fieldwork within the Ivane region itself. A geologist, Keith Crook, visited the area in 1966 and noted that no previous geological survey had been completed. Crook conducted observations along the Kosipe-Woitape Road, and the Kosipe-Tanipai Track and noted the presence of low grade metamorphic rocks overlain by basic volcanics, which he proposed as most likely mainly basalt (White et al. 1970). Crook's observations are consistent with the details recorded on the Buna 1:250,000 geological map (Figure 2).

A generalised view of the raw materials available to the local Ivane inhabitants can be gained from using the current geological information. However, to properly build a geological baseline, a program of geological sampling was required. In part, the sampling was designed to test and verify the current geological mapping of the area. However, the sampling strategy was also designed to provide the true range of raw materials available to the Ivane valley inhabitants. This includes not only in situ rock formations, but also the river cobbles abundantly available within the waterways that cross the Ivane valley or are located in close by. These fiver cobbles, although not in situ samples (and therefore not necessarily applicable to the immediate geology of the area), are not recorded on geological maps, but could also have been used as a source for stone tools and therefore need to be included in the geological landscape of the Ivane valley. The use of river cobbles as a secondary raw material source is well known and has been recorded in Papua New Guinea at the Bobongara site (Groube et al. 1986; Muke 1984), in the Papua New Guinean Highlands (Bulmer 2005), New Britain (Specht, this issue) and New Ireland (Allen et al. 1989; Freslov 1989; Leavesley 2004).This is a significant way in which archaeological sampling for stone sources differs from traditional geological survey methods.



All visible rock outcrops within the Ivane valley and along tracks towards Woitape, Tanipai (northwest of Kosipe) and the Neon Basin were sampled (see Figure 2). These tracks were selected as they are the major access routes to and from the Ivane valley, thus allowing better visibility of outcrops and also cut through all of the lithologies identified in the Buna 1:250,000 geological map, with the exception of the Tmi? unit, which has been described as a possible diorite and porphyritic microdiorite, monzonite and granodiorite stock. For the Tmi? area, waterways crossing this area were sampled as if this rock outcrop existed, cobbles of this raw material would be present within these waterways. All dominant waterways within the Ivane valley and tracks were also sampled, at multiple places where available.



Major lithologies identified

In total, 43 areas were sampled within the Ivane valley region (Figure 2). Multiple samples were collected for petrographic analysis, totalling 159 thin sections. From this analysis, several lithologies were identified within the Ivane valley, including both igneous and metamorphic rocks. The locations of the lithologies, with particular highlighting of outcrops are outlined in Figure 3.

Augite-olivine-plagioclase phyric alkali basalt (Alkali basalt)

Alkali basalts are coarse grained, resulting from a magma that crystallizes slowly, thus allowing time for crystals to grow to a coarser size than other basalts. Large phenocrysts, crystals which are much larger in size than those present in the groundmass, are also present, indicating an overall porphyritic fabric. The porphyritic fabric indicates two crystallisation events occurred during the solidification of the magma. Alteration of both phenocrysts and groundmass is also evident in most sections, with olivine partly or totally altered to iddingsite, and plagioclase weathering to clay minerals.

Alkali basalts are most likely associated with the Mt Davidson Volcanics which, as noted above, contain olivine-augite phyric basalt. These alkali basalts are present as river cobbles within all of the small rivers draining the Mt Davidson Volcanics along the Kosipe-Tanipai Track to the west of the Kosipe Mission, including the Popo River (Figure 3). Significantly, samples from outcrops along the Kosipe-Tanipai track demonstrated the presence of alkali basalt outcrops north of the current mapped boundary for the Mt Davidson Volcanics.

Fine grained basalts are usually considered as effective raw materials for manufacturing large stone tools such as axes and adzes, especially in the Pacific (Weisler 1998; Weisler and Kirch 1996; Weisler and Woodhead 1995), whilst coarser grained basalts have been used as grinding stones (Reedy 2008). The porphyritic nature of these alkali basalts mean that these basalts will not fracture as evenly as a finer grained basalt. The large phenocrysts, some up to 5mm in length, also make this raw material difficult to grind to a smooth surface. Many of the river cobbles collected often had very irregular surfaces, where the phenocrysts jut out from the eroded groundmass.

Apart from the porphyritic fabric, the major problem with the alkali basalt river cobbles is that they show significant amounts of weathering, making them soft and weak for effective use. Air bubbles, (vesicles), were also present within both the outcrop and river cobble samples. Many of the alkali basalts were difficult to thin section due to their crumbly nature, thus making them ineffective as a raw material choice.

Kaersutite phyric tholeiitic basalt (Tholeiitic basalts)

Tholeiitic basalts have a fine grained holocrystalline groundmass, indicating a lava flow with a fairly rapid crystallization process. Like the alkali basalts, they have a porphyritic fabric, as well as evidence for weathering, with plagioclase altering to clay minerals in some samples, and kaersutite phenocrysts to magnetite. No outcrops of kaersutite phyric tholeiitic basalt were found, although samples of this rock type were present as river cobbles within the Popo River and along the Kosipe-Woitape Road. The tholeiitic basalts did not appear within any of the rivers that drained the Mt Davidson Volcanics, therefore they may be associated with the Talama Volcanics.

Although of a different mineralogy, the texture, fabric and state of weathering of the tholeiitic basalts are very similar to the alkali basalts, therefore they will have similar raw material properties for making stone artefacts.


Schist is by far the most abundant raw material available within the Ivane valley. Apart from the volcanics to the south and west, the remainder of the surrounding geology primarily consists of schist, as part of the Kagi Metamorphics. As can be seen from Figure 2, the Kagi Metamorphics form a large part of the Owen Stanley Ranges in this area, and extend right up to the Neon Basin and Mt Albert Edward. Schist is also present as river cobbles within most of the dominant waterways within the Ivane valley, including the Ivane and Kosipe rivers, and rivers that originate in the Kagi Metamorphics to the north and east.

The majority of the schist identified was of the chlorite zone of the greenschist facies, although some glaucophanic greenschists and schists of the prehnite-pumpellyite facies also occur. The schists are usually highly schistose and well foliated, with well developed micaceous cleavage planes along which they will shatter if force is applied. Many of the schists also have a segregated lamination of alternating layers of quartz-albite and chlorite-muscovite-graphite (and occasionally epidote). Again, these segregated layers indicate that the schist is liable to fracture along lineated planes if force is applied.

The presence of these fracture planes is both positive and negative in terms of stone artefact production. On the positive side, they fracture readily and predictably, increasing control and speed in the manufacture of an artefact. Due to the overall softness of schist, tools can almost be produced through snapping the edges by hand, which, by removing the hammerstone and required striking action, thus reducing the risk of misdirecting a strike and damaging the artefact, will also increase control and speed of production.

On the negative side, these same fracture planes and softness mean that the stone tool maker may be guided into specific shapes of finished tools, based on the fracture planes. The tools may also not be able to complete tasks that involve high amounts of force for sustained amounts of time. Using river cobbles over outcrop samples may assist here as cobbles will already have been subjected to a certain amounts of impacts during their fluvial transport (Dickson 1981: 108). Any inherent flaws within the cobble will therefore have already been found out, thus making the cobbles more likely to be able to withstand impact or force.

Schists have been used globally for the manufacture of stone artefacts, including axes, adzes and cutting tools (Reedy 2008). For example, during the Neolithic, polished axes and chisels were made from greenschists and glaucophane schists in northern Italy (D'Amico 2005) and from glaucophane schists in the western Provence region of southern France (Ricq-de Bouard and Fedele 1993). However, D'Amico also notes that both hard and soft schists occur, with hard schists used to make the woodworking tools, and softer schists, such as chlorite schists, used to manufacture stone rings. The specific nature of the schists therefore needs to be taken into consideration when deciding their utility for stone tool manufacture.

Metabasalt/Metagreywacke/Metachert (MB/MG/MC)

Within the Kagi Metamorphics, immature products of metamorphism also occur, including metabasalts, metagrey-wackes and metacherts. These types of raw materials are metamorphic products that retain evidence of the relict parent texture. As with the schists, each of these raw materials belongs to particular facies, depending on mineralogy. Most samples are metabasalts that belong to the chlorite zone of the greenschist facies, but other rock types include metagrey wackes and a metabasalt of the prehnite/ pumpellyite facies, and a glaucophanic metachert and glaucophanic metabasalt of the blueschist facies.

Two of the samples, the glaucophanic metabasalt of the blueschist facies and a metabasalt of the greenschist facies, belong to outcrops within the Neon Basin. The remainder are river cobble samples, taken from the same rivers as the schists.

These types of rocks do not have the same schistosity as the schists, that is, they are not liable to fracture along cleavage planes. Instead they are generally much harder and more homogeneous raw material; they flake conchoidally and are able to withstand larger amounts of force. These tools may therefore require more time and effort to manufacture, but should be more durable and effective when used.

When conducting fieldwork in the Ivane valley, the metabasalts particularly were selected repeatedly by informants as the preferred stone for making axes. This material was highly valued as it was "pure", not mixed with quartz veins as the schists are. It also was noted as stronger, more durable and easy to resharpen. In their study of late Holocene axe trade in the Papuan Lowlands, Rhoads and Mackenzie (1991) noted the presence of axes from the Western Owen Stanley Ranges as present in many of the sites within the Kikori Region. Mackenzie conducted a petrographic analysis of the axes from one of these sites, Kulupuari, and noted that they primarily consisted of metabasalts, again demonstrating the preference of this raw material for use, at least during recent history.

Baked Siliceous Metasediment (BSM)

This distinctively red material is formed by siliceous sediments being baked by an overlying basalt lava flow, causing the sediments to recrystallize into an interlocking crystalline structure of quartz crystals. This structure makes BSM very similar to chert in nature and strength, able to fracture conchoidally and maintain a sharp cutting edge, thus making it an effective choice for flaked cutting tools. However, this material was only found in small eroded cobbles, less than 10 centimetres in size, which will limit the overall size of stone artefacts made from this material.

BSM was not observed within the Ivane valley itself, with samples only obtained from two areas on the Kosipe-Woitape track, and the Kosipe-Woitape Road, in very close proximity to each other (see Figure 3). Whilst it is likely that this material underlies the Talama Volcanics in this area, it is not known to what extent, as no other outcrops were visible, and none of this material was found in the rivers containing igneous cobbles. It is possible, therefore, that this raw material was only exposed in this particular locality due to the modem cuttings made for the road and track.


Quartz was found as small cobbles within all of the rivers that contained metamorphic cobbles, and was also present as layers within the greenschist outcrops. As a raw material, quartz is renowned as an effective choice for flaking due to its ability to be flaked conchoidally and to maintain a sharp cutting edge, similar to the BSM. Like the BSM, however, only small cobbles of quartz were found, which will again limit the size range of stone artefacts produced from this material.


Within the Ivane valley, a diverse range of raw materials are available with vastly different properties, thus providing an effective basis for assessing raw material selection (Table 1). Schist and basalt are by far the most prevalent, being widely available within the valley area. Smaller quantities of quartz and metabasalts are also readily available, especially within the local waterways. Only the BSM is limited to a particular location, thus as far as availability is concerned, only BSM may pose any real difficulties for the stone tool makers.

In terms of the geological sampling strategy, the geological sampling strategy highlighted several differences to the Buna 1:250,000 geological map (compare Figure 2 to Figure 3). To begin with, no evidence for quartzite was found within the Kkq area and this area appears to be indistinguishable geologically from the remainder of the Kagi Metamorphics. Blueschists also appear to be located in closer proximity to the Ivane valley than previously thought, with outcrops appearing to the west of the Neon Basin, rather than closer to the Owen Stanley Fault. For the igneous rocks, it would appear that the Mt Davidson Volcanics would extend slightly to the north of the current boundary near the Kosipe-Tanipai track. No evidence for the Tmi? outcrops were found. In summary, the geological sampling has proven effective in accurately portraying the real geological landscape from which to assess the choices made by the Ivane occupants.

Raw material choices made by Ivane occupants

A full range of stone artefact types have been excavated from the Ivane valley sites, including cores, manufacturing debris and finished tools showing usewear (Figure 4). Whilst in small numbers, this indicates that stone tools were being made, used and discarded on site, during all time periods in which the sites were occupied.

For the raw material analysis of the stone artefacts, a 10x magnification hand lens was used to identify raw material to general groups. This means that only broad groups are identified, rather than specific types such as was obtainable through the thin-section analysis of the geological samples. However, these broad groups are sufficient to discuss raw material preferences of the Ivane valley occupants and to make inferences as to why particular raw materials may have been chosen.

Figure 5 shows the range of raw material types used to produce modified stone artefacts in the sites of Vilakuav, South Kov, Airport Mound and Joes Garden. The distinction is placed on "modified" as there are a large number of unmodified cobble and cobble fragments also within the assemblage, especially of basalt, that have been excluded from the analysis.

The vast majority of the stone artefacts recovered from all time periods were made from metamorphic rocks of the greenschist facies, most likely sourced locally as river cobbles from the Kagi Metamorphics. Schist was used to produce a variety of large tools, where slabs or river cobbles were shaped into artefacts using direct hard hammer percussion. Tool types included flaked implements, but importantly, schist was the dominant raw material type of the more famous waisted tools (Table 2). In the Holocene, greenschists or metabasalts were also used to produce the traditional axe types. It should be noted here that in White et al. (1970), it was reported that 11 waisted blades and five axe-adzes were made of phyllite. Phyllite is also a metamorphic rock, effectively fine-grained schist, with minerals that are not visible to the naked eye, therefore these artefacts would be included within the greenschist lithology, possibly either as greenschists or metabasalts.

As discussed above, as a raw material choice, schist has several advantages and disadvantages. One of the prime characteristics of schist is its schistosity, or its micaceous cleavage which means that it readily breaks into sheets. This is an advantage in the manufacture of a tool as, combined with the overall softness of the raw material, it means that schist can be easily and quickly shaped. However, it also means that schist is prone to breakage, especially under high impact activities, thus tools made from schist do not have long life expectancy. This may account for the large quantity of schist in the assemblage, where a readily available raw material was being quickly manufactured on site, used and discarded. Little evidence for recycling or maintenance of tools, as well as the apparent discard of complete tools with no evidence for breakage, also suggests that schist was being used expediently.

Other very low grade metamorphic rocks used included metabasalt and metagreywacke, also most likely originating from the Kagi Metamorphics. These types of raw materials do not have the cleavage of schist, are homogeneous in nature, flake conchoidally and are both generally hard and durable. Although only a small number of finished tools of metabasalt and metagreywacke are present, as well as manufacturing debris, they are all heavy large tools which may have been effective for high-impact activities, such as chopping and pounding, activities that schist may not have been appropriate for.

Apart from the metamorphic rocks, basalt is also readily available and there is a significant amount of it within the assemblage. Most of this is in the form of unmodified cobbles or cobble fragments or is highly weathered and fragile, making identification difficult, but there are several tools, including an anvil, and also some basalt cobbles that show evidence for flaking. The remainder of the basalt consists of manufacturing debris, but this is in small amounts. White et al. (1970) also reported that two waisted blades and one probable axe/adze were made of weathered basalt, as well as two other flaked pieces. In summary then, it would appear that despite its ready availability within the Ivane landscape, basalt does not form a large part of the modified stone artefact assemblage when compared to other raw materials.

The distinctive red BSM was used to produce a small flaking industry (Figure 6). As discussed above, this is a highly effective material for making small flaked implements that require a durable sharp edge. As such, there are marked differences in how this type of raw material is manufactured when compared to the schist. Rather than large tools, this is a small flake-based industry, with tool types including retouched flakes. Differences in technology are apparent, including the use of soft hammer percussion to retouch edges.


As an artefact, BSM is only found in the South Kov site, dating to the earliest layers, 3 and 4. During reoccupation of the valley in the Holocene (Layer 2), BSM was no longer used. The reason for this is not clear but it is possible that due to the localised nature of the BSM, the information regarding the location of the raw material was lost after the LGM, especially as the material has only been identified on surfaces exposed by modem cuttings.

Similar to the BSM, high quality quartz also forms part of a small flaking industry. Found in the earliest layers at the site of South Kov, this is the earliest recorded use of quartz in Papua New Guinea. The exact source cannot identified due simply to the ubiquitous occurrence of quartz.

In summary, it appears that from the earliest stages of occupation, the Ivane colonisers were largely adapting to using locally available raw materials rather than importing exotics. The use of local raw materials shows innovative and adaptive behaviour where, from initial colonisation, modem humans were moving in and out of the Ivane landscape, making, using and discarding tools on site. I would argue that this is most likely evidence for expedient use of raw material and stone artefacts.

Choices were also being made to focus on particular raw materials within the Ivane, with the assemblage dominated by the greenschists, metagreywacke and metabasalts to produce the larger tools of axes and waisted tools, and the conchoidally fracturing siliceous materials of quartz and baked siliceous metasediment to produce small flaked implements. This selective use of raw materials suggests that there was an association between raw material type and technology, and most likely between raw material and function. However, further experimental testing of the different raw materials is still required to accurately demonstrate the assumptions of raw material properties described above. The completion of experiments, in conjunction with functional analysis of the stone artefacts, will also provide better insights into the range of functions completed by the artefacts, and thus again be able to test the implied appropriateness of raw material selection. This is especially important for the large amount of unmodified cobbles within the assemblage as it is possible that these were used as tools but without prior manufacture or modification.


The main purpose of this paper has been to explore how lithic sources can inform us of the process of familiarisation with a particular landscape. As has been shown above, the first colonists to the Ivane valley were quick to not only utilise local materials, but also to realise and adapt to their specific properties. This is an important point in the process of learning a landscape as it demonstrates a high level of flexibility and adaptability in the initial colonising strategies. There was little evidence for the introduction of exotic materials from the earliest occupation of the site, suggesting that lithic material was used as encountered in the landscape, in an expedient manner. This strategy would have allowed a highly mobile people to move across landscapes quickly, not encumbered by heavy weights of stone tools. Although this may appear to be high risk, the use of other organic materials as subsistence tools may have negated the central reliance upon lithics and allowed for more freedom and flexibility in material choice.

Over time, few changes were seen in the raw material selection of the Ivane occupants, although the lack of BSM in the Holocene is also an important point to consider. Although this material is highly effective for producing small cutting tools, this material is currently only found in a discrete location, where it is only visible in areas cut during modem times to form tracks or the road. What is available is also limited in amount and overall size. As the Ivane valley was abandoned for a long period during the LGM, it is possible that knowledge of the location of the BSM was lost. This indicates that familiarisation with the landscape is an ongoing process, where knowledge of particular sources with a discrete location need to either be passed down through the generations, or continuously relearned.

Although there is still little known about the subsistence economy of these early occupants, we can compare the adaptation to local raw materials to other forms of subsistence behaviour. Similar to the use of raw materials, the use of pandanus nuts from the earliest layers of the sites suggests that locally available plant resources were exploited. In contrast to this, yam starch (Dioscorea sp.) found on stone tools, also from the earliest layers in the sites (Summerhayes et al. 2010; Field et al. 2010), shows evidence for a non-local food source being brought into the valley. Yams would not have grown in the Ivane valley during the Late Pleistocene, thus they must have been brought in from lower altitudes. This demonstrates that resources were being used where encountered, as well as collected for consumption elsewhere.

Over time, evidence for burning of the landscape appears in the Ivane, with increased charcoal noted by Hope (2009) as being present from 38-41,000 years cal. BP. The use of fire in this manner is debatable. Both Hope (2009) and Mountain (1991) suggest that the purpose of burning was to create new ecotones on forest or swamp margins, in order to provide areas conducive both to growing economic plants such as tubers, and to encourage animal prey to the area. Regardless of the exact purpose of burning, as the first colonists become more familiar with the landscape, it would appear that they were now adapting its resources to their own use, by using fire to clear montane forest.

A further appraisal of the subsistence economy therefore appears to confirm the flexible and adaptive nature of the Ivane colonists, as evidenced by the lithic sources. During initial occupation particular local resources such as pandanus, and raw materials (and perhaps terrestrial mammals) were exploited. However, the transport of yams into the area also indicates that people were highly mobile within the landscape, encountering wild resources in other locations and carrying them with them for consumption in the Ivane. The use of local stone sources from the earliest initial occupation of the valley, especially the BSM which appeared to be only available in a limited locality, also shows that within a short period of time, the lithic landscape was quickly understood and used in an optimal fashion, with different raw materials selected for different purposes based on a comprehensive understanding of the raw materials' properties. Thus, the process of learning the landscape and the location and pro-perties of the resources within it, appears to have occurred at a rapid pace, with little evidence for an acclimatisation period.

In summary, the use of lithic sources is highly effective in demonstrating processes of landscape learning. In the Ivane valley, an appraisal of the geological landscape has allowed a comprehensive understanding of the raw materials available. From this baseline, the choices made by the Ivane inhabitants provide an indication of the strategies used during both the initial colonising period and subsequent occupation. The dominant selection of locally available raw materials shows the ability of modern humans to move into landscapes and make effective technological decisions based on the properties and potentials of different types of raw materials. Whilst not a complete picture, this study does demonstrate the effectiveness of using lithic sources to view landscape learning processes by allowing us a small glimpse of the overall adaptive abilities of the first colonists of Sahul and how they were successfully able to colonise and exploit a wide variety of environments within a relatively short time period.


This research was supported by the Marsden Fund Council from government funding administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand, awarded to Glenn Summerhayes; and also an Education New Zealand grant awarded to Anne Ford. I would like to thank Glenn Summerhayes, Matthew Leavesley, and Herman Mandui for the opportunity to participate in the Ivane valley project through both access to the stone artefact assemblages and the ability to conduct fieldwork to collect geological samples. I would also like to thank Geoff Hope, Andrew Fairbairn, Matthew Prebble and Judith Field for their companionship and assistance in the field. I would also like to thank the communities of the Ivane Valley for their support, especially James Lavai, Augustine Olopi, John Ko, John Karo, John Tope and John Kavi for their assistance and knowledge in the field; as well as Mathew Poia, the Goilala Member of Parliament and Alphonse Moroi, Governor of the Central Province. Thanks also goes to the National Research Institute of PNG, especially Jim Robbins, and the National Museum and Art Gallery of PNG for their support and affiliation. Glenn Summerhayes greatly improved this paper through both his guidance and comments. Thanks to Hugh Davies and Alan Cooper who provided invaluable geological assistance and knowledge with the petrographic analysis. Thanks also belong to Heather Sadler and Les O'Neill for assisting in the preparation of figures, and Philip Latham and Brent Pooley for teaching me how to make thin sections. Attendance at the AAA Conference in Batemans Bay 2010 where this paper was originally presented was funded by the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of Otago, the Australian Archaeological Association, and Air New Zealand.


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Table 1. Properties of raw material lithologies in the Ivane Valley.

Lithology           Mineralogy

Alkali basalt       Augite, olivine, plagioclase,
                    magnetite, iddingsite

Tholeiitic basalt   Kaersutite, hypersthene,
                    augite, plagioclase,

Schist              Chlorite, epidote, muscovite,
                    graphite, quartz, albite,
                    titanite, glaucophane *,
                    pumpellyite *, actinolite *

MB/MG/MC            Chlorite, epidote, muscovite,
                    actinolite, graphite, quartz,
                    albite, titanite, glaucophane *,
                    pumpellyite *, garnet *,

BSM                 Quartz

Quartz              Quartz

Lithology           Properties

Alkali basalt       Coarse grained, porphyritic, highly
                    weathered, soft crumbly, does not flake
                    or grind evenly

Tholeiitic basalt   Fine grained, porphyritic, highly
                    weathered, soft crumbly, does not flake
                    or grind evenly

Schist              Well developed cleavage planes,
                    predictable fracture, soft, flaked and
                    ground easily and quickly

MB/MG/MC            No schistosity, homogeneous, hard,
                    durable, fractures conchoidally, time
                    and effort required to flake and grind

BSM                 Homogeneous, hard, durable, fractures
                    conchoidally, <10 cm size

Quartz              Hard, durable, fractures conchoidally,
                    <10 cm size

Lithology           Distance to   Availability   Extractive
                    source (km)                  nature
Alkali basalt       0             Abundant       River cobbles,

Tholeiitic basalt   0             Abundant       River cobbles

Schist              0             Abundant       River cobbles,

MB/MG/MC            0             Moderately     River cobbles,
                                  abundant       outcrops

BSM                 8.5           Limited        Small cobbles

Quartz              0             Moderately     Small cobbles,
                                  abundant       veins in

* not common in samples, may belong to different facies.

Table 2. Raw material types of waisted tools within
Ivane Valley sites.

Site            Layer   Raw Material

Airport Mound   4       Schist
Joes Garden     3       Schist
South Kov       3       Metagreywacke
South Kov       4       Schist
South Kov       4       Schist
Vilakuav        3       Schist
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Author:Ford, Anne
Publication:Archaeology in Oceania
Geographic Code:8PAPU
Date:Jul 1, 2011
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