The social complexities characteristic of the Neolithic originated on the island of New Guinea at least 1,000 years earlier than previously believed, say the authors of a study published in the journal Science Advances.
It was generally considered that the so-called 'neolithic transformation‘—The emergence of the polished stone industry, the transition to sedentary agriculture, and the sophistication of social organization — had occurred in New Guinea around 3,500 BC. of C., when Migrants belonging to the Lapita culture arrived on the island from Southeast Asia.
However, excavations of the small Waim archaeological site, in the northeast of the island, at 1,980 meters above sea level, show that These processes began already among the first settlers of New Guinea, which migrated to the island 32,000 years ago.
After investigating the site in 2016, archaeologists found a series of Neolithic objects dating back to the years5,050-4,200 a. by C.
Among them there are ax-adze preforms specific to the region, stones with carved figures, tools for the production of fiber and mortars.
In the latter, scientists discovered traces offruits, nuts and yams.
«Taken together, the lithic assemblage provides evidence of awide variety of domestic and social activities«, Indicate the authors, who point out that«technological changes in the highlands coincide with the intensification and regional diffusion ofagricultural practices«.
They also highlight that Waim was probably part of an extensive regional network. Thus, obsidian was found at the site from a deposit located about800 kilometers and on another island.
Also, the similarity between the stones carved as anthropomorphic images found at Waim and several undated objects that were previously found tens of kilometers from the site indicate a certain cultural unity of the area.
«The iconography of the stone carvings, expressed as anthropomorphic and zoomorphic forms, suggests that a symbolic social system facilitated communication across language and cultural boundaries«, They say.
Usually, the discovery of the Neolithic phase of the island's history points out that it followed the same path as other societies on the planet, archaeologists believe.
«Social innovations identified in the New Guinea highlands showclear parallels with the Neolithic processes observed inother parts of the world, with behavioral adaptations to the unique range of biogeographic settings«, They assert.