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Lapita

Lapita

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Lapita is a term applied to an ancient Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

 archaeological culture
Archaeological culture
An archaeological culture is a recurring assemblage of artifacts from a specific time and place, which are thought to constitute the material culture remains of a particular past human society. The connection between the artifacts is based on archaeologists' understanding and interpretation and...

 which is believed by many archaeologists to be the common ancestor of several cultures in Polynesia
Polynesia
Polynesia is a subregion of Oceania, made up of over 1,000 islands scattered over the central and southern Pacific Ocean. The indigenous people who inhabit the islands of Polynesia are termed Polynesians and they share many similar traits including language, culture and beliefs...

, Micronesia
Micronesia
Micronesia is a subregion of Oceania, comprising thousands of small islands in the western Pacific Ocean. It is distinct from Melanesia to the south, and Polynesia to the east. The Philippines lie to the west, and Indonesia to the southwest....

, and some coastal areas of Melanesia
Melanesia
Melanesia is a subregion of Oceania extending from the western end of the Pacific Ocean to the Arafura Sea, and eastward to Fiji. The region comprises most of the islands immediately north and northeast of Australia...

. The archaeological culture and its characteristic geometric dentate stamped pottery are named after the type site
Type site
In archaeology a type site is a site that is considered the model of a particular archaeological culture...

 where it was first uncovered in the Foué peninsula on Grand Terre, the main island of New Caledonia
New Caledonia
New Caledonia is a special collectivity of France located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, east of Australia and about from Metropolitan France. The archipelago, part of the Melanesia subregion, includes the main island of Grande Terre, the Loyalty Islands, the Belep archipelago, the Isle of...

. The excavation was carried out in 1952 by American archaeologists Edward W. Gifford
Edward Winslow Gifford
Edward Winslow Gifford devoted his life to studying California Indian ethnography as a professor of anthropology and director of the Museum of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley....

 and Richard Shulter Jr at 'Site 13'.

The settlement and pottery sherds were later dated to 800 BCE and proved significant in research on the early peopling of the Pacific Islands. More than two hundred Lapita sites have since been uncovered, ranging more than 4000km from coastal and island Melanesia to Fiji
Fiji
Fiji , officially the Republic of Fiji , is an island nation in Melanesia in the South Pacific Ocean about northeast of New Zealand's North Island...

 and Tonga
Tonga
Tonga, officially the Kingdom of Tonga , is a state and an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, comprising 176 islands scattered over of ocean in the South Pacific...

 with its most eastern limit so far in Samoa
Samoa
Samoa , officially the Independent State of Samoa, formerly known as Western Samoa is a country encompassing the western part of the Samoan Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. It became independent from New Zealand in 1962. The two main islands of Samoa are Upolu and one of the biggest islands in...

.

Etymology


The term 'Lapita' was coined by archaeologists after mishearing a word in the local Haveke language, xapeta'a, which means 'to dig a hole' or 'the place where one digs', during the 1952 excavation in New Caledonia.The actual name of the so called Lapita archaeological culture referred to in modern research, is still unknown.

Dating


'Classic' Lapita pottery was produced between 1350 and 750 BCE in the Bismarck Archipelago
Bismarck Archipelago
The Bismarck Archipelago is a group of islands off the northeastern coast of New Guinea in the western Pacific Ocean and is part of the Islands Region of Papua New Guinea.-History:...

. A late variety might have been produced there up to 250 BCE. Local styles of Lapita pottery are found in Vanuatu
Vanuatu
Vanuatu , officially the Republic of Vanuatu , is an island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is some east of northern Australia, northeast of New Caledonia, west of Fiji, and southeast of the Solomon Islands, near New Guinea.Vanuatu was...

 and New Caledonia
New Caledonia
New Caledonia is a special collectivity of France located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, east of Australia and about from Metropolitan France. The archipelago, part of the Melanesia subregion, includes the main island of Grande Terre, the Loyalty Islands, the Belep archipelago, the Isle of...

. Pottery persisted in Fiji
Fiji
Fiji , officially the Republic of Fiji , is an island nation in Melanesia in the South Pacific Ocean about northeast of New Zealand's North Island...

, whereas it disappeared completely in other areas of Melanesia
Melanesia
Melanesia is a subregion of Oceania extending from the western end of the Pacific Ocean to the Arafura Sea, and eastward to Fiji. The region comprises most of the islands immediately north and northeast of Australia...

 and in Siassi.

In Western Polynesia, Lapita pottery is found from 800 BCE onwards in the Fiji
Fiji
Fiji , officially the Republic of Fiji , is an island nation in Melanesia in the South Pacific Ocean about northeast of New Zealand's North Island...

-Samoa
Samoa
Samoa , officially the Independent State of Samoa, formerly known as Western Samoa is a country encompassing the western part of the Samoan Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. It became independent from New Zealand in 1962. The two main islands of Samoa are Upolu and one of the biggest islands in...

-Tonga
Tonga
Tonga, officially the Kingdom of Tonga , is a state and an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, comprising 176 islands scattered over of ocean in the South Pacific...

 area. From Tonga and Samoa, Polynesian culture spread to Eastern Polynesia areas including the Marquesas and the Society Islands
Society Islands
The Society Islands are a group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean. They are politically part of French Polynesia. The archipelago is generally believed to have been named by Captain James Cook in honor of the Royal Society, the sponsor of the first British scientific survey of the islands;...

, and then later to Hawaii
Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

, Easter Island
Easter Island
Easter Island is a Polynesian island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, at the southeasternmost point of the Polynesian triangle. A special territory of Chile that was annexed in 1888, Easter Island is famous for its 887 extant monumental statues, called moai, created by the early Rapanui people...

, and New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

. However, pottery making did not persist in most of Polynesia, mainly due to the lack of suitable clay on small islands.

Material culture


The low-fired earthenware pottery, often tempered with shell or sand, is typically decorated with a dentate (toothed) stamp. It has been theorised that these decorations may have been transferred to or from less hardy mediums such as tapa (bark cloth), mats or tattoos. Undecorated "plainware" pottery is an important part of the Lapita cultural complex, which also includes ground-stone adze
Adze
An adze is a tool used for smoothing or carving rough-cut wood in hand woodworking. Generally, the user stands astride a board or log and swings the adze downwards towards his feet, chipping off pieces of wood, moving backwards as they go and leaving a relatively smooth surface behind...

s and shell artefacts
Artifact (archaeology)
An artifact or artefact is "something made or given shape by man, such as a tool or a work of art, esp an object of archaeological interest"...

, and flaked-stone tools of obsidian, chert and other available rock.

Economy


Domesticates consisted of pig
Pig
A pig is any of the animals in the genus Sus, within the Suidae family of even-toed ungulates. Pigs include the domestic pig, its ancestor the wild boar, and several other wild relatives...

s, dog
Dog
The domestic dog is a domesticated form of the gray wolf, a member of the Canidae family of the order Carnivora. The term is used for both feral and pet varieties. The dog may have been the first animal to be domesticated, and has been the most widely kept working, hunting, and companion animal in...

s and chicken
Chicken
The chicken is a domesticated fowl, a subspecies of the Red Junglefowl. As one of the most common and widespread domestic animals, and with a population of more than 24 billion in 2003, there are more chickens in the world than any other species of bird...

s. Horticulture
Horticulture
Horticulture is the industry and science of plant cultivation including the process of preparing soil for the planting of seeds, tubers, or cuttings. Horticulturists work and conduct research in the disciplines of plant propagation and cultivation, crop production, plant breeding and genetic...

 was based on root crops and tree crop
Tree crop
Topics related to tree crops, the intersection of trees and agriculture, are treated in the following articles:* Location:** Tree farm** Plantation* Product:** Timber** Tree fruit** Tree nut- See also :* Silviculture, the care of forests...

s, most importantly taro
Taro
Taro is a common name for the corms and tubers of several plants in the family Araceae . Of these, Colocasia esculenta is the most widely cultivated, and is the subject of this article. More specifically, this article describes the 'dasheen' form of taro; another variety is called eddoe.Taro is...

 and yam
Yam (vegetable)
Yam is the common name for some species in the genus Dioscorea . These are perennial herbaceous vines cultivated for the consumption of their starchy tubers in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania...

, coconut
Coconut
The coconut palm, Cocos nucifera, is a member of the family Arecaceae . It is the only accepted species in the genus Cocos. The term coconut can refer to the entire coconut palm, the seed, or the fruit, which is not a botanical nut. The spelling cocoanut is an old-fashioned form of the word...

s, banana
Banana
Banana is the common name for herbaceous plants of the genus Musa and for the fruit they produce. Bananas come in a variety of sizes and colors when ripe, including yellow, purple, and red....

s and varieties of breadfruit
Breadfruit
Breadfruit is a species of flowering tree in the mulberry family, Moraceae, growing throughout Southeast Asia and most Pacific Ocean islands...

. This was supplemented by fishing
Fishing
Fishing is the activity of trying to catch wild fish. Fish are normally caught in the wild. Techniques for catching fish include hand gathering, spearing, netting, angling and trapping....

 and mollusc gathering.
Long-distance trade of obsidian
Obsidian
Obsidian is a naturally occurring volcanic glass formed as an extrusive igneous rock.It is produced when felsic lava extruded from a volcano cools rapidly with minimum crystal growth...

, adzes and favourable adze source rock and shells was practiced.

Burial customs


Excavation of a large cemetery at Teouma
Teouma
Teouma is a major archaeological site on the island of Éfaté in Vanuatu. The site contains the oldest known cemetery within the Pacific Islands, and has been important in the gathering of information relating to the Lapita people of the ninth and tenth centuries BC.-External links:**Bedford, Stuart...

 on Efate Island in Vanuatu discovered in 2003, found 36 bodies in 25 graves, as well as burial jars. All skeletons were headless with the skulls removed after original burial and replaced with rings made from cone shell. The heads were reburied. One burial of an elderly man had three skulls lined up on his chest. One burial jar featured four birds looking into the jar. Carbon dating of the shells placed this cemetery at about 1000 B.C.

Settlements


In the west, villages were located on small offshore islands or the beaches of larger islands. This may have been to avoid areas already settled in coastal New Guinea, or malaria-carrying mosquitoes for which Lapita people had no immune defence. Some houses were built on stilts over larger lagoons. In New Britain
New Britain
New Britain, or Niu Briten, is the largest island in the Bismarck Archipelago of Papua New Guinea. It is separated from the island of New Guinea by the Dampier and Vitiaz Straits and from New Ireland by St. George's Channel...

, settlements are found inland as well, near the obsidian sources. In the eastern archipelago, all settlements are located on land, sometimes some distance inland.

Distribution



Lapita pottery is known from the Bismarck archipelago to Samoa and Tonga. Currently, the most eastern Lapita site is Mulifanua
Mulifanua
Mulifanua is a village on the north-western tip of the island of Upolu, in Samoa. In the modern era, it is the capital of Aiga-i-le-Tai district...

 in Samoa where 4,288 pottery sherds and two Lapita type adzes have been recovered. The site has a true age of c. 3,000 BP based on 14C dating on a shell. The domesticates spread into further Oceania as well. Humans, their domesticates, and species that were introduced
Introduced species
An introduced species — or neozoon, alien, exotic, non-indigenous, or non-native species, or simply an introduction, is a species living outside its indigenous or native distributional range, and has arrived in an ecosystem or plant community by human activity, either deliberate or accidental...

 involuntarily (perhaps as the Polynesian Rat
Polynesian Rat
The Polynesian Rat, or Pacific Rat , known to the Māori as kiore, is the third most widespread species of rat in the world behind the Brown Rat and Black Rat. The Polynesian Rat originates in Southeast Asia but, like its cousins, has become well travelled – infiltrating Fiji and most Polynesian...

 was) led to extinctions of endemic
Endemic (ecology)
Endemism is the ecological state of being unique to a defined geographic location, such as an island, nation or other defined zone, or habitat type; organisms that are indigenous to a place are not endemic to it if they are also found elsewhere. For example, all species of lemur are endemic to the...

 species on many islands, especially of flightless birds.

Language


The 'Lapita people' are supposed to have spoken proto-Oceanic, a precursor of the Oceanic branch of Austronesian
Austronesian languages
The Austronesian languages are a language family widely dispersed throughout the islands of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, with a few members spoken on continental Asia that are spoken by about 386 million people. It is on par with Indo-European, Niger-Congo, Afroasiatic and Uralic as one of the...

. It is, however, difficult to link non-literate material culture
Archaeological culture
An archaeological culture is a recurring assemblage of artifacts from a specific time and place, which are thought to constitute the material culture remains of a particular past human society. The connection between the artifacts is based on archaeologists' understanding and interpretation and...

 to languages, and it cannot be verified by independent sources.

Origin


An ultimate Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

n origin of the Lapita complex is assumed by most scholars, perhaps originating from the Austronesians
Austronesian people
The Austronesian-speaking peoples are various populations in Oceania and Southeast Asia that speak languages of the Austronesian family. They include Taiwanese aborigines; the majority ethnic groups of East Timor, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, Madagascar, Micronesia, and Polynesia,...

 in Taiwan or southern China some 5,000-6,000 years ago. This Neolithic dispersal was driven by a rapid population growth in east and southeast Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

 (Formosa
Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

), and has often been called 'the express-train to Polynesia'. Burial pottery similar to "red slip" pottery of Taiwan, as well as detailed linguistic evidence seems to lend support to this theory.

The orthodox view argued for by people like Roger Green
Roger Curtis Green
Roger Curtis Green was an American born, New Zealand-based archaeologist, Professor Emeritus at The University of Auckland, and member of the National Academy of Sciences and Royal Society of New Zealand...

 and Peter Bellwood
Peter Bellwood
Peter Bellwood is a Professor of Archaeology at the School of Archaeology and Anthropology of the Australian National University in Canberra...

 argues for a Triple-I model where Lapita arose from this Austronesian expansion through a process for intrusion into new territories, innovation of new technologies (such as the Outrigger Canoe
Outrigger canoe
The outrigger canoe is a type of canoe featuring one or more lateral support floats known as outriggers, which are fastened to one or both sides of the main hull...

), and integration with the existing populations.

Direct links between Lapita and mainland Southeast Asia are still missing, due to a lack of data in Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

 and Malaysia.

Other scholars like J. Allen
Jim Allen (archaeologist)
Professor Jim Allen is a prominent Australian archaeologist who has specialized in the archaeology of the South Pacific. In 1966 Jim Allen undertook the first professional excavation of a European site in Australia, the 1840s military settlement of Victoria, which was established at Port...

 located the origin of the Lapita complex in the Bismarck Archipelago
Bismarck Archipelago
The Bismarck Archipelago is a group of islands off the northeastern coast of New Guinea in the western Pacific Ocean and is part of the Islands Region of Papua New Guinea.-History:...

 that was first colonised 30,000-35000 BCE. Others see obsidian trade as the motor of the spread of Lapita-elements in the western distribution area.

Lapita/Polynesian conundrum


Many scientists believe Lapita pottery in Melanesia
Melanesia
Melanesia is a subregion of Oceania extending from the western end of the Pacific Ocean to the Arafura Sea, and eastward to Fiji. The region comprises most of the islands immediately north and northeast of Australia...

 to be proof that Polynesians passed through this area on their way into the central Pacific, despite only circumstantial evidence connecting Lapita with Polynesia
Polynesia
Polynesia is a subregion of Oceania, made up of over 1,000 islands scattered over the central and southern Pacific Ocean. The indigenous people who inhabit the islands of Polynesia are termed Polynesians and they share many similar traits including language, culture and beliefs...

.

Anita Smith compared Lapita with plainware ceramics in Polynesia:
“There do not appear to be new or different kinds of evidence associated with plainware ceramics (& lapita), only the disappearance of a minor component of material culture and faunal assemblages is apparent. There is continuity in most aspects of the archaeological record that appears to mimic post Lapita sequences of Fiji and island Melanesia (Mangaasi and Naviti pottery).”


Therefore plainware appears to be a simplification of the Lapita cultural complex caused by isolation. Plainware pottery is found on many Polynesian islands and was thought to be a significant player in the transformation of Lapita society into a Polynesian cultural complex. Unfortunately no classical Polynesian artifacts have been found within this plainware assemblage. Archaeological evidence indicates that plainware pottery ceases abruptly in Samoa around 0BC, being replaced by classic Polynesian cultural complex. This clearly indicates a change in the control of the islands, from the waning Lapita settlers to a culture that used gourds, two-piece fishhooks, trolling lures, harpoon heads, tanged adzes, stone pounders and tattooing needles — none of which are found amongst Lapita artifacts.

According to Smith:
“Although ceramics have been used as the primary material culture correlate for cultural change in West Polynesia, they are perhaps least suited to identifying Ancestral Polynesians in the archaeological record. Ceramics were not manufactured by Polynesian societies at any time in East Polynesian prehistory. Therefore trying to connect Lapita and plainware pottery with Polynesians is illogical.”


Matthew Spriggs stated: "The possibility of cultural continuity between Lapita Potters and Melanesians has not been given the consideration it deserves. In most sites there was an overlap of styles with no stratigraphic separation discernible. Continuity is found in pottery temper, importation of obsidian and in non ceramic artifacts".

See also

  • Teouma
    Teouma
    Teouma is a major archaeological site on the island of Éfaté in Vanuatu. The site contains the oldest known cemetery within the Pacific Islands, and has been important in the gathering of information relating to the Lapita people of the ninth and tenth centuries BC.-External links:**Bedford, Stuart...

     - a major archaeological site in Vanuatu
    Vanuatu
    Vanuatu , officially the Republic of Vanuatu , is an island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is some east of northern Australia, northeast of New Caledonia, west of Fiji, and southeast of the Solomon Islands, near New Guinea.Vanuatu was...

  • Archaeology in Samoa
    Archaeology in Samoa
    Archaeology of Samoa began with the first systematic survey of archaeological remains on Savai'i island by Jack Golson in 1957. Since then, surveys and studies in the rest of Samoa have uncovered major findings of settlements, stone and earth mounds including star mounds, Lapita pottery remains and...

  • Early history of Tonga
    Early history of Tonga
    The early history of Tonga covers the islands' settlement and the early Lapita culture through to the rise of the Tuʻi Tonga Empire.What is known about Tonga before European contact comes from myths, stories, songs, poems, as well as from archaeological excavations...


External links