Unpacking the Collection

Part of the series One World Archaeology pp 83-115


Plumes, Pipes and Valuables: The Papuan Artefact-Trade in Southwest New Guinea, 1845–1888

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Drawing on the Papuan collections held in three Australian museums, this chapter uses documented trading encounters between westerners and peoples of the southwest coast and Fly River estuary to help uncover indigenous agency embedded within collections. The case study shows how a methodology which combines an analysis of museum collections, historical sources, ethnographic studies and oral histories can provide new information about how this trade evolved in southwest New Guinea during the second half of the nineteenth century. The results highlight the importance of the social networks that lay behind choices about whether objects were either offered to or withheld from the early explorers and traders.