The Perplexing Complexity of Some New Guinea Communities

Author(s): Paul Roscoe

Year: 2017


At contact, a number of New Guinea communities boasted considerable ‘horizontal’ complexity – very large populations (up to 2,500 people) and ceremonial arenas that engaged even more. Many also constructed monumental architectures of organic material and staggering size. These communities included complex fisher-foragers and Big-man horticulturalists, organizations that are commonly identified as only minimally hierarchical. Certainly, their hierarchical institutions were insufficiently developed to account for the scale of their ‘horizontal’ complexity. After briefly surveying this complexity, this paper analyzes why these communities became so complex and the mechanisms that allowed them to manage their complexity.

Cite this Record

The Perplexing Complexity of Some New Guinea Communities. Paul Roscoe. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430561)


Spatial Coverage

min long: 111.973; min lat: -52.052 ; max long: -87.715; max lat: 53.331 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14541