Sediment cores were retrieved from Lake Kutubu, the largest upland lake in Papua New Guinea, to assess palaeoenvironmental baselines. Two prominent tephra layers were encountered within the cores. Using a combination of core stratigraphy, sediment properties and geochemical characterization (electron microprobe and laser ablation inductively coupled-plasma mass spectrometry techniques) we were able to correlate these tephras with Tibito and Olgaboli tephras, both previously described at adjacent distal localities. Glass shard compositional data of Tibito tephra from Lake Kutubu, Kuk swamp and from proximal volcaniclastic successions from Long Island are indistinguishable and this similarity strongly supports Long Island as the eruptive source. For Olgaboli tephra, the location of its eruptive source is less certain but the glass shard compositional data indicate a Karkar Island source. The occurrence of Tibito and Olgaboli tephras in Lake Kubutu sediments extends their known distributions further south-west into the southern Highlands region and affirms their importance as inter-regional stratigraphic markers, of late Holocene age, that have considerable potential for use in future palaeoenvironmental, archaeological and volcanic hazard and/or impact studies. Copyright © 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Copyright © 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.