Persistent traditions in the face of natural disasters: stemmed and waisted stone tools in late Holocene New Britain, Papua New Guinea
Studies of the technology and function of small retouched stemmed and waisted stone tools from late Holocene sites in central New Britain provide a powerful means for monitoring the effects of the massive W-K2 volcanic eruption (3480-3150 cal BP), after which pottery occurs in this region for the first time. Use-wear and residue studies show that these tools were used for processing soft starchy plant materials (tubers and wood) and cutting and piercing skin. Despite the catastrophically destructive event, results indicate cultural continuity, most likely by descendants of the original population, rather than population replacement or major cultural change. These results contribute to the ongoing debate about possible migration from Island Southeast Asia c.3400 years ago.