Swamp and delta societies of the Papuan Gulf, Papua New Guinea

Chris Urwin, James W. Rhoads, Joshua A. Bell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review


The Papuan Gulf’s littoral coastline has been emerging and transforming since the late Pleistocene. Large river deltas such as the Fly, Kikori, and Purari transport sediments into the Coral Sea, and these are reworked by prevailing tides and seasonal currents to form a world of sand and swamps that Papuan Gulf peoples inhabit. This article reviews the archaeology of key sites in the region and identifies themes for future explorations of the region’s rich heritage. It explores how the region’s delta-dwelling societies occupied, modified, and made sense of their relatively fluid physical environments. Two aspects are explored in detail: (1) the potential to historicize the emergence of sago cultivation and its role in sustaining local settlements and long-distance trade; and (2) the contribution of nuanced spatial histories of migration and place-making to the region’s narrative.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Indigenous Australia and New Guinea
EditorsIan J. McNiven, Bruno David
Place of PublicationOxford UK
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9780190095642
ISBN (Print)9780190095611, 9780190095628
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Rivers deltas
  • Coastal archaeology
  • Papuan Gulf
  • Place-making
  • Spatial history
  • Sago

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