Prof Summerhayes described the multidisciplinary nature archeology, which draws on chemistry, physics, botany, anatomy, DNA analysis and many others.
His own area of study is Papua New Guinea (PNG), the eastern half of the island of New Guinea, and he gave us a fascinating outline of this country of 10 million people with their widely different 900 languages. He noted that what united them into a country was the heritage of the country, informed by archeology, quoting the example of the discovery that agriculture existed on the island 10,000 years ago. Papua New Guineans are rightly proud of this, and also the fact that people spreading out from PNG populated the Pacific region, including Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand.
Prof Summerhayes also commented on his problem with the movie “Indiana Jones” - not the film itself, which he enjoyed - but the impossibility of wearing his favourite sun protection hat in the field thereafter, as it was so similar to the one worn by Indiana Jones in the movie. He noted the excellence of female archeology students, while regretting that scarcely any applied for academic posts.
In the question session, one student created a few chuckles when he asked if Prof Summerhayes would inform us on dating techniques. Prof Summerhayes contributed with his customary informed enthusiasm, noting that accelerator mass spectroscopy has greatly increased the accuracy of dating, given the right archeological sample in the right hands.
Posted: Wednesday September 21, 2016