Crafting Social Networks: the Production of Obsidian Stemmed Tools in the Willaumez Peninsula, Papua New Guinea

Publication Name

Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory


Widely held assumptions about static societies during the early-middle Holocene (c. 10,000–3300 BP) in the Willaumez Peninsula, Papua New Guinea are challenged by a hypothetical reconstruction of social negotiations that we propose were embedded within the manufacture of large obsidian stemmed tools that circulated as cultural valuables. Made by skilled knappers, these artefacts were manufactured in stages (quarrying, preform production, shaping, hafting, and re-hafting) often segregated in discrete and possibly restricted locations. The successful completion of a large obsidian stemmed tool may have required effective management to negotiate multiple social networks, thereby enhancing the status of those who directed the process. Social connections forged and re-inforced to support the production process may also have been enhanced by ritual practices. Through the social links created and strengthened by the process of its crafting and the subsequent ceremonies and exchanges in which it circulated, a stemmed tool contributed to a vibrant social life that persisted over several millennia.

Open Access Status

This publication may be available as open access

Funding Sponsor

University of Leicester



Link to publisher version (DOI)