Materialising Ancestral Madang: Pottery Production and Subsistence Trading on the Northeast Coast of New Guinea
Materialising Ancestral Madang documents the emergence of pottery production processes and exchange networks along the northeast coast of New Guinea during the last millennium before the present. This dynamic period in the Pacific’s human past involved important fluctuations to people’s mobility, social interaction, and technological organisation. It therefore remains crucial to understanding and historicising the expansive maritime subsistence trading networks that famously characterised the coast in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This book investigates these transformations by exploring the archaeology of Madang District; the heart of the Madang exchange network that revolved around the production and distribution of distinctive red-slipped pots. Potsherds of this style have been previously found spanning a 200 km radius, reaching Karkar Island, the Bismarck Archipelago, and even the New Guinea Highlands. By combining archaeological survey, excavation, craft ethnography, and archaeometric analyses, the volume systematically delineates the production groups that were working within this broader community of practice. The study shows that pre-colonial potters made use of a range of local raw materials and were free to improvise with their forming and decorating techniques but learned and reproduced similar technological sequences over the past 500–600 years. It is likely that social restrictions permitted only potters from a small number of clans to produce ceramics and that the finished vessels were then distributed both informally within the local area and strategically during extensive trade voyages along the northeast coast of New Guinea. These results therefore cast light on an important but previously obscured aspect of Pacific culture history and provide a model for how craft production and exchange processes have manifested and commodified across the generations.
Publisher: University of Otago Studies in Archaeology · No. 29
Series number: 29
ISSN: ISSN 0110-3709
Keywords: Pottery production; trade and exchange; chaîne opératoire; technological process; embodied knowledge; ethnographic archaeology; geochemical analysis; Pacific archaeology; New Guinea; Madang
Research Type: Book