Writing(pre)history: Narrative and archaeological explanation in the New Guinea Highlands

Chris Ballard*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    10 Citations (Scopus)


    The role of narrative in explanation has received considerable attention in most of the disciplines concerned with questions of historical process, including history, geology, psychoanalysis and palaeo-anthropology. Archaeologists, however, have been curiously reluctant to consider the proposition that their reconstructions of the past are fundamentally narrative in character. An argument is put forward for the serious study of narrative in archaeology, and three case studies from the prehistory of the New Guinea Highlands are presented in support: a brief review of the debate over the impact of sweet potato on Highland society; an analysis of the changing interpretations of the Kuk Swamp agricultural site by Jack Golson; and a summary of the role of indigenous narratives in accounting for the history of wetland drainage amongst Huli speakers in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)135-148
    Number of pages14
    JournalArchaeology in Oceania
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2003


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