Lapita-Papuan interaction in New Guinea: Implications for Pacific colonisation and regional social histories

Event details


Date & time

Monday 05 July 2021


Online and at Hedley Bull 2


Dr Ben Shaw


CHL Communicate

Additional links

Synapse Trans-Disciplinary Seminar Series by the School of Culture, History & Language


The colonisation of the remote Pacific Islands was one of the greatest migrations in human history, spanning one third of the globe within the last 3,000 years.

Archaeological, linguistic, and, increasingly, genetic evidence indicates people with a shared cultural and biological ancestry (Lapita) migrated along several routes from Southeast Asia to the islands of eastern New Guinea several centuries before making the first open sea voyages as far as Samoa. Unlike the remote Pacific, however, the New Guinea islands have been occupied by indigenous Papuan populations with complex social histories for at least 45,000 years. Models have posited some degree of Lapita-Papuan interaction, but there remains a lack of direct evidence to inform how this social process influenced population structure, eastward colonisation, and later dispersals through the inhabited landscapes of New Guinea.

In this seminar, Ben Shaw will discuss new evidence for Lapita-Papuan interaction in the Massim islands, a region that similarly has a long human history. Interaction here was contemporary with the earliest arrival of Lapita groups into the Bismarck Archipelago and preceded major diasporas through southern New Guinea. The new evidence builds on transdisciplinary efforts to understand how New Guinea became one of the most linguistically and culturally diverse landmasses on earth.

About the Speaker

Ben Shaw is an archaeologist and Lecturer in the Evolution of Cultural Diversity Initiative within the School of Culture, History & Language at the Australian National University.

Ben’s research is geographically focused on Papua New Guinea where he has undertaken extensive fieldwork over the past 12 years across many island, coastal and highland regions. He has also worked in Australia, New Zealand, and French Polynesia. Ben’s research spans the full length of human history from colonisation through to historic contexts. His major interest is the interplay between past climates, environments, and human behaviours. Specifically, using multidisciplinary approaches to understand how cultural and technological adaptations contributed to the emergence of complex human diversity in the Asia-Pacific region, and globally.

**This event will be hosted face to face as well as online, via Zoom – register at Eventbrite for details on how to join.

This is a public seminar and will be recorded.

The recording will be made available after the event through the Synapse Trans-Disciplinary Seminar Series page.

Updated:  7 July 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, Culture, History & Language/Page Contact:  CHL webmaster