Sterling Robbins Papers

Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego Library
Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
Copyright 2022
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla 92093-0175

Descriptive Summary

Contributing Institution: Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla 92093-0175
Title: Sterling Robbins Papers
Creator: Robbins, Sterling
Identifier/Call Number: MSS 0767
Physical Description: 6 Linear feet (13 archives boxes and one shoebox)
Date (inclusive): 1962-1965
Abstract: The Sterling Robbins papers contain his research and observations of the indigenous Auyana people in the eastern highlands of Papua New Guinea between 1963 and 1965.
Languages: English .

Scope and Content of Collection

The Sterling Robbins papers contain his research and observations of the indigenous Auyana people in the eastern highlands of Papua New Guinea between 1963 and 1965. His work there was part of the Micro-Evolution Project led by Professor James B. Watson at the University of Washington, and focused on documenting social movements and social structure of highland societies.
The collection includes handwritten field note journals with observations about Auyana valley villages and their inhabitants from approximately September 1963 to September 1965. Robbins created an extensive set of vocabulary cards with Awiyaana to English translations, and conducted a variety of interviews and psychological and cognitive tests.
The collection also includes a sizable audio-visual component with approximately 70 reel-to-reel tapes with recordings of songs, rituals, and autobiographies. Also included are several dozen 35mm film slides and photo prints with scenes of marriages, funerals, surgery, religion, cultural events, landscapes and portraits.
Arranged in three series: 1) LANGUAGE, 2) RESEARCH, and 3) AUDIOVISUAL MATERIALS.


Sterling G. Robbins was born in Dodge City, Kansas in 1936. Robbins attended the University of Washington for his graduate studies, earning a Ph.D. in Anthropology in 1970. His dissertation, "Warfare, marriage, and the distribution of goods in Auyana" met mixed reviews in the anthropology community and was later revised, expanded and published as Auyana: Those who Held onto Home (1982). After he earned his Ph.D. Robbins was associated with the University of California, Los Angeles in the early 1970s and after some time became associated with the University of Hawaii.

Preferred Citation

Sterling Robbins Papers. MSS 767. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.

Acquisition Information

Acquired 2014

Publication Rights

Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.


Original audiovisual formats are restricted. Listening copies may be available for researchers.

Subjects and Indexing Terms

Anthropologists -- United States -- Archives
Anthropology -- Melanesia
Anthropology -- Papua New Guinea
Auyana (Papua New Guinea people)
Robbins, Sterling -- Archives



Box 1, Folder 1

Awiyaana language cards

Box 1, Folder 2-4

Awiyaana vocabulary cards

Box 1, Folder 5-8

Translation book - Myths; tales about going to coast; some on initiation and curing




Field Notes

Box 2, Folder 1-3

AsG (Asuwair gardens) - Notebooks 1-3

General note

Notes are predominately about crops, gardens, and livestock, possibly in Asuwair.
Box 2, Folder 4-7

AG (Auyana gardens) - Notebooks 1-4

Box 2, Folder 8-9

AQ (Auyana questions) - Notebooks 1-2

Box 2, Folder 10-15

AT (Auyana themes) - Key, and books 1-5

General note

Notes documenting a series of question and answer interviews; mostly in Awiyaana.
Box 2, Folder 16

Daily activities

Box 2, Folder 17

Kawaina field notes

Box 3, Folder 1-8

Field notes (by month) - Notebooks 1-8 1963 February-December

General note

Notes labeled "B1" through "B8."
Box 4, Folder 1-11

Field notes (daily) - Notebooks 1-11 1963 September-December

Box 5, Folder 1-9

Field notes (daily) - Notebooks 12-20 1963 December-1964 March

Box 6, Folder 1-10

Field notes (daily) - Notebooks 21-30 1964 March-June

Box 7, Folder 1-12

Field notes (daily) - Notebooks 31-42 1964 May-August

Box 8, Folder 1-5

Field notes (daily) - Notebooks 43-47 1964 August-September

Box 8, Folder 6

"M" notes (maps)

Box 8, Folder 7

Population through time

Box 8, Folder 8

"TB" notes

General note

TB abbreviation unidentified
Box 8, Folder 9

"Te" notes

General note

Te abbreviation unidentified.

Surveys, Interviews and Tests

Box 11, Folder 4

Origin myth of the Auyana - English transcription from recording with Anu 1969 December 9

Box 11, Folder 5

Autobiography of Anu - Awiyaana transcription 1965

Box 11, Folder 6

Tests - Tracking document

Box 11, Folder 7

Village maps

Box 8, Folder 10

Diet and animals

Box 8, Folder 11

Animal ownership inventory cards

Box 8, Folder 12

Survey responses regarding presence of white people ("white questionnaire")

Box 8, Folder 13

Drawing practice: house, self, tree

Box 11, Folder 8

Drawings of self and family

Box 9, Folder 1-2

"Conscience test" interviews

Box 9, Folder 3

"TAT tape" interviews in Awiyaana 1965

Box 9, Folder 4-6

Goldstein-Scheerer Cube test

Box 10, Folder 1

"Helpers" interviews

Box 10, Folder 2

Dog/cat identification test

Box 10, Folder 3

CEFT (embedded figures test)

Box 10, Folder 4

Block changing test

Box 10, Folder 5

Pillbox test

Box 10, Folder 6-7

Blacky Pictures test 1965 November-December

Box 10, Folder 8

Ethnocentrism questionnaire





Box 11, Folder 1

Photographic prints - Portraits/events/Lutherans at Waipina, includes valley and landscape

Box 11, Folder 2

Photographic prints - Daily life/scenery/inter-group interactions/men's initiation

Box 11, Folder 3

Slides 1963; 1965

General note

Includes scenes of marriage, death, burials, surgery, religion, cultural events, landscapes, and people. Named places include Anokampa (Anokafa), Poznampa, Hagan Valley, Okapa, Okasa, Markam Valley, Tairora, Garoka Airstrip, etc.


Box 12, Folder 1-3

Sound recording - Anu's story 1965

Box 12, Folder 4

Sound recording - Songs and singing undated

Box 12, Folder 5-6

Super8 films - no label or identification undated

Box 13

Assorted small reel-to-reel recordings, in rough number sequence, with notes 1962, 1965

General note

Topics inscribed in brief notes on some containers. Includes songs and singing, myth telling, Kawaina funeral, initiations, and more.
Box 13

Sound recording - Tanmwe's autobiography tapes 1-8 1965

Box 13

Sound recording - "Offenses" tapes 1-3 1965

Box 14

Unidentified reel-to-reel recordings undated