Abstract: Archaeologists often use the island of New Guinea as a model of prehistoric social life, characterized by small, egalitarian, isolated communities separated by both inter-community conflict and linguistic and cultural differences. Yet studies examining the association between material cultural patterning, language, and inter-community geographic distance suggest that material culture is more likely patterned by the dense webs of trade, exchange, and inter-marriage relationships observed on the island at the time of first ethnographic description. Here, I reexamine social, geographical, and linguistic factors that may contribute to how materially encoded culture is patterned on New Guinea through an ethnographic reconstruction of the island’s social network structure. Results suggest that material cultural patterning is largely constrained by a combination of network structure and geography rather than language. This underlying social network displays elements of a classic small-world structure, and some of the generative mechanisms of the New Guinean social world are examined, including language, geography, and economic motivations.
Collins Conference Room
Mark Golitko (University of Notre Dame)
This event is private.