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SYNAPSE Seminar: Lapita-Papuan interaction in New Guinea, Ben Shaw, 5 July

Australian National University, Outreach, SYNAPSE

Date: 21 June 2021

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

Speaker: Ben Shaw, Australian National University 

When: 5 July 2021, 2pm-3.30pm

Where: This event is hybrid. Face-to-face: Hedley Bull Theatre 2, Hedley Bull Building, ANU; Online: via zoom

Registration: via Eventbrite 


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 3000 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, I 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.


Ben Shaw is an archaeologist and Lecturer in the Evolution of Cultural Diversity Initiative within the School of Culture, History and 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 is a public seminar and will be recorded.

This seminar is part of SYNAPSE: The CHL trans-disciplinary seminar series.

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University