Ten Thousand Years of Cultivation at Kuk Swamp in the Highlands of PNG by Jack Golson et al, Terra Australis Series No 46, ANU Press, July 2017, ISBN: 9781760461157. Free download from ANU Press here
DUBLIN – It costs $75 for a print copy but ANU Press in Australia has generously made this important book on Papua New Guinea’s Kuk world heritage site available for free download.
While the book concentrates on the Kuk swamp area in the Western Highlands, there are frequent reference to pertinent research findings in other parts of PNG.
Kuk is a settlement 1600 metres up in the Western Highlands – specifically near Baisu in the upper Wahgi Valley, near Mount Hagen.
Until the early 1930s, when the region was first explored by European outsiders, the rugged highlands terrain was thought to be uninhabited.
In fact it was a flourishing civilisation of people and pigs, supported by the intensive cultivation of the tropical American sweet potato on the slopes above swampy valley floors.
After the World War II, the area saw the development of coffee and tea plantations which were supported by the establishment of the Kuk Research Station.
As the swamps around Kuk were drained to facilitate agriculture, abundant evidence was found of an ancient civilisation – now dated to go back 10,000 years.
These investigations were begun in 1966 by a small team from the Australian National University.
There is an enormous wealth of information in this book and, while some of the scientific analysis was beyond my understanding, a great effort has been made to explain the scientific research methods.
There are references to the various climatic changes in the past and an explanation of how these may have impacted on agricultural methods, including an interesting study of the impact of the Long Island volcanic eruption in the 1660s.