SKULLS UNCOVERED ON FISHERMAN ISLAND

By PNG National Museum and Art Gallery

Skulls, skeletal remains and bits of old pottery, have been uncovered on a beach at the edge of the Fisherman Island in the last two weeks following the visit of a king tide.

Fisherman Island is located to the southwest of Port Moresby and is inhabited by six clan groups who originate from Hula in Central Province.

The Museum received report of this ‘chance exposure’ from Joel Keimolo, an inhabitant of the Island and works for the PNG Tourism Promotion Authority.

So we made arrangements with UPNG archaeologists, notably Mathew Leavesley and Vincent Kewibu, the anthropologist Linus Digim’Rina and the historian Keimelo Gima so we made a short reconnaissance trip to the Fisherman Island last Friday.

The trip included three of us from the Museum including our archeologist, Kenneth Miamba, and two young female archeologists from UPNG, Joel Keimelo and an intern from UPNG attached to Tourism PromotionAuthority.

Some village leaders took us to the site where the skulls have been exposed under a reef on the eastern beach side.

From observation our archaeologists were able to tell the age distribution of the skeletal remains by looking at the jaw bones and teeth structures. So we are left with the remains of very old and very young people which are kept in this site.

We don’t know if its a burial site or just a convenient place to keep the skulls and skeletal remains. We don’t know too if it is part of a ritual or the remains of war or headhunting in the past.

What we can tell is that Fisherman Island is an important transit point that connects the east to the west and north to the south. It is where people and things find a temporary sojourn before the next move. It is an important node in the traffic of the Hiri trade for instance.

So the details and provenance of the skulls and skeletal remains are not immediately known. A bit of oral history might help and archaeological investigations will tell us a bit more about the history of these remains.

We are working to layout a research and management plan of these discovery and to work with the Fisherman Island to look after these finds in the future to come.

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