Reading early agriculture at Kuk Swamp, Wahgi Valley, Papua New Guinea: the archaeological features (phases 1-3)

Tim Denham, Jack Golson, P Hughes

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    Multi-disciplinary field investigations were undertaken in 1972-7 and 1998-9 at Kuk Swamp in the upper Wahgi Valley in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Multi-period finds dating from the early Holocene to the recent past and interpreted to represent human manipulation of a wetland margin for plant exploitation were documented. The archaeological remains dating from the early to mid-Holocene have partially grounded contested claims for the emergence of early and independent agricultural practices on the island of New Guinea. In this paper, the early to mid- Holocene archaeological remains at the site (ie, those allocated to Phases 1, 2, and 3) are reported in detail. The authors of this paper all agree that plant exploitation began at Kuk at c. 10,000 cal BP, however they hold different interpretations of the archaeological evidence from the swamp, which have in turn led to diverse claims for the antiquity of agriculture in New Guinea by at least c. 10,000 cal BP (Golson and Hughes), or by at least 6950-6440 cal BP (Denham). Divergent readings of the archaeological remains are presented at length in order to clarify the evidential bases for the varying claims and to promote future discussion.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)259-97
    JournalProceedings of the Prehistoric Society
    Volume70
    Publication statusPublished - 2004

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