In the footsteps of AB Lewis

Between March 1993 and February 1994 with major funding from the National Science Foundation (Grant DBS-9120301) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (Grant RO-22203-91), Robert L. Welsch, Adjunct Curator of Anthropology,  and Regenstein Curator John Edward Terrell, together with WilfredOltomo from the Papua New Guinea National Museum, lived on the Sepik coast of northern New Guinea to learn there how exchange relationships  between villages link families and local communities into larger human associations (or "regional systems"). 

During their repeated trips to this coast since 1990, Welsch and Terrell have been able to gather a great deal of information about the raw materials, manufacture, use, cultural meaning, and local socioeconomic significance of this region's material culture—as witnessed both by the Field Museum's ethnographic collections and also by the local crafts still being practiced in these many small communities.  

They have visited more than 80 villages in some 42 communities in Papua New Guinea, and 11 villages in and around Jayapura in Indonesian New Guinea.  They have made new collections of contemporary material culture in nearly all of these communities, with important collections from about 30 communities. 

Their collection of contemporary material culture (some 2,000 items) is the largest single collection ever made along this stretch of coastline  by a single expedition.  Half of this collection is now at the Papua New Guinea National Museum and Art Gallery in Port Moresby; the rest is at The Field Museum.

© John Terrell

People of Sissano Village, 1990

© John Terrell

Some of the 1993 acquisitions purchased in villages along the Sepik coast. Shown in the Ali Island field headquarters near Aitape.

© John Weinstein

One of only two Lapita sherds ever found in New Guinea. This one was found by John Terrell during the AB Lewis project.

Background image: Port Moresby by Hitchster. CC BY 2.0 / cropped and desaturated from original

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