Prehistoric Lapita Pottery in the Pacific


Ornate hand-drawn patterns of the face motif on Lapita pottery, unearthed on the Solomon Islands
Based on archeological evidence, the Lapita Culture Complex spread over an extensive area of islands, stretching through the Bismarck Archipelago of Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, the Vanuatu Islands, New Caledonia, and eastward to Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa, between 3,600 to 2,500 years ago. Artifacts found in the area include dentate-stamped pottery, stone and shell tools, shell decorations, and items used for trade. Archaeologists believe the economy of the Lapita was primarily marine-based, though agriculture could have also played an important role. 
Lapita pottery was mostly made of local clay tempered with calcium-rich sand, mud, and shredded seashells. This mixture would be attached to thin clay slabs and then shaped by sticks and stones to form the vessel wall. Before the clay was completely dry and hardened over an open fire, the clay would be stamped, etched, or decorated with raised patterns. Archeologists generally believe that Lapita pottery pieces were brought from islands in Southeast Asia, where cultures of the Austronesian language family had been producing pottery for a long time. Indeed, existing archeological data suggests that although human beings have been living on the Bismarck Archipelago of Papua New Guinea and the northern region of the Solomon Islands for more than 10,000 years, no pottery has been unearthed in any archeological site in the region dating back to earlier than 3,500 years ago. Additionally, the production method and decorations of Lapita pottery are similar to those of traditional pottery on Southeast Asian islands at the time. However, the earliest Lapita pottery pieces have ornate face motifs that are of little practical value and are distinct from prevalent decorative patterns of the same period on the islands. Therefore, archeologists believe that Lapita pottery is the embodiment of cultural exchange at that time. Over the following centuries, the Lapita Cultural Complex spread to inhabited places such as the southern region of the Solomon Islands, the Vanuatu Islands, New Caledonia, Fiji, Tonga, and the Samoan Islands. Such movement is testament to the expansion of the Austronesian language family, and set the foundation for future material culture in Oceania.  
Items of the Collection: Prehistoric Lapita Pottery in the Pacific 
Subject and Keywords: Lapita 
Description: Shard_Decoration_Technique
Date Identifier: Shard_Decoration_Technique: Fine Dentate Stamping
Subject and Keywords:Lapita
Description: Shard_Decoration_Technique: Fine Dentate Stamping
Date Identifier: