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Szalay, Alexandra 1999 maokop: The montane cultures of central Irian Jaya: environment, society, and history in highland West New Guinea, PhD Dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of Sydney.
    © Alexandra Szalay, 1999. Use of any part of this thesis for any purpose must be acknowledged.


People have been present in New Guinea for more than 40,000 years. Archaeological evidence indicates a settled presence in the highlands of West New Guinea from at least 32,000 years ago. Pigs and dogs are likely to have been introduced within the past 3,000 years, and sweet potato - a versatile root crop enabling permanent settlement in drier conditions at higher elevation - within the last 200 years. These factors - as well as the introduction of a cosmopolitan disease (amoebic dysentery) within the last 80 years, and Christianity, economic development and Indonesian militarisation over the past 40 years - have brought ongoing change in demography, subsistence, social and political organisation, ritual, warfare, and exchange. The relationship between the mountain people and their environments is both physical and analogical, and mutually dependent. Environmental, social, political and economic change has been engaged and effected over a long period of sustained land management and use. The movement of people, material items and ideas is more extensive and of greater antiquity than previously realised. Despite a precipitous topography not conducive to movement, continuities with lowland southern, central montane and highland eastern New Guinea - as well as with Aboriginal Australia - can be identified in the areas of mythology, material culture, kinship and ritual. Yet the montane cultures of West New Guinea are not homogenous but diverse. Change has been manifested in particular societies differentially according to ecological setting and in relation to one another. In the period post-dating the arrival of sweet potato, the Paniai cultures (Ekari, Moni, Amungme) of the western interior have incorporated the economic dyad of pigs - sweet potato into a strong existing shell-wealth economy in which an outward proliferation of political ties predominates, warfare is contained, and ties through women are highly valued. In the Dani cultures (Western Dani, Grand Valley Dani, Nduga, Jalé) of the eastern interior, male initiation ritual is a metaphor of relationship, political ties are most strongly expressed through the kin group, and organised warfare is an inalienable component of sociality. Positive female indices are symbolically appropriated by males in ritual. The adopted dyad of sweet potato - pigs has transformed an economy of stone-and-shell wealth, leading to an increased mobility of settlement, and a physical and cognitive expansion of kin group ties.

Copies of this dissertation are available at: Biara Santu Fransiskus, Jalan Tugu 7, Jayapura; The Fisher Library, University of Sydney; The Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University and The Ann and Erlo Van Waveren Foundation, Suite 204, 210 East 86th Street, New York, NY10028.


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