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

Aproximately five earthenware sherds which have been adhered together. The adhered sherds were once part of the rim of a vessel. The exterior of the rim lip has been impressed to create a 'wavy' or crenulated effect. Two 1mm holes have been drilled through the piece approx 7mm below the highest point of the rim. The interior and exterior surfaces have also been decorated. On the interior, a few millimetres below the lip, is a row composed of short diagonal incisions. On the exterior surface just below the two perforations is a row of vertically oriented curved indented arc shapes. The row of arcs is bordered above, below and to the side by single indented horizontal lines. Below these motifs is a geometric design composed primarily of diagonal incisions arranged into triangle shapes, below which are two parallel horizontally oriented indented lines. The indented lines were probably made by impressing a comb-like tool or part of a shell.

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