For the renewed interest in fat patterning to be fruitful, more information on the biology of fat patterning, particularly normative data are required. Nine skinfold thicknesses were measured in 2312 coastal and highland Papua New Guineans of all ages undergoing acculturation. Principal component analysis of the skinfold data revealed components of fatness and fat patterning. First component scores were typical of the changes in fatness with age and the sex differences expected in these populations. Second component scores of limb-trunk fat patterning showed marked changes with age in both sexes but they stabilised in adulthood. This pattern seemed more affected by maturity although it is usually thought to be a sex-specific pattern. The third component, upper-lower body patterning, was more sexually dimorphic in adults. Marked differences were not observed between the two communities but over a 15-year period fatness levels increased slightly and subcutaneous fat tended to be deposited more centrally.