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Ethnography/Ethno-archaeology and the potential for rock art studies in Papua New Guinea

Roxanne Tsang — University of Papua New Guinea 


Ethnographic stories have long been an integral part of socio-cultural research. This paper considers ethnographic stories relating to cave and rock engravings at Jacquinot Bay, in the Bismarck Archipelago where a Lapita site has recently been discovered. Fieldwork was undertaken as part of the Nakanai Caves Cultural Heritage Project which aims to integrate and document the natural and cultural values of Nakanai Range in preparation for a potential World Heritage nomination. During this project, local knowledge about caves and other aspects of the cultural landscapes were recorded.

​This paper presents an example of an ethnographic story and local descriptions of rock engraving. Rock art interpretations from various perspectives have enormous potential to inform archaeologists about local cosmological belief systems. I will focus on two sites in Pomio District. The first is Pelau-matana cave, which the story records as a creation point of the sea and villages; and the second site consists of rock engravings of fish and genital motifs as a representation of reproduction and creation of human kind. According to the locals, these sites are physical

manifestations of origins of villages and people as described in the stories. The paper also discusses other rock engravings within the area and around Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the potential for ethno-archaeological research into rock art, which is under-researched in PNG. 

Date: Wednesday March 21, 2018
Time: 12.00pm – 1.00pm
Gold Coast – G27_1.11 (Roxanne will present from the GC)
Nathan – N16_2.71 (HLSS Boardroom)

Roxanne Tsang comes from New Ireland Province, in the Bismarck Archipelago, Papua New Guinea (PNG) and recently graduated with BA Honours in Archaeology from University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG). Roxanne is working temporarily with Extent Heritage Advisors in Sydney and currently an archaeologist involved in the Nakanai Caves Cultural Heritage Project. The project is an ARC Linkage and is a collaboration between James Cook University, Extent Heritage Ltd, Australian National University, University of Sydney, UPNG and a the PNG conservation NGO. Roxanne is visiting the Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research at the invitation of Professor Paul Tacon.




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