Something About Kutau-Bao: Understanding Dominant Obsidian Sources

Author(s): Robin Torrence

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "2019 Fryxell Award Symposium: Papers in Honor of M. Steven Shackley" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

After c. 50 years of research using a diverse range of geochemical techniques, patterns of movement for obsidian in the Pacific region, dating from the Pleistocene up to the historic period, have been documented comprehensively. Although there are eight high quality obsidian sources, by far the largest quantity of material transported both locally within Papua New Guinea and over long distances out into the Remote Pacific came from the Kutau-Bao obsidian outcrops on New Britain Island. Even communities adjacent to other obsidian outcrops with good quality stone seemingly preferred to obtain the bulk of their supplies from this single source. What is it about this source that made it so popular through time and across space? In what ways can Kutau-Bao’s dominance be accounted for by the nature or timing of volcanic eruptions in the region, raw material properties of the obsidian, and/or social processes involving spirituality, ownership and security? To address these questions, I examine the history of Pacific obsidian use and distribution from a range of different perspectives and attempt to generalise more widely about dominant obsidian sources.

Cite this Record

Something About Kutau-Bao: Understanding Dominant Obsidian Sources. Robin Torrence. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 450782)

Spatial Coverage

min long: 117.598; min lat: -29.229 ; max long: -75.41; max lat: 53.12 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 22944