Research Feed

The origins of the people of the Pacific’s gateway, Vanuatu

Ancient skeleton at the Teouma site on Efate (ANU)
Ancient skeleton at the Teouma site on Efate, Vanuatu (ANU)

NEWSROOM | Science Daily

CANBERRA - Researchers from The Australian National University (ANU) have helped put together the most comprehensive study ever conducted into the origins of people in Vanuatu - regarded as a geographic gateway from Asia to the Remote Pacific.

The new research, published across two separate research papers, uses a combination of DNA analyses of ancient skeletons and modern samples, as well as archaeological evidence, to put together a complete timeline of migration to the island nation.

The results confirm that Vanuatu's first people were of the Lapita culture and arrived 3,000 years ago from South East Asia, followed by Papuan arrivals from the island of New Britain, in the Bismarck Archipelago just to the east of New Guinea and part of the nation of Papua New Guinea.

Dr Stuart Bedford of the ANU School of Culture History and Language said this was the first time researchers had been able to look at a full sequence of DNA samples from the Vanuatu islands.

"We've been able to track a complete genetic timeline at regular intervals starting with the first inhabitants right through to modern times," Dr Bedford said.

Continue reading "The origins of the people of the Pacific’s gateway, Vanuatu" »

Cavendish: The world's top banana could become extinct

The imminent death of the Cavendish banana (BBC)
The imminent death of the popular Cavendish banana

LUCY CRAYMER | Wall Street Journal

You can read the full article here

NEW YORK - In June, a team of European researchers travelled to Papua New Guinea on a mission of global significance. They came to search for the Giant Banana plant.

The scientists travelled through the jungles of the South Pacific nation, by car and on foot, accompanied by two armed guards.

They were tantalised by images circulating online, purportedly taken by locals, that depict a towering banana corm, several stories high, with leaves about five yards long.

The researchers found plenty of unusual banana varieties, but their quest to find the Giant, and to sample its bounty, proved fruitless.

Continue reading "Cavendish: The world's top banana could become extinct" »

South Australian Museum turns its back on PNG

Dr Barry Craig in the field in PNG
Dr Barry Craig in the field in PNG


NOOSA – Dr Barry Craig worked in the Telefomin area of Papua New Guinea and at the National Museum and Art Gallery in Port Moresby before moving to the South Australian Museum as curator of foreign ethnology, where he’s been for the past 22 years.

Strange as it may seem, the South Australian Museum has on permanent display a significant collection of objects from Papua New Guinea. It’s a real treasure.

But now it turns out that Dr Craig’s position, along with one in archaeology, has been abolished.

This leaves the Pacific collections and the Pacific Cultures Gallery without an experienced and qualified researcher and interpreter.

Continue reading "South Australian Museum turns its back on PNG" »

Ancient skull belongs to victim of Aitape tsunami 6,000 years ago


Skull of a person who lived in PNG 6 000 years ago
6000 year old Aitape skull has connection to present day climate change

LONDON - Scientists studying a mysterious skull discovered in Papua New Guinea 88 years ago have said they believe it belonged to an early victim of a violent tsunami in the southwest Pacific 6,000 years ago.

The skull, named for the village of Aitape near where it was discovered, has been an item of longstanding archaeological interest because it is one of only a few rare skeletal remains to have been recovered from the area.

Australian geologist Paul Hossfeld found it in northern PNG, buried beneath the ground in 1929. Initial investigations concluded the skull belonged to Homo erectus—an extinct humanoid species that died out 143,000 years ago.

However, carbon dating since found the skull could be between 5,000 and 6,000 years old, opening new possibilities about what the skeletal fragment could tell us about our own world.

For the first time experts have uncovered what killed the unfortunate individual, using clues left in the earth around where the skull was found. "We have now been able to confirm what we have long suspected," James Goff at the University of New South Wales in Australia explained in a statement.

Continue reading "Ancient skull belongs to victim of Aitape tsunami 6,000 years ago" »

42 years of independence marked in a 50,000 year old culture

Stone club head from the Nomad area
Stone club head from the Nomad area


Read more about this story in GenomeWeb here

NEW YORK – On the eve of Independence Day, a fascinating story about how genome researchers have been able to confirm the uniqueness and long history of the people of Papua New Guinea.

Reinforcing that PNG evolved independently from the rest of the world for much of the last 50,000 years, the research – reported in the journal Science - analysed genome profiles from almost 400 people in many different communities throughout the country.

"Using genetics, we were able to see that people on the island of New Guinea evolved independently from rest of the world for much of the last 50,000 years," said senior author Chris Tyler-Smith, a researcher at the Sanger Institute.

Another significant finding was that the split between highland and lowland populations occurred between 10,000 and20,000 years ago.

Continue reading "42 years of independence marked in a 50,000 year old culture" »

The story of a 10,000 year old PNG civilisation - & it’s free

10 000 years of cultivationFR GARRY ROCHE & ANU SOURCES

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.

Continue reading "The story of a 10,000 year old PNG civilisation - & it’s free" »

Opinions about aid: public versus aid providers

Opinion of Australian aid volume
Volume of Australian aid

TERENCE WOOD & CAMILLA BURKOT | Dev Policy Blog | Edited extracts

Read the full article, together with all links, graphs and citations, here

CANBERRA - Have you ever wondered just how strange the Australian aid community is?

Do we development types think about development issues in the same way as the average Australian does, or are we outliers?

In recent years the Development Policy Centre has been studying the Australian public’s views about aid.

As part of this work, in collaboration with the Campaign for Australian Aid, we placed eight questions in the 2016 Australian Survey of Social Attitudes, a large, representative survey of Australian adults.

Continue reading "Opinions about aid: public versus aid providers" »

Everywhere & nowhere: forensically analysing grand corruption

Kris LasslettKRISTIAN LASSLETT | The Tokaut Blog | Extract

You can link to Professor Lasslett’s complete article here

THE problem with corruption in PNG, at its most grand levels, is that it is everywhere and nowhere.

Its morbid symptoms are apparent for all to see, but the particular mechanisms through which the disease of corruption infects governments and markets, and disables the body of the nation, proves difficult to observe, owing to its secretive nature.

Yet in order to fight corruption effectively, we need to answer elementary questions relating to its core characteristics.

For example, what type of corrupt transactions are most common and damaging in PNG, who are the participants, what motivates them, how do they make their illicit gains, what do they spend it on, and which institutional structures permit these illegal activities to take place?

Continue reading "Everywhere & nowhere: forensically analysing grand corruption" »

Some ways in which PNG is investing in a higher tech future

Papuan taipan anti-venomJORDAN DEAN

PAPUA New Guinea is largely a consumer of innovation, imported technologies and knowledge products. In the interests of our economic future, we need to move up the value chain to be a producer of innovation.

Science, technology and innovation are key forces driving economic growth and development in today’s global economy. This is a challenge for us.

PNG’s comparative advantage lies in its natural assets: its people, natural resources and rich cultural heritage. We need to translate these into tangible products and services to create opportunities for development.

One such endeavor is the biofuel research and development project at Pacific Adventist University. The project was initially funded to support the installation of a processing and testing facility and later to complete the design and installation of the processing plant.

Continue reading "Some ways in which PNG is investing in a higher tech future" »

New governance watchdog exposes O’Neill’s business networks


A NEW website, PNGi, seems set to revolutionise governance in Papua New Guinea by cracking open the secrets of the rich and powerful and exposing them to public view.

Using the latest digital technologies, PNGi aims to investigate, analyse and expose the often hidden and opaque systems standing behind the abuse of political and economic power.

Its two flagship resources are PNGi Portal and PNGi Central.

They have been established and are sustained by an informal network of academics, activists and journalists involved in researching and writing about current issues in Papua New Guinea.

Continue reading "New governance watchdog exposes O’Neill’s business networks" »

They thought this lizard was lost, but it was in New Ireland

Monitor lizard (Valter Weijola)STEPHANIE PAPPAS | Live Science

A MONITOR lizard lost to science in a 19th century shipwreck has been rediscovered on an island in Papua New Guinea.

The medium-size monitor, Varanus douarrha, was first identified by French naturalist René Lesson in 1823.

The scientific name was inspired by the pronunciation of the lizard's name in Siar, the language of the people of the lizard's home in New Ireland.

The specimen of the monitor lizard collected by Lesson went down in a shipwreck off the Cape of Good Hope in 1824, so the lizard was never systematically studied.

Continue reading "They thought this lizard was lost, but it was in New Ireland" »

PNG historians record the other side of the WWII story

War wreckage at WagawagaERIC TLOZEK | Australian Broadcasting Corporation

A SMALL team of Papua New Guinean historians has visited one of the most crucial battle sites of World War II to record the stories of those who remember it.

The team, from the University of Papua New Guinea, spent three weeks in Milne Bay, the scene of a Japanese offensive in August of 1942.

The story of the brutal battle, in which Australian and United States troops inflicted the first decisive defeat of the Japanese on land of the war, is well documented by Australian historians.

Continue reading "PNG historians record the other side of the WWII story" »

World's rarest & most ancient dog rediscovered in the wild

Pregnant female dog (NGHWDF)SCIENCE ALERT | New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation

AFTER decades of fearing that the New Guinea highland wild dog had gone extinct in its native habitat, researchers have finally confirmed the existence of a healthy, viable population, hidden in one of the most remote and inhospitable regions on earth.

According to DNA analysis, these are the most ancient and primitive canids in existence, and a recent expedition to New Guinea's remote central mountain spine has resulted in more than 100 photographs of at least 15 wild individuals, including males, females, and pups, thriving in isolation and far from human contact.

"The 2016 Expedition was able to locate, observe, gather documentation and biological samples, and confirm through DNA testing that at least some specimens still exist and thrive in the highlands of New Guinea."

Continue reading "World's rarest & most ancient dog rediscovered in the wild" »

Obesity & its impact on deaths from lifestyle diseases in PNG


THE Papua New Guinea government must get serious about decreasing the number of deaths caused by lifestyle diseases, according to a researcher.

Scientist Andrew Pus conducted research on obesity in Port Moresby and his findings have been made public on the Scientific Research Publishing website.

Mr Pus is from the Western Highlands and holds a master’s degree in health sciences from the Graduate School of Bio-Medical and Health Sciences at Hiroshima University in Japan. His research spanned more than three years and was conducted as part of his graduate requirement.

Obesity accounts for an estimated 2.8 million deaths worldwide and is the fifth leading risk for death according to recent data from the World Health Organisation.

Continue reading "Obesity & its impact on deaths from lifestyle diseases in PNG" »

Researchers identify main obstacles facing small business


ITS high growth potential makes the small and medium sized enterprises (SME) sector of the Papua New Guinean economy of particular interest to the national government.

Last year, the government adopted a new SME policy and published a bold master plan to drive the development and growth of SMEs.

But before this objective can be realised, there are a number of constraining obstacles to SME business operations and expansion that need to be addressed.

The three main ones are the remote location of many businesses, the difficulty of leasing or buying land, and problems dealing with banks.

Continue reading "Researchers identify main obstacles facing small business" »

Nine species of ‘walking shark’ at greater risk of extinction

A 'walking' sharkMICHAEL SLEZAK | The Guardian | Extracts

BIZARRE ‘walking sharks’ are at a greater risk of extinction than previously thought, with new information about their distribution leading researchers to expect greater efforts to protect them from human threats such as fishing and climate change.

Bamboo sharks include nine species of sharks that swim and ‘walk’ in shallow waters around northern Australia, Papua New Guinea and parts of Indonesia.

They are harmless to humans and are active only at night, when they start to ‘walk’ around shallow reefs, feeding on crustaceans – even sometimes walking out of the water.

Continue reading "Nine species of ‘walking shark’ at greater risk of extinction" »

Addressing women’s vulnerability to HIV/AIDS in PNG

Hiv-aids-warning-rabaulSR MANASSEH KELLY

Extract from ‘Women’s Vulnerability to HIV/AIDS: The Papua New Guinea Situation’, a master’s degree thesis for Flinders University by Sr Manasseh Ola Kelly. You can read the full paper here:  Download 'Women’s Vulnerability to HIV AIDS in PNG' by Manasseh Kelly

FROM my experience as a nursing sister for 16 years in Papua New Guinea, I have observed and witnessed that poverty is a fact for most young girls and they engage in sex so that they can put food on the table.

I asked one of the sex workers why she was involved in the sex trades in spite of high increase in HIV/AIDS in PNG in 2008. Her answer was (“are you willing to put money into my pocket and willing to meet my daily needs”).

Continue reading "Addressing women’s vulnerability to HIV/AIDS in PNG" »

Mobiles OK but govt needs to address black spots, electrification

Mobiles telephony in PNGAPEC REPORT | Extracts

Case Study on the Role of Services Trade in Global Value Chains: Telecommunications in Papua New Guinea, APEC Policy Support Unit, September 2016. Read the full report here:  Download 'Telecommunications in Papua New Guinea'

THIS report by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) examines the effects of the deregulation of Papua New Guinea’s mobile telecommunications sector, a process which began in 2007.

The Papua New Guinean government’s decision in the lead up to 2007 to end the monopoly of state-owned telecommunications provider Telikom resulted in rapid increases in mobile coverage and subscriber numbers, and sharp decreases in costs to consumers.

Continue reading "Mobiles OK but govt needs to address black spots, electrification" »

Kamare – an expedition to find one of Bougainville’s giant rats

Claws of the giant rat (Tyrone Lavery, Australian Museum)TYRONE LAVERY | Australian Museum

PART of the reason I am so fascinated by studying Melanesia’s mammals is that such precious little information is available from recent times.

To learn what is already known of this region’s spectacular fauna, you’re immediately forced to delve into accounts made by naturalists in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

In the case of Bougainville, what has been documented of the island’s rats, bats and possums is largely thanks to Catholic missionary Father JB Poncelet and the Bougainvilleans he lived among at Buin on the southern end of the island.

Continue reading "Kamare – an expedition to find one of Bougainville’s giant rats" »

Wealthy Australia 'outsourced legal & moral obligations’ on Manus


‘Money, Manipulation and Misunderstanding on Manus Island’ by Joanne Wallis and Steffen Dalsgaard in the Journal of Pacific History. Download 'Money, Manipulation & Misunderstanding on Manus'

A PAPER by two Australian academics says that the impact of the asylum seeker camp on Manus has “inextricably involved a manipulation of the democratic process and the rule of law”.

Wallis and Dalsgaard write that, even though the so-called “regional resettlement arrangement” has delivered substantial funding to Papua New Guinea and, probably as a result, improved PNG’s relationship with Australia, the burden of the policy “will continue to be borne by ordinary Papua New Guineans, who already face myriad challenges exercising their democratic rights and receiving the protection of the law.”

Continue reading "Wealthy Australia 'outsourced legal & moral obligations’ on Manus" »

Indigenous PNGns & Australians are most ancient civilisations

Melanesian_raftingHANNAH DEVLIN | The Guardian

CLAIMS that indigenous Australians and Papua New Guineans are the most ancient continuous civilisations on Earth have been backed by the first extensive study of their DNA, which dates their origins to more than 50,000 years ago.

Scientists were able to trace the remarkable journey made by intrepid ancient humans by sifting through clues left in the DNA of modern populations in Australia and Papua New Guinea.

The analysis shows that their ancestors were probably the first humans to cross an ocean, and reveals evidence of prehistoric liaisons with an unknown hominin cousin.

Prof Eske Willerslev, an evolutionary geneticist who led the work at the University of Copenhagen, said: “This story has been missing for a long time in science. Now we know their relatives are the guys who were the first real human explorers.

Continue reading "Indigenous PNGns & Australians are most ancient civilisations" »

No genuine government motivation to curb corruption, says survey

CorruptionTROY TAULE | PNG Loop

TRANSPARENCY International PNG (TIPNG) has released its latest publication on levels and consequences of corruption in Papua New Guinea and the response to this of state and society.

In presenting the findings of 53-page public opinion survey, TIPNG membership coordinator Yuambari Haihuie explained the report gathered data from 1,250 participants in the National Capital District and Central, East New Britain, Eastern Highlands and Morobe provinces.

“Ninety-nine percent of participants think corruption is a serious problem in PNG and 90% think it is getting worse,” said Mr Haihuie.

He went on to say that 81% of respondents thought that members of parliament are the cause of corruption while 25% believed everyone was to blame for the spread of corruption.

Continue reading "No genuine government motivation to curb corruption, says survey" »

Small-scale mining returns as Bougainville revenue earner

Tunnelling for gold ore at MoroniKEITH JACKSON

Download Small Scale Mining in Bougainville

A TEAM of four researchers - Ciaran O’Faircheallaigh, Anthony Regan, Dennis Kikira and Simon Kenema - has published an initial report on small scale mining in Bougainville.

The report focuses on issues such as mining methods, economic motivations, safety and health risks and the possibility that small scale mining might foster tensions in a   still fragile post-conflict Bougainville.

Prior to Papua New Guinea’s independence in 1975, the Australian administration approved development by a subsidiary of the multinational mining company Rio Tinto of one of the world’s largest copper mines at Panguna in central Bougainville.

Continue reading "Small-scale mining returns as Bougainville revenue earner" »

Pacific studies under threat at Australia’s premier university

Sir John CrawfordKEITH JACKSON

THE Australian National University is poised to make substantial cuts to research and education on the Asia-Pacific, and in particular Pacific Studies.

The targets for cuts include the Research School of Pacific Studies was established in the immediate post-World War II period to counter what scholar Raymond Firth referred to as Australia’s “immense ignorance of the Pacific”.

Australia’s post-war policy makers considered a deep understanding of the Pacific essential to the conduct of regional affairs.

The ANU quickly established itself as the leading institution for research and education concerning the Pacific, and played a key role in seeding and developing research and tertiary institutions throughout the region, including University of Papua New Guinea, PNG’s National Research Institute, University of the South Pacific and National University of Samoa.

Continue reading "Pacific studies under threat at Australia’s premier university" »

Obtaining food security data from remote PNG

Training for the phone survey (Digicel)MVAM: The Blog*

IT’S BEEN a tough past year for Papua New Guinea. Since April 2015, El Nino has hit the country hard with both frost and drought.

With damaged crops and dried up creeks, people are struggling with both water shortages and getting enough to eat. World Food Program (WFP) supported the National Disaster Center in Papua New Guinea by launching a mobile phone survey to track the deteriorating food security situation and identify hotspots.

In January, it started calling households to collect indicators on their food security at both the household and community level.

Continue reading "Obtaining food security data from remote PNG" »

Solidarity gesture: New rat species named after Manus detainees

Rattus detentusBEN DOHERTY

MANUS Island’s newest “detainee” may have been on the island hundreds of thousands of years.

Rattus detentus - an ancient, isolated and previously unknown species of the genus Rattus, a rat – has been so named for the Latin “detained” in reference to the recent use of Manus to detain people seeking political or economic asylum in Australia.

The animal has been described for the first time in the Journal of Mammalogy by an international team of scientists including former Australian of the Year, Prof Tim Flannery.

Continue reading "Solidarity gesture: New rat species named after Manus detainees" »

On the hunt for a new language in Papua New Guinea


ENVIRONMENTALISTS, biologists and insect experts shake the world when a plant or animal species is endangered or prone to extinction, but who does it for the one thing that carries culture and identity – language.

Languages around the world are dying, and we should care. Just as the extinction of an animal species diminishes our world, so does the extinction of a language.

It was a dull morning and we were leaving the misty cold of Ukarumpa village for Kambaira, situated at the edge of the Obura-Wonenara District of Eastern Highlands Province and the Markham District of Morobe Province.

Continue reading "On the hunt for a new language in Papua New Guinea" »

Navigating tricky waters: where is the place of Melanesian ways?

Dr Andrew MoutuANDREW MOUTU | | Summary & Conclusion

THIS paper has three messages to impart: we are subjects of a new colonial order; what is the place of Papua New Guinean ways in this new colonial order; and a call for a judicious appropriation of different systems of knowledge, information and information technology.

It examines common place discourses to show that common place discourses are not always common with truth as they often cover up for not so common truths. I think talk about globalisation, information super-highway, information technology and so on is framed in so universal, so common a language.

And because it is so common it conceals a particular truth, a fundamental ideological problem - the question of power relations, for instance, who has the upper hand in the production and sale of information technology, who controls the market of information technology, who sets the priorities of the PNG government?

Continue reading "Navigating tricky waters: where is the place of Melanesian ways?" »

Vision 2050 grossly misrepresents PNG’s national goals: study

Respect the ConstitutionEDDIE TANAGO | Act Now

THE Papua New Guinea government's long-term strategic plan, Vision 2050, grossly misinterprets the national goals and development principles in the Constitution.

This is the major finding of a new study conducted by Patrick Kaiku from the University of Papua New Guinea and commissioned by community advocacy group Act Now.

"Vision 2050 ignores the visionary work of the Constitutional Planning Committee and does not embrace the five National Goals and Directive Principles enshrined in the Constitution," said Mr Kaiku.

Continue reading "Vision 2050 grossly misrepresents PNG’s national goals: study" »

Ancient New Guinea pottery dated to over 3,000 years ago

3000 year old New Guinean potteryUNIVERSITY OF OTAGO

A University of Otago-led research team has unexpectedly discovered the first evidence that the ancestors of Polynesians did not bypass New Guinea on their way from Southeast Asia to colonise remote areas of the Pacific, as was previously thought.

Radiocarbon re-dating of an archaeological site in the rugged New Guinea interior and petrographic and geochemical analysis of pottery fragments found there show that influences of these Austronesian-speaking peoples had penetrated into the already populated remote interior of New Guinea before 3,000 years ago.

The 3,000-year-old fragments, which resemble the Lapita plainware pottery style associated with Austronesian colonisation of neighbouring Western Pacific islands during the same period, were analysed and found to be both produced on-site and brought in from elsewhere.

Continue reading "Ancient New Guinea pottery dated to over 3,000 years ago" »

Arise fuzzy nautilus: 'Extinct' species rediscovered in PNG

Crusty Nautilus (Peter Ward)HENRY GASS | Christian Science Monitor | Extract

FROM molluscs and monkeys to wolves and whales, a number of rare species thought to have gone extinct have been rediscovered, including a handful this year.

Researchers around the world have laboured for months and years to find these “living fossils,” which they say can help scientists determine how species have evolved over milleniums.

But with each new rediscovery and sigh of relief, they stress that none of these animals are out of the woods yet – at least not so long as humans keep destroying the woods or overfishing the waters they live in.

Continue reading "Arise fuzzy nautilus: 'Extinct' species rediscovered in PNG" »

Revealed: The 2,500 year old archaeology of Rossel Island

Jason Kariwiga of UPNG  & Dr  Ben Shaw of UNSWMATT LEAVESLEY

THE earliest evidence of human occupation of Rossel Island in the Louisiade Archipelago of Milne Bay Province dates back to 2,500 years ago according to recent research by Dr Ben Shaw of the University of New South Wales.

Dr Shaw recently presented the results of his research to the University of Papua New Guinea archaeology laboratory group. He undertook extensive field surveys in 2011 and 2012 on Rossel and nearby islands.

The surveys were followed by archaeological excavations in areas judged to have high archaeological potential.

The earliest evidence of human occupation of Rossel dates back to 2,500 years ago and by 1,300 years ago pottery was being imported to Nimowa through ocean-going trade.

Unlike Nimowa, also in the Louisiades, and much of the Milne Bay region, Rossel islanders did not make or use pottery until about 550 years ago.

Continue reading "Revealed: The 2,500 year old archaeology of Rossel Island" »

Defining corruption where the state is weak: the case of PNG

Stop corruptionGRANT WALTON | Dev Policy Blog

IT is widely recognised that, to be effective, the fight against corruption needs to engage citizens. Donors, NGOs and others working to fight corruption recognise this by funding efforts to empower the grassroots.

But, as I (here) and others have shown, citizens in developing countries often have very different understandings about corruption to anti-corruption actors. Which raises the question: How can we start to theorise about the ways citizens think about corruption?

One way is to look at the way the term is defined. In an article published in the most recent edition of the Journal of Development Studies, I develop a framework that categorises the ways corruption can be defined; I apply this framework to findings from focus group discussions (see details here) and a nine-province household survey conducted in PNG (see details here).

Continue reading "Defining corruption where the state is weak: the case of PNG" »

Gajdusek's Fore genealogical studies & Kuru stories released

Carleton Gajdusek and Jack Baker, 1957JOHN REES | Circulating Now

A new archival collection, The D Carleton Gajdusek Papers, 1918–2000, is now available at the National Library of Medicine for those interested in virology and the ethnography and anthropology of Micronesia.

Gajdusek (pictured here with kiap Jack Baker) was a pediatrician, virologist and chemist whose research focused on growth, development, and disease in primitive and isolated populations and winner of the 1976 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for his discovery of Kuru in Papua New Guinea.

Daniel Carleton Gajdusek was born on 9 September 1923 in Yonkers, New York. In 1943, he graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Rochester with a BS in biophysics. Gajdusek received his MD from Harvard Medical School in 1946 and performed a postdoctoral fellowship (physical chemistry) at the California Institute of Technology in 1948 under the tutelage of Linus Pauling.

Continue reading "Gajdusek's Fore genealogical studies & Kuru stories released" »

Jubilee Australia: Shameful ignorance & arrogance says Momis

John MomisJOHN MOMIS | President, Autonomous Bougainville Government

Bougainville President Dr John Momis has released a statement about the failure of NGO Jubilee Australia to substantively respond to three letters he sent last year raising questions about its report on Panguna landowner views on mining. In the letters Dr Momis questioned Jubilee’s research methodology, false claims, serious factual errors and perceived bias on the part of its research partners....

JUBILEE Australia proudly proclaims to be a scientific research organisation. But your research on Bougainville has been unethical and deeply flawed.

The Jubilee Report was clearly based on false assumptions, and those same assumptions have been evident in claims made both at many points in your report, and in statements by your CEO, that there is near unanimous opposition to mining in the landowner communities in the former leases associated with the Panguna mine.

Continue reading "Jubilee Australia: Shameful ignorance & arrogance says Momis" »

Natural glass was used for chopping tools in ancient PNG

Using a glass axe (Robin Torrence, Australian Museum)ROBIN TORRENCE | Australian Museum

MORE than 3,000 years ago axes made of glass were used to chop wood in Papua New Guinea.

Flaked tools made of the natural glass obsidian and found at ancient quarries in New Britain pose an intriguing problem because they are shaped like axes, but glass is generally considered too brittle a material for chopping. But is it?

To test if these obsidian axes were functional, we made replicas using the same kind of obsidian.

The flaked tools lashed onto handles like axes and adzes were found to be surprisingly effective at chopping soft wood.

Analysis using high powered microscopy then revealed the same wear patterns had formed on the cutting edge and handles of the experimental and archaeological tools. The obsidian artefacts were probably used as special purpose tools, perhaps to make items like masks or shields for ceremonies and rituals.

Continue reading "Natural glass was used for chopping tools in ancient PNG" »

PNG archaeology gains recognition at major global conference

Dr Tim Denham's presentation on the Kuk cultural heritage siteTEPPSY BENI

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”.

Continue reading "PNG archaeology gains recognition at major global conference" »

Seeking patrol officers who were based at Nomad in PNG

Village in Western ProvincePETER DWYER | The University of Melbourne

SINCE 1986, my partner and colleague Monica Minnegal and I have been doing anthropological research with Kubo and Febi people who live in foothills and lower mountains north of Nomad in the Western Province.

The Febi live in the heartland of the LNG project’s Juha well-heads and our recent research, since 2011, is looking at the impact of the project on their lives.

We are currently writing a book that deals with this research and, to understand the history of contact in the area, we have been reading old Patrol Reports from Nomad. They are, as you might expect, fascinating.

Continue reading "Seeking patrol officers who were based at Nomad in PNG" »

How to make service delivery work in Papua New Guinea


A report based on two surveys 10 years apart has been released by a team of researchers from Papua New Guinea’s National Research Institute and the Australian National University.

In 2002, NRI, in collaboration with the World Bank, surveyed 330 primary schools and health clinics in PNG from the national capital to the most remote districts.

In 2012, NRI, this time in collaboration with the Development Policy Centre at ANU, went back to many of the same primary schools and health clinics in the same eight provinces, this time surveying about 360 facilities.

The end-product is data of unprecedented detail in relation to service delivery in PNG.

Continue reading "How to make service delivery work in Papua New Guinea" »

Assistance required to complete a history of the Simbu


PAPUA New Guinean writer Mathias Kin (pictured) has been doing fine work researching the history of the Simbu people, especially the impacts of the Australian colonial administration on that beguiling highlands province.

A recent article based on some of Mathias’s work, The sad story of Golen Keri massacre, led to a fascinating debate in PNG Attitude last month and he hopes that by the end of this year, his book on Simbu history will be close to publication.

Now Mathias was reluctant to allow me to write this, but he has a serious problem raising funds – he needs about K4,000 ($1,800) – to complete his research in the Chimbu Gorge and to the Kerowagi area.

He needs the money to employ students to assist gather material (mainly oral histories as I understand it) and so he can travel into those areas and also to the Melanesian Institute at Goroka for about a week to research its extensive library of books and documents.

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Are museums the answer to Bougainville’s gun disposal woes?

Leonard Fong Roka (Palipal)ISHMAEL PALIPAL

RESEARCH by Bougainvillean author Leonard Fong Roka (pictured), conducted as part of his just finished studies at Divine Word University, reveals that many people in his home province are retaining weapons because they fear another war may break out.

Under the Bougainville Peace agreement of 2001, which brought to an end a 10-year long civil war, weapons disposal was agreed as one of the pillars for the conduct of a referendum on independence.

Roka’s research was carried out earlier this year in Zone 3 of Arawa Town, where most of the factional leaders and other citizens from around Bougainville live.

The 40 male and female participants said the major reason why Bougainvilleans are not surrendering guns and other weapons because they feel another war might erupt.

They represented both sides of the people involved in the civil war as well as other Bougainvilleans.

“So much has happened during the crisis and still we can’t trust anyone, especially the politicians, because we cannot know how much each Bougainvillean has gone through,” Mr Roka said.

Mr Roka said some people felt Bougainville might have to fight for independence if PNG is not willing to let Bougainville free itself.

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PNG's past will feature large at Cairns archaeological conference

Prof Summerhayes and Loretta Hasu (UPNG) at Koil Island (Matthew Leavesley, 2006)MATTHEW LEAVESLEY

JAMES Cook University in Cairns is seeking sponsors to assist archaeology students at the University of Papua New Guinea attend a major archaeology conference in December.

Members of the UPNG Laboratories Group would benefit greatly from being able to participate in the annual conference of the Australian Archaeological Association [details at the end of article].

In recent years local and international interest in Papua New Guinea archaeology has dramatically increased with several important projects presenting exciting new results.

Archaeological investigations in the Owen Stanley Ranges were pioneered in the mid to late 1960s by Dr Peter White, who reported important information from the Kosipe Mission site in the Ivane Valley of the Goilala District of Central Province.

Then, in 2005, Professor Summerhayes (University of Otago, pictured with Loretta Hasu of UPNG) with Emeritus Professor Geoff Hope (ANU) and Dr Judith Field (UNSW), took a series of teams, including staff from the PNG National Museum and staff and students from the UPNG Archaeology Laboratories Group, to explore the region further.

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Notes additional to the story of the Golen Keri massacre

Chimbu 1961 (David Craig)ROBIN HIDE & CAROLYN HIDE

WE have further information about the events of 1947 at Warasua in the Deri area of Simbu that we think clarify some of the issues arising from Mathias Kin’s recent report (The sad story of the colonial massacre of Golen Keri, Simbu) and the ensuing PNG Attitude discussion (in Comments, added 1-8 September).

During 1971-73 we were living with the Nimai Waula at Koge village in Sinasina some 12 kms north of the Wahgi River and the Sua area in Keri. We were carrying out anthropological research focussed on agricultural change.

Besides reading and collecting as much documentary evidence on recent history as then available (including patrol reports by Jones, Costelloe and Wakeford for the Keri-Dirima area between 1946 and 1948), we tape-recorded many accounts of local events for a preliminary oral history, amongst which are two descriptions of the events at Sua that we think are dated to about 1946-47 (i.e. 25 years before they were recounted to us).

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Land, environment & violence: The high cost of logging in Pomio

Pomio poster depicting corrupt PNG politiciansANDREW LATTAS

THE arrival of Malaysian loggers in the Pomio area of East New Britain has been accompanied by escalating land disputes, poor working conditions, growing insecurity, destruction of sacred sites, confiscation of property, environmental damage and violence.

It has also exacerbated the crisis of legitimacy involving the modern PNG state in its relationship with the people.

Local villagers complain that government no longer represents their interests. This accusation is made against government at all levels: district, provincial and national.

The democratic state is seen as not functioning to incorporate and protect people’s interests, but only those of the developer.

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PNG businesses suffer high costs from crime and violence

Guns, Hired Guns & MistrustWORLD BANK GROUP

A World Bank Group report says that eight in ten businesses in Papua New Guinea suffer substantial losses and security costs as a result of high rates of crime and violence, slowing business expansion and hampering the country’s economic development.

More than 80% of 135 companies surveyed said their business decisions are negatively influenced by the country’s law and order situation, with crime significantly increasing the cost of doing business.

The expense of avoiding criminal damage limits firms’ ability to grow, deters start-ups, and imposes significant long-term social costs on the country.

“Crime in Papua New Guinea constrains businesses and threatens to put the brakes on the economy,” said Carolyn Blacklock, Resident Representative in Papua New Guinea for the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the member of the World Bank Group that focuses on private sector development in emerging markets.

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'Extinct' big-eared bat found in Abau District

Big-eared bat depicted in the 1800sAGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A big-eared bat which was thought to be extinct has been found in a forest in Papua New Guinea, highlighting the nation’s unique biodiversity.

Until the discovery, the bat, or Pharotis imogene, had not been seen in 120 years.

"The species was presumed extinct," University of Queensland researcher Luke Leung said.

Two University of Queensland students caught the female bat in mid-2012 while conducting field work in the Abau coastal district of PNG's Central Province.

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Research study says poor quality drugs abound in PNG


A JUST completed research study has documented the presence of poor-quality medicines, particularly the anti-malaria drug primaquine, throughout Papua New Guinea.

The research team studied the quality of antimalarial drugs and antibiotics in PNG and made its report public last week.

The report says that “poor-quality life-saving medicines are a major public health threat, particularly in settings with a weak regulatory environment”, presumably like PNG.

It adds that “insufficient amounts of active pharmaceutical ingredients endanger patient safety and may contribute to the development of drug resistance.”

The team obtained medicines from randomly sampled health facilities and warehouses and hospitals across PNG.

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'Tok Pisin i go we?’ asks Swiss academic as he heads for PNG


Chris Neuenschwander is a PhD student at the University of Berne in Switzerland. He’ll be in Papua New Guinea (visiting Madang and Port Moresby) from tomorrow, pursuing his research, which he describes in this article, into the social dynamics of Pidgin English. He’s been stuck in the vaults of the National Library of Australia but more recently has begun to talk with people including Michael Dom in Adelaide, Paul Oates in Brisbane and me, in Noosa’s pleasant domain - KJ

“TOK Pisin i go we?” This was the fundamental question raised at a 1973 conference at the University of Papua New Guinea, and it subsequently became the title of a collection of articles that emerged from that conference.

Tok Pisin i go we?” asked Suzanne Romaine almost 20 years later, in her book about the development of the language.

Another 20 years on, academic interest in Tok Pisin has largely subsided. However, the question of where the Pidgin is going – and where it has been – can still trigger an intriguing journey into the cultural heart of PNG. Today more than ever, I would argue.

My personal journey started at the Linguistics Department of the University of Bern. Linguists tend to treat Tok Pisin as a prime example of a “successful” pidgin – no lecture about mixed languages would be complete without mentioning the popularity and status of the Papua New Guinean lingua franca.

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Tracking the ancient obsidian trade on Manus Island

Glenn Summerhayes and team (Otago University)DR ROBIN TORRENCE | Australian Museum

THE discovery of an obsidian source on Manus Island has revealed ancient trading patterns in Papua New Guinea.

Obsidian was widely traded on Manus where it was commonly used for tools such as knives and spears.

Our recent discovery of a geological outcrop at Lepong, not known to have been exploited in recent times, has raised important questions about the history of ancient trade.

Chemical analyses using three techniques showed that artefacts from south-west Manus, assumed to be very old due to the high degree of weathering, may be derived from the new source. These results highlight how much there is still to learn about the history of ancient trade in this region.

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‘Grassroots’, ‘elites’ & the new ‘working class’ of PNG

Dr John CoxJOHN COX | Australian National University | Extracts

IN Papua New Guinea a growing middle class of urban, salaried people refer to themselves as the ‘working class’, distinguishing themselves from subsistence ‘grassroots’ workers who do not work (if work is understood as receiving salaries or regular payments for services).

Where urban wage earners were once regarded as straightforwardly ‘elite’, increasingly, middle-class budgets are coming under strain. In the face of rising costs of living, deteriorating housing stock and faltering services, discourses of nation and citizenship that previously included the middle class are becoming embittering.

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