Functional studies of flaked and ground stone artefacts reveal starchy tree nut and root exploitation in mid-Holocene highland New Guinea

Field, J.H., Summerhayes, G.R., Luu, S., Coster, A.C.F., Ford, A., Mandui, Herman, Fullagar, R., Hayes, E., Leavesley, M., Lovave, M., and Kealhofer, L. (2020) Functional studies of flaked and ground stone artefacts reveal starchy tree nut and root exploitation in mid-Holocene highland New Guinea. The Holocene, 30 (9). pp. 1360-1374.

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Ground stone technology for processing starchy plant foods has its origins in the late Pleistocene, with subsequent intensification and transformation of this technology coinciding with the global emergence of agriculture in the early Holocene. On the island of New Guinea, agriculture first emerges in the highland Wahgi Valley, potentially from c. 9 kya, and clearly evident by 6.5 kya. Approximately 400 km further east in the highland Ivane Valley, long-term occupation sequences span the Holocene and late Pleistocene, but there is currently no direct evidence for wetland agriculture. Here, we report rare evidence for ground stone implements from a secure mid-Holocene archaeological context in the Ivane Valley. The Joe’s Garden site has flaked and ground stone artefacts with significant starch assemblages dating to approximately 4.4 kya. We present the first empirical evidence for the function of stone bowls from a New Guinea highland setting. Usewear and residues indicate the grinding and pounding of endemic starch-rich plant foods. Geometric morphometric analysis of starch grains shows that at least two taxa were processed: Castanopsis acuminatissima (nut) and Pueraria lobata (tuber). This regional example adds to our understanding of the trajectories of diverse plant food exploitation and ground stone technology development witnessed globally in the Holocene.

Item ID: 63108
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1477-0911
Keywords: ancient starch, archaeology, Holocene, Papua New Guinea, residue and usewear, stone mortar
Copyright Information: © The Author(s) 2020
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC), University of New South Wales, Marsden Fund of the Royal Society of New Zealand
Projects and Grants: ARC DP110102828
Date Deposited: 14 May 2020 00:48
FoR Codes: 45 INDIGENOUS STUDIES > 4513 Pacific Peoples culture, language and history > 451301 Archaeology of New Guinea and Pacific Islands (excl. New Zealand) @ 70%
43 HISTORY, HERITAGE AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 4301 Archaeology > 430101 Archaeological science @ 30%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950599 Understanding Past Societies not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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