Part of 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

Earthenware sherd. The exterior surface features five main rows of decoration. Three parallel rows of decoration are composed of overlapping arc shaped incisions or impressions, two of which are bordered by a single horizontal indented line. Above these is a single row composed of small impressions arranged into large triangular shapes, contained by two horizontal indented lines. At the apex of each triangle is a large circular impression. Above this row is a row of cross-hatched indentations. The indented decorations were probably made by impressing a shell or a comb-like tool.

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