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Type: Journal article
Title: Exploring spatial relationships between material culture and language in the Upper Sepik and Central New Guinea
Author: Fyfe, A.
Citation: Oceania, 2009; 79(2):121-161
Publisher: Oceania Publications
Issue Date: 2009
ISSN: 0029-8077
Statement of
Andrew Fyfe
Abstract: New Guinea is the most linguistically diverse region in the world. Over 1,000 languages are found there. Unsurprisingly, controversy exists concerning the degree to which this diversity has been shaped by migration or interaction. At the centre of this controversy is the putative origin and migration path of Austronesian speakers. The advent of Lapita ceramic ware in Melanesia around 3,000 years ago is seen by some as important evidence for their arrival; nevertheless the validity of using Lapita as a marker for Austronesian populations remains in question. The Upper Sepik is one of New Guinea's most linguistically heterogeneous regions. Because it is not marked by far-reaching exchange systems the region's language and material culture distributions provide potential for exploring such issues. This paper discusses these in the context of an analysis of important ethnographic collections from the region. It is shown that when material culture is assessed technologically and stylistically it is easier to determine an effect for important variables such as language and distance. Additionally, it is demonstrated that as men and women often have different levels of mobility and sociality, classes of material culture belonging to each may differentially reflect important socio-historical processes.
Keywords: Lapita
Upper Sepik
Central New Guinea
material culture
geographic distance
string bags
DOI: 10.1002/j.1834-4461.2009.tb00055.x
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Appears in Collections:Aurora harvest 5
Australian Institute for Social Research publications

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