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. Both faces of the sherd are decorated. One face is decorated with a row of cross-hatched (incised) lines, below which are two triangular shaped motifs composed of small indentations. The triangle shapes are juxtaposed with two large circular impressions and are connected to a row of incised or impressed horizontally oriented arc shapes. Underneath these motifs is a second row of incised cross-hatched lines. The internal surface is decorated with a pair of horizontal lines which are arranged parallel to a motif of tesselated arc shapes. The indented lines were probably made by impressing a comb-like tool or part of a shell.

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