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Relationships between String Bag Craft Distributions, Language and Geographical Distance in the Upper Sepik and Border Mountains of Papua New Guinea

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This paper describes analyses involving patterned string bags collected in the upper Sepik in Papua New Guinea. The Mantel test and correspondence analysis were used to explore whether variability in craft repertoires exhibits any covariance with the region's complex linguistic picture, and if so, whether this relationship is more significant than any spatial autocorrelation the data may exhibit. Bag construction techniques exhibited strong spatial autocorrelation, while for colour patterns the effect was weaker. An effect for language remained for both dependents after statistical control, but colour pattern characteristics had a slightly stronger association with language overall. The weaker spatial autocorrelation for colour pattern variability is argued to be due to higher rates of dissemination facilitated by the visibility of the patterns and their compatibility with a broad range of construction techniques. The effect for language, on the other hand, is argued to have resulted from of a higher rate of inter-settlement migration along a particular stretch of the Sepik where people speak the same language.
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Keywords: Culture; Sepik; diffusion; geographical distance; language; migration; string bags

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Adelaide, Australia 2: Handspinners and Weavers Guild of South Australia, Australia

Publication date: April 3, 2015

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