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The process of colonisation and subsequent settlement of Sahul (Pleistocene Australia-New Guinea) is largely unknown, and remains a significant research challenge for archaeologists. Of particular interest is the settlement of the highland regions, the antiquity of which equals the earliest sites from across Sahul. One probable entry route into Sahul runs from the Birdshead of New Guinea along the north coast. Three pathways into the highlands from the north coast have been identified, in the form of grassy intermontane valleys. Current research is focussed on one of these – the Simbai and Kaironk Rivers valley system where research in the 1970s identified a possible sequence dating to c. 20,000 years.
This seminar will present the results of the 2015 field season and discuss the implications of these results for understanding PNG prehistory trajectories of investigations for the upcoming field season.
Speaker: Judith Field is an Honorary Senior Lecturer in BEES. Her research focus is on Pleistocene archaeology, principally archaeological approaches the Pleistocene prehistory of Sahul (Pleistocene Australia New Guinea) and to the timing and causes of megafaunal extinctions in Sahul Field has directed excavations at the Pleistocene archaeological site of Cuddie Springs in western New South Wales since 1991, led survey and excavation at Riversleigh in north west Queensland, and investigated the antiquity of rainforest occupation in tropical Australia and the archaeology of highland valleys in PNG. In addition to the field based research programs Field has a keen interest in areas of archaeological science that have stemmed from the field programs. These include functional studies of flaked and ground stone tools, which include identification and characterisation of organic residues on stone tools -from plants, in the form of starch and phytoliths, and from animals through biochemical analyses of blood traces, studies of fossil pollen and microscopic charcoal, as well as taphonomic and geochemical studies of modern and fossil bone.