JAMES Cook University in Cairns recently hosted a joint conference of the Australian Archaeology Association and Australian Society for Historical Archaeology, with more than 500 delegates attending.
They included practicing archaeologists as well as upcoming members of the profession came from New Zealand, Canada, Britain and other countries were also present.
Papua New Guinea was represented by two young archaeologists from the UPNG Archaeology Lab Group, Jason Kariwiga and me.
During the course of the conference I was asked many times what I thought of proceedings because it was the first time I had attended a gathering of such high standing.
I mostly replied, “I’m overwhelmingly intrigued and challenged to pursue archaeology even further”.
This was in no way an understatement as I was genuinely enthralled by the level of archaeological competence on display. The research presented was of a very high standard.
Two sessions were dedicated to archaeology in the Pacific, one specifically on tropical Melanesia and the other on Pacific archaeology.
All the presentations on Melanesia were based on archaeological projects in Papua New Guinea which for me highlighted the importance as well as great potential for archaeological research in PNG.
This was consolidated by a presentation on the famous Kuk site by the Australia National University’s Tim Denham.
His session was concerned with human interaction with the environment in island and mainland Southeast Asia.
Attending this conference made me realise the great potential in PNG to achieve a high standard of archaeological research given that only about 2% of our prehistory and history has been unearthed.
Without assistance and support of these people and organisations, this enlightening experience would not have been possible: Dr Matthew Leavesley, Prof G Summerhayes (University of Otago), Ethan Cochrane (Auckland University), Prof Bryce Barker (University of Southern Queensland), Prof Ian McNiven and Dr Bruno David (Monash University), Dr Jim Allen (University of La Trobe ), Dr Pamela Swaddling (Australia National University), Dr Mark Galitko (Field Museum, Chicago), Dr Jim Specht, Peter White, Dr Robert Skello, Kirsty Gallispe (University of Queensland), Paige West (Columbia University), the PNG National Museum & Art Gallery and not forgetting the host of the conference, James Cook University led by Dr Sean Ulm.
Teppsy Beni is an archaeology student at the University of Papua New Guinea. Teppsy says: “Being an archaeology student, it saddens me that the majority of Papua New Guineans are not aware of the importance of archaeology in PNG. It's probably not their fault as there is not much awareness of the work of archaeologists and the importance of our history.”