Summary

A collection of pottery sherds originating at the small island of Vuatom (Watom) in Papua New Guinea's (PNG's) Bismarck Archipelago. The original object register of the National Museum of Victoria (now known as Museums Victoria) records that the sherds were 'dug up ... found at about a depth of 4 feet, about 50 yards from the high water, on one of the very few level patches of Watom'.

The sherds are ornately decorated with motifs created by impressing a comb-like tool or shell, and by making incisions into the vessel surface before firing.

Archaeologists use the term 'Lapita' to refer to this style of pottery, made by First Peoples who were expert seafarers. Similar pottery has been found in other island and coastal locations in north and north-west PNG, as well as on the south coast. Elaborately decorated pottery has also been found at the earliest archaeological sites in the south-east Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa. The earliest 'Lapita' style pottery found in the Pacific dates to around 3300 years ago, but the Watom Island pottery probably dates to within the period c. 2850-1850 years ago.

Physical Description

A collection of 27 earthenware pottery sherds, intricately decorated with indentated and incised motifs.

Significance

These Lapita potsherds were excavated by Father Otto Meyer (of the Catholic Mission on Watom Island) sometime in 1908 after he found potsherds eroding in a stream after a storm. The stream was near the mission. This was the first excavation of pottery later named by archaeologist as "Lapita" pottery. The name Lapita is taken from an archaeological site in New Caledonia.

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