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Concept: New Guinea


There is increasing recognition of the long-lasting effects of tsunamis on human populations. This is particularly notable along tectonically active coastlines with repeated inundations occurring over thousands of years. Given the often high death tolls reported from historical events though it is remarkable that so few human skeletal remains have been found in the numerous palaeotsunami deposits studied to date. The 1929 discovery of the Aitape Skull in northern Papua New Guinea and its inferred late Pleistocene age played an important role in discussions about the origins of humans in Australasia for over 25 years until it was more reliably radiocarbon dated to around 6000 years old. However, no similar attention has been given to reassessing the deposit in which it was found-a coastal mangrove swamp inundated by water from a shallow sea. With the benefit of knowledge gained from studies of the 1998 tsunami in the same area, we conclude that the skull was laid down in a tsunami deposit and as such may represent the oldest known tsunami victim in the world. These findings raise the question of whether other coastal archaeological sites with human skeletal remains would benefit from a re-assessment of their geological context.

Concepts: Human, Indonesia, Pacific Ocean, Papua New Guinea, Tsunami, Pleistocene, New Guinea, Mangrove


We examine representations of time among the Mianmin of Papua New Guinea. We begin by describing the patterns of spatial and temporal reference in Mian. Mian uses a system of spatial terms that derive from the orientation and direction of the Hak and Sek rivers and the surrounding landscape. We then report results from a temporal arrangement task administered to a group of Mian speakers. The results reveal evidence for a variety of temporal representations. Some participants arranged time with respect to their bodies (left to right or toward the body). Others arranged time as laid out on the landscape, roughly along the east/west axis (either east to west or west to east). This absolute pattern is consistent both with the axis of the motion of the sun and the orientation of the two rivers, which provides the basis for spatial reference in the Mian language. The results also suggest an increase in left to right temporal representations with increasing years of formal education (and the reverse pattern for absolute spatial representations for time). These results extend previous work on spatial representations for time to a new geographical region, physical environment, and linguistic and cultural system.

Concepts: Southeast Asia, Sun, Geography, Indonesia, Space, Papua New Guinea, New Guinea, Empire of Japan


Evidence shows that the government of Papua New Guinea is failing to provide basic services in health to the majority of its people. Local non-government organisations (NGOs), partnered with international NGOs, are attempting to fill this gap. With limited resources, these small Indigenous organisations must focus much of their effort on training that supports self-reliance as the main strategy for communities to improve their quality of life. This project explored the training content and methodology of Touching The Untouchables (TTU), a small Indigenous NGO based in Goroka, Eastern Highlands Province, that has trained a network of village volunteers in health promotion and safe motherhood.
Village life imposes multiple demands, from self-sufficiency in food to maintaining law and order. There are established attitudes about power and dependence, referred to as ‘cargo thinking’. Cargo thinking stands as a barrier to the necessity of self-reliance, and requires training strategies that seek to empower participants to create change from their own initiative. Empowerment is understood as oriented towards individual people taking collective action to improve their circumstances by rectifying disparities in social power and control. To achieve self-reliance, empowerment is necessarily operational on the levels of person, community and society.
In addition to being operational on all three levels of empowerment, the training content and methodology adopted and developed by TTU demonstrate that empowering practice in training employs approaches to knowledge that are evidence-based, reflexive, contextual and skill-based. Creating knowledge that is reflexive and exploring knowledge about the broader context uses special kinds of communicative tools that facilitate discussion on history, society and political economy. Furthermore, training methodologies that are oriented to empowerment create settings that require the use of all three types of communication required for cooperative action: dramaturgical, normative and teleological communication.
The success of TTU’s training content and methodology demonstrates that creating the conditions for achieving collective self-reliance through empowerment is a necessary part of primary health promotion in Papua New Guinea, and that underlying the success of empowerment oriented training are definable types of knowledge and communication.

Concepts: Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Non-governmental organization, New Guinea, Papuan languages, Torres Strait, German New Guinea


Averaged demographic data from previously unfished populations of Nautilus and Allonautilus (Cephalopoda) provide a baseline to determine if a population is undisturbed and in “equilibrium” or is in “disequilibrium” as a result of fishery pressure. Data are available for previously undisturbed local nautiloid populations in Papua New Guinea, Australia, Indonesia, Fiji, Palau, American Samoa, New Caledonia and Vanuatu (total n = 2,669 live-caught, tagged and released animals). The data show that unfished populations average ~75% males and ~74% mature animals. By contrast, unpublished, anecdotal and historical records since 1900 from the heavily fished central Philippines have shown a persistent decline in trap yields and a change in demographics of N. pompilius. By 1979, a sample of fished live-caught animals (n = 353) comprised only ~28% males and ~27% mature animals. Continued uncontrolled trapping caused collapse of the fishery and the shell industry has moved elsewhere, including Indonesia. In addition, we show that estimated rates of population decline are offered by unpublished tag-release records in unfished Palau. These data show that patterns of trap yields and demographic differences between fished and unfished populations in relative age class and sex ratios can indicate disequilibria wrought by fisheries pressure that can render local populations inviable. Given adequate samples (n ≥100 live-caught animals), a threshold of <50% males and mature animals in fished populations should signal the need to initiate curative conservation initiatives. The current trajectory of uncontrolled nautiloid fisheries can only mean trouble and possibly extinction of local populations of this ancient, iconic molluscan lineage.

Concepts: Demography, Demographics, Papua New Guinea, Oceania, Demographic economics, Mollusca, New Guinea, Nautilus


Although recent research revealed an impact of westernization on diversity and composition of the human gut microbiota, the exact consequences on metacommunity characteristics are insufficiently understood, and the underlying ecological mechanisms have not been elucidated. Here, we have compared the fecal microbiota of adults from two non-industrialized regions in Papua New Guinea (PNG) with that of United States (US) residents. Papua New Guineans harbor communities with greater bacterial diversity, lower inter-individual variation, vastly different abundance profiles, and bacterial lineages undetectable in US residents. A quantification of the ecological processes that govern community assembly identified bacterial dispersal as the dominant process that shapes the microbiome in PNG but not in the US. These findings suggest that the microbiome alterations detected in industrialized societies might arise from modern lifestyle factors limiting bacterial dispersal, which has implications for human health and the development of strategies aimed to redress the impact of westernization.

Concepts: Gut flora, Southeast Asia, Ecology, Indonesia, Pacific Ocean, Papua New Guinea, New Guinea, Guinea


Global efforts to eliminate lymphatic filariasis are based on the annual mass administration of antifilarial drugs to reduce the microfilaria reservoir available to the mosquito vector. Insecticide-treated bed nets are being widely used in areas in which filariasis and malaria are coendemic.

Concepts: Malaria, Southeast Asia, Mosquito, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Filariasis, New Guinea, Mosquito net


Recent surveys of the shark and ray catches of artisanal fishers in the Western Province of Papua New Guinea (PNG) resulted in the rediscovery of the threatened river sharks, Glyphis garricki and Glyphis glyphis. These represent the first records of both species in PNG since the 1960s and 1970s and highlight the lack of studies of shark biodiversity in PNG. Two individuals of G. garricki and three individuals of G. glyphis were recorded from coastal marine waters of the Daru region of PNG in October and November 2014. The two G. garricki specimens were small individuals estimated to be 100-105 cm and ~113 cm total length (TL). The three G. glyphis specimens were all mature, one a pregnant female and two adult males. These are the first adults of G. glyphis recorded to date providing a more accurate maximum size for this species, i.e. ~260 cm TL. A single pup which was released from the pregnant female G. glyphis, was estimated to be ~65 cm TL. Anecdotal information from the fishers of pregnant females of G. glyphis containing 6 or 7 pups provides the first estimate of litter size for this species. The jaws of the pregnant female G. glyphis were retained and a detailed description of the dentition is provided, since adult dentition has not been previously documented for this species. Genetic analyses confirmed the two species cluster well within samples from these species collected in northern Australia.

Concepts: Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, New Guinea, Shark, Papuan languages, Torres Strait


In 1990, shotguns and M-16s were adopted into Enga warfare, setting off some 15 years of devastation as youths (~17 to 28) took charge of interclan warfare. In response, people called on elder leaders to adapt customary institutions to restore peace; subsequently, war deaths and the frequency of war declined radically. Data from precolonial warfare, 501 recent wars, and 129 customary court sessions allow us to consider (i) the principles and values behind customary institutions for peace, (ii) their effectiveness, (iii) how they interact with and compare to state institutions of today, and (iv) how such institutions might have shaped our human behavioral repertoire to make life in state societies possible.

Concepts: Sociology, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, World War II, 2003 invasion of Iraq, New Guinea, War, Papuan languages


Austronesian speaking peoples left Southeast Asia and entered the Western Pacific c.4000-3000 years ago, continuing on to colonise Remote Oceania for the first time, where they became the ancestral populations of Polynesians. Understanding the impact of these peoples on the mainland of New Guinea before they entered Remote Oceania has eluded archaeologists. New research from the archaeological site of Wañelek in the New Guinea Highlands has broken this silence. Petrographic and geochemical data from pottery and new radiocarbon dating demonstrates that Austronesian influences penetrated into the highland interior by 3000 years ago. One potsherd was manufactured along the northeast coast of New Guinea, whereas others were manufactured from inland materials. These findings represent the oldest securely dated pottery from an archaeological context on the island of New Guinea. Additionally, the pottery comes from the interior, suggesting the movements of people and technological practices, as well as objects at this time. The antiquity of the Wañelek pottery is coincident with the expansion of Lapita pottery in the Western Pacific. Such occupation also occurs at the same time that changes have been identified in subsistence strategies in the archaeological record at Kuk Swamp suggesting a possible link between the two.

Concepts: Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Pacific Ocean, Papua New Guinea, Oceania, Archaeology, New Guinea, Archaeological record


How and when dingoes arrived in Oceania poses a fascinating question for scientists with interest in the historical movements of humans and dogs. The dingo holds a unique position as top terrestrial predator of Australia and exists in a wild state. In the first geographical survey of genetic diversity in the dingo using whole mitochondrial genomes, we analysed 16,428 bp in 25 individuals from five separate populations. We also investigated 13 nuclear loci to compare with the mitochondrial population history patterns. Phylogenetic analyses based upon mitochondrial DNA and nuclear DNA support the hypothesis that there are at least two distinct populations of dingo, one of which occurs in the northwest and the other in the southeast of the continent. Conservative molecular dating based upon mitochondrial DNA suggest that the lineages split approximately 8300 years before present, likely outside Australia but within Oceania. The close relationship between dingoes and New Guinea Singing Dogs suggests that plausibly dingoes spread into Australia via the land bridge between Papua New Guinea and Australia although seafaring introductions cannot be rejected. The geographical distribution of these divergent lineages suggests there were multiple independent dingo immigrations. Importantly, the observation of multiple dingo populations suggests the need for revision of existing conservation and management programs that treat dingoes as a single homogeneous population.

Concepts: DNA, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Melanesia, Oceania, New Guinea