Document Type

Article

Publication details

Torrence, R, Neall, V, Doelman, T, Rhodes, E, McKee, C, Davies, H, Bonetti, R, Guglielmetti, A, Manzoni, A, Oddone, M, Parr, JF & Wallace, C 2004, 'Pleistocene colonisation of the Bismarck Archipelago: new evidence from West New Britain', Archaeology in Oceania, vol. 39, no. 3, pp. 101-130.

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Abstract

The geological and archaeological signatures at the site of Kupona na Dari on the Willaumez Peninsula, West New Britain provide important new data about human colonisation of the Bismarck Archipelago. Analyses of the stratigraphy and weathering of paleosols and manuports, when combined with fission track, radiocarbon, and luminescence dating, indicate that the site was first occupied at about 35-45,000 years ago. During the whole period of occupation, people were exposed to a series of volcanic events which varied in terms of their potential impacts on the local environment. A PIXE-PIGME characterisation study of the obsidian artefacts at the site demonstrates that from the earliest period stone resources were acquired from outcrops located across a relatively large region. When compared with Early-Middle Holocene assemblages from nearby localities, the Pleistocene stone tool technology differs in only a few minor respects. From this analysis we infer that groups were mobile in both periods, but slightly different strategies for the procurement and maintenance of the stone tools were required for the more extensive ranges exploited during the Pleistocene. The interdisciplinary study of Kupona na Dari concludes that colonisation comprised a long term process of settling into this volcanically active environment. Due to variability in the environments that people encountered, the pattern of colonisation may not have been similar across the entire Bismarck Archipelago.