Beaumont et al.

The initial appearance of pottery on New Guinea has been an elusive and sometimes controversial topic. A range of factors contribute to this conundrum including landscape transformation and disturbance where relevant archaeology may be undetectable
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   Journal of Pacific Archaeology   – Vol. 󰀱󰀰 · No. 󰀱 – EPUB: Ahead of Print–  – First online: // Diversity in Early New Guinea Pottery Traditions: north coast ceramics from Lachitu, Taora, Watinglo and Paleflatu Phillip Beaumont¹, Sue O’Connor²³, Mathieu Leclerc² & Ken Aplin²  Te initial appearance o pottery on New Guinea has been an elusive and sometimes controversial topic. A range o actors contribute to this conundrum including landscape transormation and disturbance where relevant archaeology may be undetectable or misinterpreted, along with a lack o sound, site-specific evi- dence and comparative analysis. Moreover, the preeminence o the Lapita pottery sequence has set regional expectations and perceptions concerning early pottery on New Guinea, which can substantively affect the interpretations o local evidence, sometimes resulting in scanty finds being interpreted on a priori  conceptual grounds. Presented here is a description o hitherto unreported pottery recovered in – rom the Papua New Guinea () north coast sites o Lachitu, aora, Watinglo and Paleflatu. Pottery rom Lachitu and aora was previously claimed as among the earliest in New Guinea. However, the dating results presented in this study suggest a late Holocene and broad context or the introduction and manuacture o pottery, with a variety o diagnostic attributes pointing to regional uniqueness, implying a complex involvement o diverse peoples. Keywords : Pottery; New Guinea north coast; Sepik coast; Red slip; Lapita; Vanimo style; Aitape sequence  School o Archaeology and Anthropology, College o Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, , , Australia  Archaeology and Natural History, College o Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University, Canberra, , , Australia   Centre o Excellence or Australian Biodiversity and Herit- age, Australian National University, Canberra, , , Aus-traliaCorresponding author: //, accepted //  Tis article presents new data and analysis o pottery exca-  vated during – rom our co-located cave and rock shelter sites on the Vanimo coast o north mainland . wo o these sites, Lachitu and aora, had been previously excavated with ceramics recovered ostensibly dating to ,  (Gorecki et al  . ), prooundly predating the earliest Lapita pottery. In part, these claims prompted a re-examination o the sites in  and  (O’Connor et al  . ). During this fieldwork, Watinglo and Paleflatu were also identified, and excavated in . How and when pottery came into use on mainland New Guinea has been a ocus o archaeological enquiry or several decades. Te claimed early pottery rom La- chitu and aora is one o a number o  finds that have subsequently been reconsidered, primarily where chron- ostratigraphic integrity was shown to be dubious. Such occurrences underscore the issues associated with many New Guinea locations where environmental dynamism and landscape change mean that the archaeological record may be disturbed or absent, particularly or significance periods rom the mid-Holocene. Te question o when pottery first appears on New Guinea remains enigmatic largely because there is a dearth o archaeological pottery in securely dated contexts rom sites and regions across this continental island. With this issue oremost, the analy- sis given here o new ceramics rom sites on the Vanimo coast, seeks to promote the investigation o technology transers and usage. Te recognition o the essential at- tributes and diversity o regional pottery in New Guinea urther illuminates the prehistory o distinct areas, already known as multiarious in culture, languages and traditions. In uture studies this may assist in developing a better understanding o population movements and interaction networks into, and along, the north coast o New Guinea during the late Holocene.Te deficiency o reliable sampling is an ongoing ob- stacle that obscures the range o prehistoric pottery on New Guinea. However, coupled with this is the overriding   Beaumont, O’Connor, Leclerc &  Aplin –  Diversity in Early New Guinea Pottery Traditions: …  tendency to view what is mostly meagre archaeological evidence rom the perspective o conceptual constructs and pan-regional models that exert a dominating affect on interpretation. Te highly distinctive and sophisticated ceramics o the Lapita complex has afforded unsurpassed clarity in tracking and understanding the movement, set-tlement and interaction o peoples into Remote Oceania. Although it has been conventionally anticipated that pot- tery marking the arrival o so-called Neolithic immigrants and influence would be ound on New Guinea (c. Denham in press), there has been no immediate or contemporary corollary on the mainland o Early Lapita as ound in the Bismarck Archipelago. Nevertheless, the conceptual grav- ity o the regional Lapita complex has set a ramework whereby all pottery on New Guinea is essentially evalu- ated in terms o its connections with Lapita and whether it is part o the overall complex, or rom within the largely unresolved search or its antecedents. o date, the most consequential Lapita finds on New Guinea come rom Caution Bay and represent middle to late Lapita (McNiven et al  . ), along with a small number o sherds rom the highlands site o Wanelek that reflect Austronesian influ- ence (Gaffney et al  . ). Although it is likely that Lapita pottery rom the Bis- marcks is the undamental background or some main- land coastal ceramics, pottery was being manuactured in the Wallacean islands to the west o New Guinea within timerames comparable to the appearance o Lapita in the Bismarcks. Island Southeast Asia () cannot thereore be discounted in considering early pottery precursors and influences along the New Guinea north coast. Similarly, the western hal o New Guinea comprising the Indone-sian provinces o Papua and Papua Barat is undoubtedly pivotal in understanding the relationships and interac- tions between , New Guinea as a whole, and beyond, yet it remains largely unexplored archaeologically and little reliable inormation is presently available. O the ceramics that have been described, only a ew are associ- ated with securely dated contexts and it is uncertain how the various styles compare to neighbouring sequences (Wright et al  . ). Describing, dating and disentangling the ceramics o western New Guinea could greatly in- crease understanding o the region in the late Holocene and shed light on the processes at play in all adjacent locations (Kirch ). Te development o pottery on New Guinea, its time-rames, styles and the processes o technological transer, may be multiarious and unique with localised variations needing to be recognised rather than necessarily being re- gionally conceived. More archaeological sampling is need- ed and the contribution o archaeological ceramics rom specific sites like Lachitu, aora, Watinglo and Paleflatu provides additional comparative data towards a greater explanation o the complexity o technological change and transer in New Guinea.       Modern archaeological consideration o  pottery ini- tially ocused in the south. In the s, Bulmer () de- veloped a pioneering typology o Port Moresby ceramics (Allen ; Shaw ) leading to a broader identification o red slip pottery along the south coast (Bulmer ). Further research by various scholars culminated in the establishment o the Early Papuan Pottery () sequence (Summerhayes & Allen ), which came to be regarded as the best-known pottery sequence in Melanesia (Sut-ton : ). Bulmer (: ) had recognised that  is ‘very complex ceramically’ and pottery moved exten-sively in some provinces while in others it was entirely local. However, the consistency entailed in  and its ar- chaeologically instantaneous appearance around ,  at sites rom the Massim in the east through to the Gul o Papua, prompted questions about its exogenous ori-gins and strongly suggested a sea-borne colonisation o the south coast (Allen et al  . : ). Speculation over whether ceramics came to mainland New Guinea rom , where several sites recorded early pottery ranging between ,–,  (Bellwood ; Spriggs ; O’Connor ), or rom the Bismarck Archipelago where Lapita pottery appears at around ,  (Kirch ) became the persistent question that called or region-wide explanations. Te spatial distribution and characteristics o  compelled many scholars to associate it with Austronesian seaarers and predict that Lapita pottery would be ound along the south coast (Bulmer ; Allen ). Neverthe- less, it was commonly accepted that Lapita sites did not exist on New Guinea (Lilley ), given the earliest  was too modern or any connection with the appearance o Lapita ceramics elsewhere in Near Oceania rom ,  (Sutton et al  . ). But new discoveries on the south coast at Caution Bay between – (Richards et al  . ) provided extensive evidence that ulfilled the expectations o many researchers as well as renewing debate on the emergence o ceramics on mainland New Guinea. Te Caution Bay sites revealed aceramic human occupation rom around , . However, the most radical result was the discovery o apparent Lapita pottery and settle-ment dating rom ,–,  (McNiven et al  . ; David et al  . ; Richards et al  . ). With stratigraphic integrity and precise dating unlike other  early pottery sites, Caution Bay proclaimed the earliest pottery ound on mainland , and that this pottery was Lapita. Te ceramic assemblages comprising the Lapita com- plex show a continuous and uniorm progression in styles deriving rom one to the next (Spriggs : ). Te ques- tion thereore ollowed that i the Caution Bay ceramics were o Lapita srcins, what sort o Lapita was this? For some, the finds lack definitive dentate-stamping and are depauperate in moti and vessel orms (Sheppard et al  . : ). However, the stylistic and temporal interpre-     Journal of Pacific Archaeology   – Vol. 󰀱󰀰 · No. 󰀱 – EPUB: Ahead of Print tation o the collection as a regionalized and simplified, middle-late Lapita assemblage (McNiven et al  . b: ) that departs rom dentate-stamping, points to secondary colonizing processes. Te delayed appearance o Lapita at Caution Bay suggests isolation rom the typological sources in the Bismarck Archipelago (Irwin ) and that ceramicists along the south coast were not part o the initial colonizing pulses driving eastward into Remote Oceania. Caution Bay represents a westward extension o apparent Austronesian-Lapita colonisation into areas that were occupied by indigenous communities. Yet whether more widespread colonisation to the west o the Bismarcks occurred remains open to speculation (Skelly et al  . ). Without the opportune circumstances or archaeology that brought about the extensive surveys and excavations o the open-sites at Caution Bay, it is likely that it would have remained archaeologically unknown. It is thereore plausible that Lapita settlement occurred more broadly on New Guinea, despite current archaeological invisibility. Te Caution Bay sequence effectively provides a miss- ing link between the Lapita complex o Island Melane-sia and mainland New Guinea. It also incorporated and disaggregated  (David et al  . ), resulting in almost two thousand years o ceramic continuity. A eature o the Caution Bay landscape is its combination o shoreline set-tlements with inland sites indicating broad-scale integra- tion o Lapita communities with pre-existing, pre-ceramic local populations (McNiven et al  . a: ). Although the ethnicity o the putative settlers that introduced ceramics at Caution Bay is not certain, it is clear that Lapita traditions arrived and evolved there with colonists able to introduce new technologies, practices and ideology in co-existence with indigenous inhabitants.      –   Te occurrence o archaeological pottery on New Guinea is spatially irregular and regionalized due to a range o ac-tors including an intrinsic diversity in populations, culture and historical experience whereby the uptake o pottery is inconsistent. Researchers have long speculated that New Guinea’s north coast is the prime contender or a hypoth- esised link between ceramics rom  and Lapita (errell ). However, the north coast specifically is an inherently unstable environment, prone to dynamic landscape dis- turbances and catastrophic natural events o many kinds. Consequently, generating truly representative archaeo- logical data is problematic as tectonic variability and local geomorphic processes, along with coastal progradation and major post-depositional landscape change since the mid-Holocene high sea stand, means that archaeological sites are likely to be deeply buried or highly disturbed (Specht et al  . ; Golitko et al  . ). Paradoxically, the north coast and its hinterland have seen more debatable claims or the first appearance o pottery than other mainland regions. In some cases, the interpretation o identified sequences or isolated arteacts has been based more on conceptual grounds than genuine empirical data. In the s at Wanelek, Bulmer () ound pot- tery in levels radiocarbon dated at over , . Although Wanelek is a highlands site, the mid-Holocene Sepik-Ramu inland sea extended close by. Swadling also worked around the shorelines o the ancient inland sea and identified ar- eas o dense settlement with pottery ound in middens at Beri and Akari dated to about ,  (Swadling et al  . : ). Subsequently, both claims were disregarded due to recognition o site disturbance and doubts over strati- graphic integrity. However, redating o samples at Wanelek have subsequently resulted in new claims or early ceram- ics and pointed to the effect o the Sepik-Ramu inland sea in transmitting material culture. Among twenty small sherds analysed, one eaturing red slip and incised decora- tions was associated with a securely dated ,-year-old context (Gaffney et al  . : ). Furthermore, petrographic and geochemical analysis indicates that one sherd was manuactured on the northeast coast with the remaining sherds made rom inland materials (Gaffney et al  . : ). Te Wanelek pottery currently predates any accepted finds on the north coast by , years and is also earlier than Caution Bay, making it the ‘…oldest securely dated pot- tery rom an archaeological context on the island o New Guinea.’ (Gaffney et al  . : ).In , Gorecki and colleagues surveyed the uplifed coral terraces o the western end o the  north coast. Given apparent prehistoric deposits in caves and rockshel- ters, Gorecki’s team excavated Lachitu and aora provid- ing the first archaeological record rom the Vanimo coast (Gorecki et al  . ; Gorecki ). Te aora excavations produced cultural deposits with radiocarbon age ranges rom ,–, , and then rom ,  onwards (Gorecki et al  . : ). Pottery sherds were ound mostly in the upper layers but a total o  sherds were recovered rom the mid-Holocene levels, leading to the commentary and claim that ‘We are aware o the importance o these dates and o possible vertical displacement o arteacts, yet we are confident that pottery first appears at aora about  years ago.’ (Gorecki et al  . : ). Like Bulmer and Swadling, Gorecki promoted a claim or the appearance o pottery on New Guinea that essentially ran contrary to the orthodox model o the Austronesian-Lapita expan- sion. Swadling () suggested that the evidential devel- opment o ceramics on the mainland played a role in the emergence o Lapita in the Bismarck islands, yet the high archaeological profile o Lapita was dominating debate. Gorecki (: ) similarly argued that the very intensity o Lapita research was distorting the significance o other cultural events that took place beore its existence. Near the north coast town o Aitape, a very small sherd proclaimed as dentate-stamped Lapita was ound afer  (Lilley ; Golitko ). For several decades, this single unverified piece sustained an expectation that New Guinea was part o the Lapita expansion and was the   Beaumont, O’Connor, Leclerc &  Aplin –  Diversity in Early New Guinea Pottery Traditions: …  marker o its western most reach. In –, errell and Welsch () extensively surveyed Aitape district. Despite recovering over , sherds, only one dentate-stamped piece measuring just  mm long was recovered off Wewak (errell & Welsch : –). Although Lapita pottery proved to be ‘…nearly absent on the Sepik Coast…’ (er- rell & Welsch : ), analysis o the collection by er-rell and Schechter (; ) led to the identification o a distinct Aitape sequence dating rom around ,  (Jones ).      – , ,    Te sites excavated in  and  cluster along the coast between the provincial town o Vanimo and the border with Indonesian Papua (Figure ). Lachitu (also identified by  National Museum code ) is a cave approxi- mately  m rom the shoreline and  m above mean sea level (Gorecki et al  . ; O’Connor et al  . , ). Te aora rockshelter (Museum code ) is  m rom the coast and  m above sea level (Gorecki et al  . ). Wat-inglo is located west o Wutung village and close by the -Indonesia border. Te rockshelter is less than one kilo-metre inland and sits at  m above sea level (O’Connor & Dickinson ). Paleflatu cave is five km east o Wutung and  m above sea level (Helgen et al  . ). All sites are within the inner margin o the Oenake Range’s coastal plain, an area o tectonically uplifed karstic terrain backed by the Bewani-orricelli mountain chain (Gorecki et al  . ; O’Connor et al  . , ). Te – excavations indicated that the strati- graphic sequences o all our sites share characteristics that complicate the precise dating o the cultural material (a- ble ). Te re-excavation o Lachitu shows that the site has a hiatus rom ,– cal , however it is unclear whether sediments have been lost rom the cave due to an erosional episode, or i Lachitu was largely unoccupied during this time (O’Connor et al  . : ). Available inormation on Paleflatu suggests a similar chronostratigraphic hiatus rom about ,–,  (see also Helgen et al  . ). At aora, a sequence broadly the same as reported by Gorecki was ound: cultural deposits had accumulated rapidly between ,–, cal  afer sea level stabilization but ‘…the period between c. , cal  and the recent past seems either to be missing rom the aora chronostratigraphy or incorporated into a palimpsest assemblage represent- ing the last , years.’ (O’Connor et al  . : ). Pottery occurred mainly in upper late Holocene layers but some sherds were recovered in layers with mid-Holocene dates. Figure 1. Locaon of sites on Vanimo coast of northern New Guinea     Journal of Pacific Archaeology   – Vol. 󰀱󰀰 · No. 󰀱 – EPUB: Ahead of Print able  . Radiocarbon dates relating to pottery-bearing layers, calibrated using OxCal v.. (Bronk Ramsey ), with IntCal used for terrestrial samples and Marine for marine shell samples (Reimer et al . ). DeltaR for calibrations on marine shell was set to zero as no estimate for the western  north coast is currently available. (  *   indicates that age is beyond calibration range. 󰀣  only one square was excavated at aora. wo dates bracketed with spits are presented along with the stratigraphic code for in situ samples shown in the section drawings following O’Connor et al . ). Site Spit ref. Material Lab. Code Conventional Age BP Age 2σ cal BPLachitu–RIQ A: 2charcoalWk 16532132 ± 34280–171 (40.0%)152–56 (40.4%)45–7 (15.0%)A: 4charcoalWk 16533160 ± 34287–243 (16.7%)232–124 (46.1%)119–65 (14.4%)38-…* (18.2%)A: 7shell- Turbo sp.Wk 165246,399 ± 456,998–6,742A: 10shell- Turbo sp.Wk 165236,519 ± 467,155–6,900A: 10shell- Turbo sp.Wk 165256,842 ± 487,445–7,259 Taora–RIU # 4charcoalWk 47060363 ± 15495–427 (59.2%)377–323 (36.2%)17nut-canariumWk 179025,655 ± 416,531–6,317West 1shell- Turbo sp.Wk 155486,038 ± 346,562–6,355West 2shell- Turbo sp.Wk 155495,988 ± 316,480–6,305West 3shell- Turbo sp.Wk 152555,955 ± 516,484–6,267West 7charcoalWk 152565,853 ± 416,777–6,764 (1.7%)6,755–6,553 (93.7%)North 1shell- Turbo sp.Wk 155476,067 ± 326,594–6,396North 2shell- Turbo sp.Wk 152546,122 ± 416,657–6,438 Watinglo A: 6bone-pig KIA 35648265 ± 25429–375 (28.1%)364–360 (0.5%)325–281 (59.2%)169–152 (7.6%)A: 6shell- Turbo sp.ANU 9418865 ± 25530–445A: 8bone-pigKIA 35649220 ± 20305–271 (40.8%)187–150 (43.9%)12-…* (10.7%)A: 9shell- Turbo sp.Wk 172542,178 ± 381,880–1,667A: 10bone-pigKIA 35650290 ± 25451–449 (0.4%)437–350 (62.9%)334–290 (32.1%)A: 10shell- Turbo sp.Wk 172555,248 ± 515,720–5,485A: 14shell- Turbo sp.Wk 172536,932 ± 657,558–7,314C: 4shell- Turbo sp.ANU 9423800 ± 35502–334 (93.4%)347–335 (2.0%)C: 4shell- Turbo sp.ANU 9424895 ± 35590–580 (0.9%)565–448 (94.5%)C: 4charcoalANU 9425270 ± 25429–374 (36.1%)367–360 (1.2%)326–283 (53.7%)168–154 (4.4%)C: 7shell- Turbo sp.ANU 94266,755 ± 407,388–7,190C: 10shell- Turbo sp.ANU 9427880 ± 35551–440C: 13shell- Turbo sp.ANU 94306,810 ± 457,418–7,246C: 14shell- Turbo sp.ANU 94326,295 ± 406,867–6,647 Paleflatu A: 6charcoalWk 47059482 ± 16535–505A: 10shell- Turbo sp.Wk 210502,834 ± 342,708–2,468A: 20shell- Turbo sp.Wk 172587,124 ± 727,744–7,460
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