Summary

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. Almost certainly a rim sherd, but the original lip of the vessel is not present (it has since eroded). The interior rim is decorated with a row of short, vertically oriented indentated lines. Underneath this row is a wavy indented line. The exterior surface has three decorative fields running parallel to the rim of the vessel. These fields are separated by single rows of linear indentations. The decorative field closest to the rim is a row of paired horizontally-oriented arc-shaped lines. Below this is a row of paired vertically-oriented arc-shaped lines. The lowermost decorative field is composed of diagonal indented lines arranged into a "zig-zag" design. The indented motifs were probably made by impressing a comb-like tool or part of a shell.

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