John Terrell has reanalyzed collections information derived from the Albert Buell Lewis collection using modern social network analysis (SNA) to map and measuring of relationships and flows between communities on the Sepik coast of Papua New Guinea.  

This software-based analytical approach permits both visual and mathematical analyses of human relationships. Anthropologists and archaeologists now have both methods (e.g., graph theory) and software tools (e.g., http:// to move discussions of islands and insularity into the real world of human relationships, ancient and modern. 

In 1992 Terrell and his colleagues Dr. Robert L. Welsch (Franklin Pierce) and John Nadolski (then a graduate student in Anthropology at Northwestern University) won the Morotn H. Freed Prize from the American Anthropological Association for their paper on the Lewis Collection from the Sepik coast published by the Association:

Welsch, Robert L., John Edward Terrell, and John A. Nadolski (1992).   Language and Culture on the North Coast of New Guinea.  American Anthropologist 94:568-600.

This paper touched off a major controversy not only in anthropology, but also in archaeology, human biology, and historical linguistics:  the continuing debate about how “phylogenetic” (i.e., cladistic, branching, etc.) or “reticulate” (i.e., web-like, “entangled,” etc.) is the patterning of our human diversity and our story as a species. 

This debate has been a lot more than merely a leitmotif of archaeological, anthropological, linguistic, and human biological research in the Pacific for at least twenty years now.  Our SNA work promises to help us resolve this controversy once and for all, at least for the Lewis Collection and the Sepik coast.

Terrell’s paper reporting the results of this new research work was published in 2010 in Journal of Island & Coastal Archaeology (volume 5, no. 1): 

“Language and Material Culture on the Sepik Coast of Papua New Guinea:  Using Social Network Analysis to Simulate, Graph, Identify, and Analyze Social and Cultural Boundaries between Communities.”

Networks and Social Fields

For further discussion, see:


Moore, C. C. and A. K. Romney  (1994).  Material culture, geographic propinquity, and linguistic affiliation on the north coast of New Guinea:  A reanalysis of Welsch, Terrell, and Nadolski (1992).  American Anthropologist 96: 370-392.

Moore, C. C. and A. K. Romney  (1995).  Comment on Welsch and Terrell’s (1994) reply to Moore and Romney (1994).  Journal of Quantitative Anthropology5:75-84. 

Moore, C. C. and A. K. Romney  (1996).  Will the “real” data please stand up? Reply to Welsch (1996).  Journal of Quantitative Anthropology 6: 235-261.


Roberts, J. M., jr., Moore, C. C. and A. K. Romney (1995).  Predicting similarity in material culture among New Guinea villages from propinquity and language.  Current Anthropology 36: 769-788.


Shennan, S. and M. Collard  (2005).  Investigating processes of cultural evolution on the North Coast of New Guinea with multivariate and cladistic analyses.  In The Evolution of Cultural Diversity:  A Phylogenetic Approach (Mace, R. et al., eds), pages 133-164.  London:  University College London Press.


Welsch, Robert L., and John Edward Terrell (1991).  Continuity    and change in economic relations along the Aitape coast of Papua New Guinea.  Pacific Studies 14(4): 113-128.


Welsch, Robert L., and John Edward Terrell (1994).  Reply to Moore and Romney.  American Anthropologist 96: 392-396.


Welsch, Robert L., and John Edward Terrell(1998).  Material culture, social fields, and social boundaries on the Sepik coast of New Guinea.  In The Archaeology of Social Boundaries, Miriam T. Stark, ed., pp. 50-77.  Washington, D.C.:   Smithsonian Institution Press. 6: 235-261.

Welsch, R. L., J. E. Terrell and J. A. Nadolski(1992).  Language and culture on the north coast of New Guinea.  American Anthropologist 94: 568-600.

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

  • Grey Facebook Icon
  • Grey Instagram Icon
  • Grey Twitter Icon