logo Papua New Guinea Buai web site logo Pan Asia Networking

Manus Past:  through the eyes of prehistory & the archaeologists

Sections by:   Bernard Minol, University of Papua New Guinea & Simeon M Malai, Provincial Administrator

Manus Identity. What makes us what we are?

CHAPTER 3:  Manus Past:  through the eyes of prehistory


Long stat bilong buk, Manus Into 2000!, i kam nap nau, yumi wok long rit long toktok bilong Manus 'Identity'. Yumi Manus i lukim yumi olsem wonem? Plak bilong Manus i kamap rot yumi tingting na toktok long 'Identity' bilong yumi yet.

Long nau na igo, Manus Into 2000! bai i lukluk long MANUS PAST:  THROUGH THE EYES OF THE SCIENTISTS! Ol saveman i tok wonem long yumi Manus?

Bipo tru i kam nap nau, Manus olsem ol narapela hap bilong Papua Niugini, i gat tupela hap bilong en. Nambawan hap, em bipo bipo yet i kam nap long taim ol waitman i kamap na bringim wantem ol save bilong rait na rit. Yumi no nap painim ol pasin na stori bilong ol sindaun bilong ol tumbuna bilong yumi long buk o pepa.

Em i taim bilong prehistory. Taim we i nogat rait.

Nambatu hap bilong laip bilong Manus em i stat long taim ol waitman i kamap long yumi i kam nap haste. Taim save bilong rait na rit i kamap, ol waitman na bihain sampela bilong yumi yet i raitim ol stori bilong yumi long pepa na buk. Taim yumi toktok long histori bilong yumi, yumi toktok long dispela taim. Taim bilong rait.

Dispela sapta, i stat bilong nambatu hap bilong Manus Into 2000! Long dispela progrem na 11 pela seksen i kam, yumi bai lukluk i go long bipo taim bilong Manus. Ol saveman o saintis bai kisim yumi i go long taim bipo.

Ol saveman i tok bipo bipo tru, namel long 15 000 na 18 000 yia i go pinis Ostrelia na Papua Niugini bin pas wantaim olsem wanpela graun tasol. Ol i kolim neim bilong dispela hap graun, Sahul. Tasol long dispela ples yumi save long en nau olsem Manus, i no hap bilong dispela graun Sahul. Manus i stap long wei long en yet long bikpela solwara.

Ol saveman i painim olsem long Malakunanja long Noten Teritori bilong Ostrelia, man i bin stap long en 50,000 yia i go pinis. Long Papua Niugini, ol i painim olsem man i bin stap long hap long Huon long Morobe long 40,000 yia i go pinis; long Lachitu long Sipik 35,360 yia i go pinis; long Matenkupkum long Niu Ailan 33,300 yia i go pinis; long Buang Merabak long Niu Ailan 31,990 yia i go pinis na long Kulu long Buka 29,000 yia i go pinis. Long Manus yet, i no long taim i go pinis, ol saveman i tok, man i bin wokabaut long Manus samting olsem 20,000 yia i go pinis, nogut 24,000 yia i go pinis.

Ol saveman tu i painim olsem save bilong wok didiman i bin stap long Papua Niugini samting olsem 9,000 yia i go pinis. Ol ibin painim stori bilong dispela save long ol pipia ol i painim long hap ples tais long Kuk insait long Westen Hailens provins. Na dispela kain save i gat wankain yia olsem save i bin stap long Yangzi na Yelow Riva Beisin long hap bilong Saina. Hap ples tasol long graun we kain save olsem i bin stap bipo yet em long Midel Is samting olsem 11,000 yia i go pinis, em 3,000 yia pastem long Papua Niugini na Saina.

Bai yu askim, Ol saveman i bin save long ol dispela samting olsem wonem taim i no bin gat save bilong rait na rit na ol stori i no stap long ol buk?

I gat planti rot ol saveman i save yusim long painim aut ol sindaun i bin olsem wonem bipo tru. Wonem kain tuls i stap, wonem abus ol kaikai, wonem kain kaikai i stap na dispela i kamapim kain laip i stap long taim bipo.

Wanpela rot, em ol saveman i stadi long ol kastam na kalsa bilong yumi na tu stadi long ol kastam na kalsa bilong ol narapela lain. Ol i stadi long spia, sospen o clay pot, garamut na ol kain samting olsem. Taim ol i stadi ol tu skelim. Na skelim bilong ol i ken kamapim ol stori bilong kain laip ol bilong bipo bipo tru i bin gat.

Narapela rot em ol saveman i stadi long ol tok ples. Papua Niugini i gat antap long 800 tok ples olgeta. Yumi Manus yet i gat antap long 30 tok ples. Sampela tok ples bilong yumi i dai o lus pinis. Olsem wonem na i gat planti tok ples tru long kain liklik ples olsem Manus?

Long stadi long ol tok ples, ol saveman I nap kamapim sampela stori bilong wokabaut bilong ol bilong yumi bipo tru.

Narapela rot ken em ol saveman i stadi na skelim ol stori tumbuna na ol stori bilong bipo yumi wok long holim i stap yet. Ol stori tumbuna o 'oral tradition' i save pas long ol samting i bin kamap bipo yet. Ol samting olsem pait, guria, traipela san, bikpela ren na tait, hangere na ol samting olsem. Skelim bilong ol stori tumbuna i ken kamapim sampela klia long laip bilong bipo.

Na narapela rot em ol saveman i lukluk nambaut na painim ol ples we ol bilong bipo i bin sindaun long en na skelim ol wonem samting ol i painim long dispela hap. Ol save painim ol kain samting olsem spia botol, bun bilong ol kain abus, diwai, ol hap bilong sospen ol wokim long graun, ol sel bilong solwara na ol samting we ol man yusim long ol dispela taim. Nau i gat save i stap long tokim wonem i krismas bilong ol dispela samting.

Dispela, em i stadi bilong Archaeology. Archaeology i wanpela rot ol saveman i save painim aut long bipo taim, taim i no gat yet save bilong rait na rit. Pastem long ol waitman i kam long Manus, yumi nogat save long rait na rit. Tete archaeology i wok long kamapim planti save long bipo taim bilong Manus.

Long bringim yumi i go long bipo taim bilong Manus, yumi bai larim ol archaeologist na ol linguist long tokim yumi long wonem ol i painim long stadi bilong ol.

Ol archaeologist bai kisim yumi go long Pamwak long hap bilong Worei. Ol bai stori long ol i painim wonem long hol na ol samting ol i painim i stori long yumi long wonem.

Yumi tu bai wokabaut wantaim ol i go long Mouk long hap bilong Baluan. Wonem ol i painim i kamapim wonem kain stori. Na dispela stori i tok wonem tru taim ol i skelim wantaim ol arapela stadi ol i painim long ol arapela ples.

Na bai ol i kisim yumi tu go long Lou na Pam. Long Lou na Pam bai ol i stori long spia botol.

Liklik hap stori tasol. O saveman i painim olsem bipo bipo tru i gat popela hap long Pasifik we ol spia botol i save kam long ol. Em long Talasea long Wes Niu Briten, Fergussion Ailan long Milne Bay Provins, Lou na Pam long Manus. I gat tok tu olsem narapela hap we ol spia botol i kam long en em long hap long wes kos long Manus.

Bihain long dispela bai yumi larim ol saveman bilong ol tok ples long kisim yumi i go long bipo taim bilong yumi. Ol planti tok ples long Manus i min wonem? Olsem wonem na yumi gat planti tok ples tru? Yumi kam we? Na stadi bilong tok ples i tokim yumi wonem?

Long ol toktok long dispela buk MANUS INTO 2000! bai soim yumi olsem yumi no kamap haste tasol. Ol waitman in no painim yumi. Yumi bin stap planti planti yia tru hia long Manus. Taim yumi muv i go insait long yia 2000, yumi mas save na klia long faundeisen bilong yumi. Dispela buk bai soim yumi ol tumbuna bilong yumi i gat neim na yumi gat namba.

CHAPTER 4:  Through the eyes of archaelogists

Introduction to Archaeology Section

This section is going to be on the information from the science of Archaeology and what archaeologists have uncovered to date on Manus and the people who have lived on it.

To begin I would like to say something on the discipline of archaeology and secondly how archaeologists determine the age of materials they find in the ground.

Archaeology is a branch of learning or a discipline something similar to history. It is the study of how people lived in the past. Archaeology tries to understand the changes, which have occurred in human lives over hundreds, thousands and even millions of years. However it is dissimilar to history because instead of studying books to understand the past, archaeology uses the objects or things people have made to understand what happened in the past. Archaeologists dig holes in the ground to find objects, which were used by people who lived, long ago.

To determine how old the object is, the archaeologists use Carbon-14, sometimes also called radiocarbon dating. This method of determining dates can measure accurately only up to 40000 years. About 1946 an American physicist, William Liby developed carbon dating. This method of dating has proven to be very accurate for dating fossils and other archaeological specimens from 500 to 50000 years old.

Archaeologists have been working on different parts of Manus for the past twenty years and no doubt will not only continue their research but will extend their field work to different locations in the province. Perhaps the two leading archaeologists whose work have given the most information so far are Dr. Jean Kennedy previously from UPNG and now at the Australian National University in Canberra and Dr. Wal Ambrose also of ANU. Dr. Kennedy worked on a number of sites which include Kohin Cave near M'Bunai, Pelii Loson in the Buyang area, Father's Water at Papitalai and later did further digging in the west coast near Bundrahii and of course on Lou Island. Dr. Ambrose also worked on sites in Lou and Baluan but his latest investigation has been on the Pamwak Cave in Worei area on the main island of Manus.

Other archaeologists who have carried out archaeological investigations on Manus are Holly McEldowney, Chris Ballard, Jim Allen, Pam Swadling and others.

From 1977 to 1985 archaeologists had worked on 113 sites but the number has increased since that time. For the purpose of this short programme the sites that have provided valuable information so far are:

  • Umleang (Lou)
  • Emsin (Lou)
  • Pisik School (Lou)
  • Sasi (Lou)
  • Mouk Cemetery (Mouk)
  • Pam (Pam Island)
  • Paemasa (Baluan)
  • Kohin (Mainland)
  • Puian (Mainland)
  • Pelii Loson (Mainland)
  • Father's Water (Papitalai)
  • Pamwak (Mainland)

As you can see more than half the sites mentioned are close to one another. These are concentrated on Lou and the other Balopa islands namely Baluan, Mouk and Pam. This is not just a coincidence. Archaeologists became interested in the district because Lou and Pam were major sources for obsidian. And for this reason the surrounding area would logically attract a lot of curiosity from archaeologists and pre-historians. In comparison to the Balopa islands area there has been practically very little investigation carried out on the mainland of Manus and the outer islands like Nauna, Tong, Rambutso and the islands in the Western Islands Group. However it is encouraging that now archaeological field work is being extended to other locations in the province.

As a result of the excavations carried out on Manus, prior to 1990 archaeologist Wal Ambrose said in 1991, "Manus has been settled for more than 10,000 years and has been an active dispersal of obsidian for at least 3,400 years and pottery for perhaps 2500 years." (468) Then after the excavation at Pamwak Dr. Ambrose found that the people were using that cave at least 14,000 years ago. After the most recent analysis of charcoal from the bottom layer of the Pamwak Cave it is clear that people used to shelter there at least 20,900 years ago.

According to Professor Matthew Spriggs of the Australian National University in Canberra this book is the first public announcement of the latest information on the Pamwak findings. It is also worth mentioning at this point that this is early days and we will be hearing more interesting news from Pamwak and other excavations in Manus in the future.

As mentioned earlier, Dr Ambrose and his scientific colleagues have accurately determined the above age of the charcoal by using the Carbon 14 dating system.

The obvious question to ask is What have these archaeologists found on or about the Manus past? Seemingly not much has been uncovered but the information that has been obtained is not only very interesting but also quite fascinating. For us in Manus knowing that our ancestors have been on this island 20,900 years should lead to other questions like, Where did the ancestors come from? Have they been on the island all along? What did they eat? How did they prepare their food? and so on.

In addition to the Pamwak discovery, Jean Kennedy through her excavation at Kohin Cave, said that obsidian from Lou was being transported to the mainland at least 4500 years ago. The findings from Pelii Loson near Buyang and Father's Water site at Papitalai supported this. These finds are older than the Lapita period. This is pre Lapita which simply means there were people living in Manus long before the Lapita period which is about 3500 years ago.

It is also important to note here that outside the Bismarck and the New Guinea mainland, many islands in the South Pacific have had humans living on them for only about 3500 years. For example the island of New Zealand has only been settled in the past 2000 years.

Secondly obsidian from Lou and Pam were being distributed as part of a systematic system of exchange in the Island Melanesia region at least 3400 years ago. One archaeologist has even suggested that "obsidian functioned as a primitive valuable within a social network"(113). This could mean that the obsidian from Lou and Pam was used as a form of currency within the Bismarck and maybe as well as the other islands in the Island Melanesia region.

At this juncture it should be mentioned that about 1993 Dr. Kennedy and her student Francois Wadra claimed that there was a third obsidian mine near Bundrahii. This has yet to be confirmed but the news should give further impetus to researchers to do more excavations in the area.

To illustrate the extent of the obsidian trade it is useful to relate couple of anecdotes or humorous stories among archaeologists about the obsidian from Lou and obsidian from Talasea in West New Britain. Regarding the Lou obsidian, when the archaeologist Peter White and his team were excavating a site in Lossu (Central New Ireland) they found a piece of obsidian. Their immediate conclusion was that the obsidian must have come from Talasea. However when they analysed the obsidian in Australia it was found that the obsidian was actually obsidian from Lou. This means that there was trade or a social network in existence between Manus and New Ireland at least about 1700 years ago.

The second similar story is about obsidian found by archaeologists working on a site in Malaysia. When the archaeologists found this piece of obsidian on the archaeological site in Malaysia they immediately said that maybe the obsidian in the Pacific originally came for Southeast Asia. This would be consistent with the theory that people came to the Pacific from Southeast Asia. However, subsequent analysis in the US also concluded that, that particular piece of obsidian had come from the obsidian mine in Talasea, West New Britain.

These stories show that there were social, cultural and trade linkages not only within the Bismarck Archipelago of which Manus is a part, but the linkages extended outside the Bismarck to the other Melanesian islands and beyond. Ambrose writes,

Instances of the transfer of obsidian from Lou and Pam islands to distant depots from 3500 BP has been reiterated to a tedious degree. Therefore it cannot be doubted that the Admiralty Islands have been an influential base for a wider area than their immediate sourrounding. (111)

In the 1980's archaeologists came to Manus and other islands in the Bismarck with the sole aim of establishing once and for all where the famous Lapita Pottery originated. Since clay pots were being produced in several parts of Manus archaeologists took a keen interest in coming here. But to their disappointment they have only found traces of Lapita Pottery not enough to say that Manus was a major player in Lapita Pottery trade network. Typical Lapita style pottery has only been found in Kohin Cave near M'Bunai, Paemasa on Baluan Island and Mouk Cemetery on Mouk Island. It is also a coincidence that all these sites are within view of the Lou and Pam Islands obsidian mines. According to archaeologist Kennedy, the Lapita sherds found at Kohin Cave has been dated to be 3860 years old which "makes it the oldest reported date for a Lapita site" (105).

It may seem confusing that discussion about the Lapita Pottery and obsidian are going on at the same time but the reason is that in places where Lapita Pottery is found in big amounts there is usually also a large presence of obsidian. Recently about 1996 archaeologists excavated a site on Feni Island where they found quite a surprising amount of Lapita Pottery and obsidian. The same story is true for Lapita finds in Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomons. The question archaeologists are still trying to unravel in relation to Manus is, why there is almost a lack of Lapita in Manus when Lou and Pam are among the very few obsidian sources in the Pacific? The question is best left for the archaeologists to answer. Maybe with further investigations they may yet come up with information that will help our understanding of the Manus past.

Just for interest sake when Wal Ambrose was excavating near Baon village site he uncovered a small piece of bronze. This is part of the Baon or Sasi collection which has been carbon dated to 2090 years old. Ambrose has not made any comment on this find but the implications are absolutely mind-boggling. This bronze piece probably came from the Philippines via the Indonesian Archipelago and was either left by passing traders or was brought home by Manus traders via the New Guinea mainland coast.

When talking about the absence of Lapita Pottery on Manus Dr Wallace Ambrose says,

" ... the presence of only a few sherds of Lapital Pottery at Kohin Cave, Mouk and Baluan is not necessarily associated with any novel maritime technology at a local level. However, it does imply that long distance sailing technology was present in the region. If the Lapita pots were booty or trade items brought back by local groups from elsewhere, then the long distance sailing was within the ability of the local Manus groups" (104).

Basically the point Ambrose is advocating is that the small presence of Lapita Pottery in Manus must have come from somewhere. Either seafarers from other islands brought it to Manus or as he rightly said above long distance sailing was second nature to the Manus people in the past.

This is confirmed in the more recent past when in his book, Thirty Years in the South Seas, Richard Parkinson said,

" ... The vessels were laid up on the beach and protected from the sun, and their owners were easily distinguished from the Jacquinot people by the mode of their hair and their habits generally. They were as far a I could understand, from the Sugar Loaf Island Group" (295).

A little later in the same book Parkinson also says that, "they also make occasional visits to New Hanover and return home when suitable opportunity offers" (295).

Richard Parkinson made the visits to Jacquinot Island, which is in the Schouten Islands near Wewak, in 1897 and his book, Thirty Years in the South Seas, was first published in 1907.

In conclusion the archaeologists have found out the following points about the Manus past:

  1. The people of Manus have lived here for at least 20,900 years
  2. Manusians from the earliest times were a maritime people capable of making long distance sea voyages
  3. In the past the people living in Manus were trading between themselves as well as with others in the Bismarck Archipelago and the New Guinea mainland coast.
  4. That obsidian from Lou and Pam Islands were traded with groups in New Ireland and in East and West New Britain as well as others within the Island Melanesia region.

As archaeologists, linguists and pre-historians uncover more information about the Manus past, we will be better placed to understand the Manus people of today and in the future.

Yumi bin kisim klia pinis long stadi bilong archaeology olsem iwanpela rot ol saveman isave painim aut long bipo taim, taim we ino gat yet save bilong rit na rait. Olsem long ol arapela ples long ples graun, ol saveman o ol archaeologist ol tu ibin kam long Manus na mekim stadi long sampela hap bilong yumi.

Nau bai ol archeaologist ikisim yumi igo long Pamwak long Worei na stori long wonem ol ipainim long Worei we inarakain olgeta long ol planti hap long ples graun. Ol tu bai istori long kain luksave bilong ol long ol wokabaut long ol lain bipo namel long ol ples insait long Pasifik.

Ol save man tu bai itok wonem iluksave bilong ol long ol senis bilong kastam bilong bipo taim ol iskelim ol samting we ol ibin painim long bipo.

Ol saveman ikolim Pamwak olsem PLEISTOCENE SITE long wonem igat ol kainkain `materials' o ol samting we igivim planti stori long ol wonem ibin kamap long bipo taim. Samting olsem 10,000 igo pinis. Tok PLEISTOCENE imin hap taim bihain long 10,000 yia. Ol kain mak ol saveman ipainim long Pamwak igat krismas bilong ol we imoa long 10,000 yia igo pinis.

Pamwak 'rockshelter' nau isanap olsem 4 kilomita long nambis long south coast bilong Manus na samting olsem 100 mita long wei long Losa Riva. Long samting olsem 17,000 yia igo pinis ol save man ibilip olsem Pamwak site ibin 10 kilomita long wei long nambis na dispela ikamap bihainim heve bilong level bilong solwara long dispela taim na wonem ikamap nau.

Wonem iol bikpela luksave ikamaut long Pamwak?

Igat tripela:

Nambawan ol saveman ipainim olsem long sevenpela layer bilong graun ol idigim, wan wan long ol dispela layer igat luksave bilong en yet we inarakain long ol narapela.

Long nambawan layer , graun ibilak na igat ol sel, spia botol, ston bilong katim samting, o pot na ol bids bilong bilas. Ol dispela samting isoim yus bilong dispela hap olsem ples bilong karamap, samting olsem 2000 yia igo pinis. Long layer tu, igat ol sel bilong solwara na mangru, ston bilong kuk na spia botol. Krismas bilong ol dispela samting olsem namel long 5,500 yia na 7,000 yia. Layer namba tri iwan kain olsem layer two. Inogat yet `date' long en. Layer namba po graun ibraun, igat ol sel, spia botol na ston bilong katim ol samting. Ol saveman iputim date long ol dispela samting long layer four inap olsem 11,000 yia. Layer namba faiv igat graun we idak grei na braun wantaim ol spia botol. Igat tu mak bilong wall bilong ples bilong karamap. Layer six em graun ilait liklik long layer faiv. Ol 'material' bilong dispela layer iston tasol. Ol saveman iputim krismas bilong ol dispela samting namel long 12,000 na 14,000 yia. Layer seven em igat strongpela 'orange-brown' clay na i soim, tu wara aninit long graun. Inogat yet krismas long dispela layer. Taim ol saveman igo moa yet olsem 3.5 mita igo aninit long graun, ol ipainim sampela liklik hap 'charcoal' we igivim krismas samting olsem 20,900 yia. Dispela em inupela infomeisen we ino bin kamap bipo.

Tasol dispela ino min olsem dispela hap em iwinim ol narapela hap long Manus long krismas bilong en. Nogat. Nogut igat ol narapela hap we istap we krismas bilong ol imoa antap long Pamwak. Yumi wet tasol na putim yau long papainim bilong ol saveman.

Nambatu luksave long Pamwak em long ol animol, pisin na ol samting bilong bus long dispela hap eria. Ol dispela igat mak bilong ol igo inap long layer six. Stadi isoim olsem igat mak bilong momot na wanpela pikinini diwai ol ikolim 'canarium nut' na dispela ikamap long man yet ibringim igo long dispela hap. Ol ibilip dispela animal ikam long bikples Niugini.

Nambatri luksave long Pamwak em long ol kain kain 'artifacts' o tul bilong wok o pait. Pamwak ipulap long ol dispela samting. Igat tu luksave olsem sampela long ol dispela samting ikam long narapela ples. Dispela istrongim tu stori olsem Pamwak ibin ples we ol man long solwara isave yusim dispela hap long slip na hait long en.

Ol wei we ol ipasim ol tul na wonem ol kain tul ol save man ibin painim long stadi isoim tu olsem long bipo, ibin gat sampela kain rot long ol lain bipo ibin save mekim

long go hetim ol wok bilong lukautim ol yet olsem rausim ol bus long mekim gaden kaikai.

Em istori na luksave bilong dispela hap ples Pamwak long Worei. Long taim ol saveman iskelim Pamwak wantaim ol narapela Pleistocene `sites' long Island Melanesia, ol ston na ol arapela material long Pamwak iplanti moa long ol narapela hap.

Neks seksen bai ilukluk long nambatu hap stadi we ol saveman itok namel long ol Pleistocene site long Pasifik na South East Asia ibin gat wokabaut namel long ol dispela site long pasin bilong `trade' long ol kainkain samting.


Insait long nambawan hap toktok long stori bilong Pamwak mi bin mekim sampela toktok long luksave long ol saveman o Archaeologist olsem ibin gat man istap long Manus samting olsem 20, 900 yia igo pinis. Mi bin tok tu olsem ol saveman ibin painim mak bilong momot we ol i bilip ibin kam arasait long Manus.

Long nau bai ilukluk long olsem wonem na Manus igat ol kain mak bilong ol samting bilong narapela ples insait long graun bilong yumi.

Taim igat luksave olsem ol man ibin stap long Manus moa long 20,900 yia igo pinis, igat tu luksave olsem dispela isoim olsem imas gat longpela wokabaut namel ol ples insait long `region' na Manus moa yet long ol narapela hap long ples daun long bipo taim.

Ol saveman ibilip olsem long bipo taim I bin isi moa long wokabaut long bikples Niugini igo daun long Australia na Solomon Ailan. Dispela long wonem ol dispela ples istap klostu long wanpela narapela. Tasol long Manus, ples ilong wei tumas long ol narapela.

Ol saveman tu ibilip olsem taim igat mak bilong ol animol na ol narapela samting olsem momot, kapul na pikinini diwai we ikam long bikples Niugini; ol spia botol we ikam long Lou na Pam we igo kamap long planti hap long Island Melanesia Region na tu long Baon long Lou Ailan we ol saveman ibin painim wanpela liklik hap `bronze' we ol iting ikam long Philippines o Indonesia. Ol dispela samting istrongim bilip bilong ol saveman olsem ol pipol bilong Manus imas save mekim planti longpela wokabaut antap long solwara long `trade' long ol dispela samting long bipo taim. Dr Wallace Ambrose wanpela archaeologist itok ol kanu bilong Manus isave mekim planti ron igo long Niu Hanover na kam bek long Manus. Wonem ino klia iolsem; wantaim ol dispela wokabaut, wonem ol kain pasin ol lain bilong bipo isave bihainim long ron namel long solwara igo long bikpela Niugini na Niu Ailan taim ples ilong wei tumas. Nogut em iwanpela gutpela tingting long ol pikinini Manus yet long wok painim aut na kamapim sampela klia long dispela. Dispela stadi bai itokaut long wonem hap tru long Manus ol isave mekim ol kanu, kain stail bilong kanu, wonem ol `material' ol isave mekim sel long en na ol narapela samtimg olsem. Ol risal bilong dispela stadi bai ilidim yumi long luksave tru tru long karekta bilong ol pipol bilong yumi na kain save ol ibin gat long lukautim ol yet long moa long 20,000 yia igo pinis.

Long arapela seksen i kam bai ilukluk long nambatri hap long stori bilong Pamwak na rot we ol saveman ipainim we iluksave long ol senis ikamap long kain kastam bilong bipo na senis we iwok long kamap long nau.



Dispela em inambatri hap na laspela long stori bilong Pamwak. Insait long dispela seken, bai mi mekim sampela luksave long wonem ol wei we stori bilong Pamwak i helpim yumi long kisim klia long sampela long ol pasin we ol pipol bilong yumi long bipo taim ibin bihainim we i helpim strongim ol kain wok we nau iwok long kamap insait long Manus tete.

Ples Manus ibin gat man isindaun antap long en moa long 20, 000 yia igo pinis. Ol pipol bilong yumi, long bipo ino bin drip ikam long Manus. Ol ibin stap. Ol wait man ikam bihain. Pamwak igivim tu luksave olsem ol pipol bilong Manus, long bipo taim, ol iman bilong solwara. Ol tu isave mekim planti ron namel long bikples Niugini na Bismarck sea long trade long ol kainkain samting. Long histori, ol dispela wokabaut namel long ol ples ikamapim luksave olsem inogat arapela `evidence' long ol narapela ples we kain wokabaut olsem ibin save kamap long bipo taim. Ol save man ibilip Manus tasol ibin gat dispela kain wokabaut namel long ol ples insait long Bismarck Sea na Island Melanesia Region. Pamwak igivim luksave tu long ol kainkain save long ol pipol bilong bipo taim long wei we ol ikamapim ol tuls bilong wok na bilong pait.

Wonem igutpela bilong ol dispela kain save bilong ol lain bilong taim long ol lain bilong nau. Mi bilip igat planti. Sampela bilong ol dispela:

Klostu olgeta lain long nambis na long ailan long Manus i wok long yusim solwara olsem rot bilong gutpela sindaun long ol. Solwara igat planti abus long rip, long manguru na long dip solwara. Dispela laikim long ol samting bilong wokim bikpela kanu, ol sel, sapim pul na ol arapela samting istap yet long sampela hap bilong yumi especially long ailan. Mi save igat tu save istap long wonem igutpela taim long ron antap long solwara, wonem sta na mun itok long rot long bihainim long sel, long abus iplanti long wonem hap long solwara na wonem taim bai igat win na wonem taim bai igat klia wara.

Igat tu save long wokim spia botol long pait, wokim paia long diwai, na ol kain wei bilong banisim abus long bus na long solwara. Tete yus bilong garamut iwok long go daun tasol igat yet save bilong paitim na harim save long garamut bilong man idai, bilong baim meri, bilong pait ilaik kamap, bilong salim buai na bilong ol arapela wok.

Ol dispela samting ibihainim save bilong ol lain bilong yumi long bipo taim we long dispela taim igat yet yus bilong ol long wanwan dei insait long laip bilong ol pipol bilong Manus tete.

Long Sasi long Lou Ailan, samting olsem 5 mita igo daun long graun we solwara nau iwok long rausim, igat mak bilong ol spia botol, ston akis, sospen, ol animol, ol pig, torosel, fis na ol sel bilong solwara, tit bilong man, ples bilong kukim kaikai na ples bilong mekim ol tuls bilong wok na pait isoim klia olsem long dispela hap aninit long 5 mita long graun, ibin gat village o ples bilong bung long ol lain long dispela hap.

Dispela luksave iwankain long stori bilong Pamwak long Worei na nogut long ol narapela hap long Manus. Stori bilong Pamwak na long narapela hap long Lou, Pam na Mouk na tu long Wes Kos bilong Manus itokim yumi olsem yumi Manus yumi bilong as ples stret. Yumi no drip ikam. Ol waitman ino painim yumi. Yumi bin stap bipo yet. Yumi gat kalsa na kastam we ibilong ol tumbuna, bilong yumi na ikam daun long yumi bilong tete. Igat tok istap olsem ples we inogat kalsa ino gat neim. Na ples we igat kalsa na kastam, igat namba. Yu na mi ikam long ples we igat namba, em Manus - ples bilong yumi.

Lapita Pottery:   the Mouk connection
Bernard Minol, University of Papua New Guinea UPNG

As has been mentioned previously, in the late 1980's several archaeologists came to Manus as part of the Lapita Homeland Project. The idea behind this project was to help scientists or archaeologists determine how long man has been in the Bismarck and Island Melanesia. Scientists know that the Lapita period in the island Melanesia was 3500 years ago. So if they could find Lapita pottery in Manus, they would automatically know two things, that Manus was part of the Lapita trade network and secondly that people have been on Manus for at least that long or longer. The team concentrated their research on Lou and the other Balopa Islands of Pam, Baluan and Mouk. The Balopa District was an ideal starting point for archaeological investigations given the fact that wherever Lapita pottery has been found, there has always been found with it obsidian from Lou. As suggested earlier the implication is that the Manusians of time past traded with communities within Manus as well as others in the Bismarck and perhaps beyond.

However, the Lapita Homeland Team was disappointed in that even in Lou, the main source of obsidian from Manus, there was an absence of great quantity of Lapita pottery. Archaeologists are now trying to explain this absence of Lapita on Lou and the surrounding district. The most logical explanation archaeologists have suggested so far is that Lou is in a volcanically active belt of Manus Province. The oldest findings in Lou go back as far as 2100 BP. The last volcanic eruption in the area was in 1954 from which the newest island near Lou called Tuluman came into existence.

The archaeologists however, did find traces of Lapita pottery in three sites on Manus. Two of the sites are in the Balopa Islands namely the Mouk Cemetery on Mouk Island and Paemasa on Baluan Island. These are very important discoveries because they give us a good indication that people have been living or had passed through the area some 3400 years ago. Because of its location Mouk is strategically important not just for Lapita but for trade generally.

For those who do not know where Mouk Island is they should pick up a map of Manus, look at the southeastern end of mainland Manus and find a group of islands now popularly known as the Balopa group of islands. After Lou, Baluan and Pam the next biggest in size would be Mouk. Mouk Island is approximately 30 kilometres from the mainland of Manus.

The Mouk Connection is important not just for the Lapita discovery there, it is also important because according to oral history and language studies the people living on Mouk now are different to those living in the other islands of the Balopa Group. It is well known to people in Manus that the Mouk people moved there in very recent times. For a long time they lived in houses built over the reefs and traded with people on Baluan, Pam, Lou, Rambutso as well as the mainland.

Mouk Island is essentially a steep sided cone reaching to about 70 metres in height on the north east tip of Baluan Island and is currently used mainly as a cemetery. It is only about 600 metres by 300 metres with cliffs limiting access to the island. It looks very much like a man- made fort for the defence of the northern end of Baluan.

The Mouk people were essentially a community who specialised in fishing and relied on trade and exchange networks (33) for survival. And as has been referred to so often they usually build their villages on stilts over the water. On first arrival they camped on the reef adjacent to Baluan and its offshore atolls. Eventually they settled off the island of Mouk. As fishermen they exchanged their fish for food items like yam from Baluan, sago and taro from the mainland and other islands.

One story is that before the Lomots from Pere settled on the island and renamed it Mouk, the original dwellers of the island were called the Maput people. The people of Baluan, Pam and Lou used to call the island Maput after the name of the people who lived there. However, the Maput community disappeared. Whether this happened gradually over a period of time or a sudden departure nobody seems to know. Who were the Maputs? Did they have a language? Did these people move on to other islands? Have they been assimilated into the Baluan community? Were they of the same stock as the people of Baluan, Lou and Pam? Have they been decimated by hostile groups like the Mwenisiai? Mwenisiai is a Balopa term, which refers to people from the mainland.

The second story among the people of the area is that Maput is a Baluan term for the Titans. What follows comes from different sources, which basically supports the former premise or position.

According to current information it is believed that the Lomots and the Machapal settled on the islands of Maput (Mouk) and Tokumal in the second half of the nineteenth century. And as has been hinted already the Baluan people allowed the Lomots to settle on the two adjacent islands for security reasons. The Lomots settled on Maput but the settlement was a typical Titan settlement over the sea. This was the way they stayed until forced to move on land in 1948 as part of the Nupela Pasin of the Paliau Movement.

While on this, it should be mentioned that the oral stories among the people of Manus is that the Titan people were refugees from the Kasta Reef settlement. According to what can be put together from oral stories when the Kasta Reef sank, the majority of the survivors moved out and settled at Pere. From Pere they then started settlements in other parts of the south coast of Manus.

Some descendants of the Lomots on Mouk have a slightly different story to the version above. According to their version when the Kasta Reef sank the people escaped any old how, by any means possible. The fortunate ones escaped in canoes but others collected bamboos, made bamboo rafts and drifted away. Some of those were eventually washed up on the reefs off the shoreline of Baluan and began a small community. However when their relatives at Pere heard about them, they asked them to join the other Lomot clan at Pere. This eventually happened.

Some time later a difference arose among the Lomots in Pere. This rift finally forced those who had been in Mouk to pack up again and return there.

From information that can be put together the submersion of Kasta Reef was likely caused by a volcanic eruption. According to calculations done by Wes Rooney this calamity (volcanic eruption) must have occurred round about 1850. It seems as if a volcanic eruption had taken place and that the whole island had been effected. People still talk about "taim nogut bilong bipo" of darkness, big winds, `nunuu' or earthquake and the whole countryside, denuded of trees. When Manusians became converted to Christianity they interpreted and related this calamity to the Biblical story of the death of Jesus on Calvary.

From the colonial period, a report published around 1912 described the island of Mouk as being uninhabited and that the village built on piles was located off Takuman (33). This may be related to the killing of a planter on Kumuli island in 1899. As a result of this killing a German punitive raid was targeted on the Titan community of Mouk and certain parts of Baluan.

Mouk is the third site in Manus to have yielded some Lapita Pottery as reported by Kennedy in 1981. The find is very small, a total of 7 sherds of Lapita pottery and adds little to our understanding of the Lapita trade. But it poses two posibilities, one is that those who brought the sherds to the island were champion sailors and secondly that the inhabitants of the island were themselves long distance sailors who brought the sherds from faraway places.

Archaeologists tend to support the latter suggestion that the Manus islanders used to travel to Mussau and even New Hanover, some 240 kilometres away as well as the New Guinea mainland coast. Furthermore in the article, Obsidian And Its Prehistoric Distribution in Melanesia, Ambrose says,

The ethnographic record shows the Manus tru as having a sailing route with a span of over 600 kilometres (359)

The Lou obsidian has been found together with Lapita pottery in other parts of Island Melanesia dating back to at least 3500 years ago, but the oldest site in Lou can only go back 2800 years. From the Lapita Pottery at Kohin, which has been dated at 3860 years, and Mouk at 3400 we can say that people have been living here between 3000 and 4000 years ago.

Evidently more archaeological studies should be carried out not only in the Balopa group but extended to other parts of Manus. Whether Manus was part of the Lapita pottery network or not is not important. The important thing is that the people of the Admiralties have lived there for thousands and thousands of years, and that they were expert seafarers. Although at the moment there is no evidence of substantial Lapita pottery, Lou obsidian found in Island Melanesia is enough proof that our ancestors were trading with others in the Bismarck Archipelago and beyond.

Finally although there was limited Lapita Pottery sherds found in the Mouk Cemetery excavation, it is a very important window for us to get a glimpse into the Manus past. First it means that trade between Manus and other places existed many thousand of years ago. Secondly it means that any evidence of habitation of Maput or Mouk Island before the last century must belong to a different group of people. Thirdly, culturally and linguistically the current inhabitants of Mouk Island are different from the people in the rest of the Balopa group. Fourthly, there seems to have been peace and harmony between the islanders until the Mwenisiai came into the scene.

The past history of Mouk Island shows that the current inhabitants have only been living there in the last 140 - 150 years. From some sources the original inhabitants of the island were called the Maput people and thus the name Maput. The Lapita Pottery found on the island implies that those who were living on the island before the Lomots and the Machapal were trading with others outside of Manus. Secondly we know that the Lomots started the settlement on the reef off Mouk and Baluan islands after the Kasta Reef went down about 1840 - 1850. Thirdly and perhaps most importantly, and in keeping with the character of people all over Manus, the Titans and the Baluan people have coexisted peacefully for the last 140 - 150 years.

The Mouk Connection also leaves with us a simple message that the Titans of Mouk island, who are expert seamen, provided a vital link between the people from the mainland, the Balopa islands and places like Rambutso and other outlying islands.

LOU:  the obsidian island
Bernard Minol, University of Papua New Guinea

To the people of Manus, Lou is an island and it is situated next to Baluan and the two Pam Islands. Topographically Lou is mountainous and rugged but at the same time its coastline is vulnerable to the angry sea, as there are no reefs surrounding it like its neighbouring Baluan Island.

Lou has four big villages namely Rei and Lako on the eastern end, Solang to the north facing the mainland and Baon (Paon) to the south towards the Baluan end of the island. Stories have it that in the past these villages were separate independent entitities.

Perhaps for many Manusians Lou is simply a long, thin island lying peacefully and gracefully between the south - east coast of the mainland and the horizon. The closest place on the mainland to Lou is the M'Bunai point. It is less than thirty kilometres from the mainland and with a 40 horse powered banana boat it is less than an hour from the Loniu Passage. However from long ago people from all over Manus knew of Lou because of its "pailou", "peilou", "paiyou" or the spia botol.

To the students of archaeology, particularly the students of Pacific Archaeology, the name Lou is famous. It is famous because of its pailou, volcanic glass or obsidian. As it will be shown in this programme, the Lou obsidian is found throughout the Bismarck and beyond.

Archaeological investigations have shown that Lou has been an island that has experienced more volcanic activity than other places in Manus. In 1954 the last eruption took place in the waters just off the western end of Lou. Tuluman Island is the reminder of this submarine volcano. There were no casualties but for months afterwards the coastline of the southern side of Manus was covered in pumice.

Because of the volcanic activity the soil is fertile supporting crops like taro, yams, banana and a host of other vegetables. However, in recent years the sea is gradually and almost systematically eating away much of the island. Some people are already saying that soon there may be more than one Lou. There may be as many as three Lou islands. Apparently it is hard to contain the movements of the waves because

Lou does not have reef protecting it from the waves like Baluan. I understand that the people are quite concerned about what the sea is doing to the island but there is little they can do.


The Lou obsidian is known throughout Manus, the islands in the Bismarck Archipelago, islands off the Sepik Provinces and many other parts of Island Melanesia. It is interesting that wherever lapita pottery is found, Lou obsidian is also present. Obsidian is formed when very hot lava from the volcano cools down very fast. The result is a dark glassy substance. All parts of the Manus mainland have flakes of this dark glass everywhere especially on sites of old homesteads. In Tok Pisin the modern Manus refer to obsidian as "spia botol" because that used to be the most common use for the obsidian in the past.

But no doubt in the days when people were living in places like Kohin Cave, Pamwak, Pelii Loson, obsidian was also used as a cutting instrument in the garden, for cutting meat, preparing food near the fireplace, etc. This is why pottery and obsidian are always found together when archaeologists excavate a site. It is also interesting to note at this point that when archaeologists arrive at a location they will make a quick reconnaissance. Often they will excavate where they think the rubbish dump would have been located.


Lou has an important place in Pacific Archaeology because of its obsidian. Lou also gained prominence in the 1930s when it became one of the main centres for the SDA evangelisation work in the New Guinea Islands Region. Through the Pisik School in Lou many SDA church workers from Manus, Mussau and other places passed out into the missionary field. Pisik -trained pastors were among those who opened up mission work in the Highlands Region. These are great missionary pastors and teachers like the well known Pastor Palaso. Those who remember the Manus Shows during the 1950s and 60s will also remember well the SDA choirs from Pisik School. Often the choirs from Lou used to win in every section of the competition.

In other words from the 1930s onwards Lou was the main centre for the SDA Church in Manus. Many prominent SDAs particularly men and women who are forty years and over would have passed through Pisik. Pisik was an important centre for education in the past and many ex-students would look back to it as a place that made them who they are today. May be one day Pisik could be resurrected to its former prominence as a centre for education.


Lou has a number of sites that have been excavated by archaeologists. I would like to briefly talk about the four sites that have given information about how people lived over 1000 years ago.

When the archaeologists excavated in the Pisik school ground, the site was on an elevated ridge about 200 meters from the shore and about another 500 meters from the Emsin workshop site that I will mention later. They found that the tephra or volcanic dust was from the Rei volcano. Also interesitng was the discovery of the pre-eruption ground surface and how the volcano had flattened it.

When they dug further they were rewarded with other very interesting finds. First they found several postholes. One of the posthole still had charcoal on it. There were quite a lot of pottery fragments there. Most of the pottery was decorated, rough or coarse surface and used mainly for cooking. They also found a lot of obsidian flakes, which were used as tools and weapons. Actually they found a living area with pots resting with mouths down at the time of the eruption.

Comparing the pottery found at Pisik and those of the other three sites, the Pisik pots were coarse, had rolled rims and elaborate shell impressed designs on the rim and inner and outer surfaces of the neck. In addition the Pisik pots had incised lines and notching on the rim. It is definitely quite different from pots found at Sasi, Emsin and Umleang.

However the most known find from the excavation at Pisik were the three cauldron size, open mouth pots uncovered after the base of the largest vessel was seen sticking out from the wash out storm water drainage near the girl's dormitory.

Archaeologists have studied and analysed the materials from Pisik and have confirmed that they are 1650 BP. From this we can imply that there was a village or hamlet under what is now Pisik school 1600 years ago. We can slso say they had fire, were using clay pots for cooking and had obsidian tools. In addition the pots they used were slightly different in decoration and design.

The Emsin site is on the north side of Rei village. The site is distinguished by a concentration of obsidian points and plain pottery. Emsin soil consists of the Rei tephra and is therefore highly porous. Therefore there is much weathering. Actually much of Lou is still covered by the Rei ash from the volcanic eruption that took place in 1650 BP.

The presence of so much broken points, half points and wide range of flakes of the obsidian, pailou or paiyou as they say in the Nali language suggests that Emsin was also a workshop site.

Also found in the Emsin site was the everted rim forms and double spouted pottery vessels. Actually the double spouted vessels were found intact. According to Archaeologist Jean Kennedy the double spouted pot was very similar to those found in Borneo and the water containers from Ahus Island.

The archaeological site at Sasi near Baon village is buried beneath 5m of tephra or Volcanic dust. When the archaeologists excavated the site they found a lot of material remains. These included turtle bones, pig bones, human bones, shells and fish bones. Like Emsin, the Sasi was a workshop area. There were hundreds of obsidian blades and points and thousands of flakes. Archaeologists also found post holes of houses on the site.

There were two kinds of pottery found on the site. The first one was light coloured and undecorated on the surface and the other was of a darker colour and a kind of discoloured surface.

In addition to the above and as has been mentioned before, a small bronze piece was also found on the Sasi site. This has been dated to 2090 BP plus or minus 60 years.

Umleang is on a ridge about 1 kilometer from the village of Rei. Archaeologists Allen, Ambrose and Kennedy have found that there are at least 24 deep mine shafts there scattered over about 7 hectares. In one of shafts excavated, they found a stratified deposit of obsidian waste. A radiocarbon date of 220 BP was obtained suggesting that this was a very recent development. It probably began before European contact. Information from the Umleang site has provided quite a lot for archaeologists but their final comment is that much work has to be done on the site.

The obsidian from Lou is a clear demonstration that there was a thriving trade network among the people of the Admiralties. The question is, how did the obsidian come from Lou to the Mainland and other islands in the group? Probably the Lous brought the obsidian to the mainland in exchange for food, sago leaf, tree trunks for canoes etc. May be it was the seafarers and middlemen from the Titan group who brought the obsidian to the other parts of Manus. The important thing for us to know is that there were trading links between the different groups in Manus going back at least 20,900 years ago.

The Lou obsidian has provided a very important clue that in the past Manusians were trading with people beyond the horizon. For the Manusians the sea has always been a highway. They were seafarers who went where the sea took them. The Manusians did not speak of horizons, they only spoke of places faraway, underneath, mbulun or dralon

Bernard Minol, University of Papua New Guinea & Radio Manus & Simeon M Malai, Provincial Administrator
Copyright © 1999 - 2000

About Copyright

Materials on this web site are the Copyright © of SPCenCIID and contributors. Permission to make a single copy of all or part of this material is granted provided the copies are not made or distributed for commercial advantage. Copies should include this copright statement and a statement that that permission for limited copying has been granted by the copyright owners.

To disseminate otherwise or republish, requries written permission. Contact: John Evans, SPCenCIID, Box 320, University P.O., Papua New Guinea.

Note - While efforts are made to ensure accuracy this publication could include errors or inaccuracies and no responsibility is taken for the consequences of its use. Information will be updated on a regular basis and content can be expected to vary considerably over time.

About BUAI

(BUAI - stands for Books Useful Articles & Information)
BUAI seeks to provide a virtual home for a growing collection of research level electronic material on and from Papua New Guinea.

Pan Asia Networking BUAI is sponsored under the IDRC's PAN initiative ( www.idrc.org.sg and www.PanAsia.org.sg International Development Research Centre, Southeast and East Asia Region.
Project information
Papua New Guinea Internet Content Project
John Evans
SPCenCIID (South Pacific Centre for Communications and Information In Development)

Prototype Site
Design Team

pngbuai.com home page