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UPNG student discovers Lapita pottery in the Pomio District


Lapita pottery from Kiton River, Jacquinot Bay (Matthew Leavesley)

A RECENT REPORT of a new Lapita archaeological site in the Pomio District of East New Britain has triggered a great deal of interest in the Papua New Guinea and Pacific archaeology community.

The site was discovered by University of PNG history student Andrew Sarar and his father Patrick and is located on the shores of the Jacquinot Bay at the mouth of the Kiton River. Ironically the site has been known by the locals for years and is regularly used by them for their daily chores.

Lapita pottery is the archaeological marker of a great migration of people into the New Guinea Islands region. These people arrived in the Bismarck Archipelago about 3,300 years ago and, after a short period of time, integrated with the pre-existing hunter-gatherer populations who had been in the region for around 40,000 years.  Today, everyone from the New Guinea islands can trace their ancestry to the early hunter-gatherers and the Lapita migrants.

Archaeologists date the pottery by comparing the decoration on the Kiton River site pot sherds with the decorations found on ancient pot sherds from other sites in the Bismarck Archipelago.  The Kiton designs are broadly comparable to pottery found at Watom and Anir to the north as well as Kreslo and the Arawe Islands to the west.

Analysis at the UPNG archaeology laboratories determined that the earliest pot fragments from the Kiton site are part of the Lapita corpus.

In addition to pottery, the Lapita people brought with them and introduced pigs, dogs, chickens and gardening to the New Guinea Islands region for the first time in history.

This new find is very important to PNG archaeology because it is the first Lapita site found on the mainland of east New Britain and therefore adds another piece to the puzzle and helps us to learn more about PNG history.

The announcement was made in a new volume of the University of Otago Studies in Archaeology series co-edited by Prof Glenn Summerhayes who is a global leader in PNG Lapita archaeology.

“This fills in a major gap in our knowledge of Lapita distribution in the western Pacific,” Prof Summerhayes said.

Dr Matthew Leavesley was formerly a senior lecturer in archaeology at UPNG and is now based at James Cook University in Cairns. If anyone happens to come across Lapita pottery, or any pottery with decorations, please feel free to contact Matthew via email at James Cook University


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Mrs Barbara Short

Great news. Congratulations to Andrew Sarar and his father.
I saw a good collection of the pottery in the museum in Noumea many years ago.
I hope the government is looking after the PNG National Museum.

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