The discovery of ancient Lapita pottery comes after 50 years of archaeologists actively searching and failing to find Lapita pottery in mainland PNG, despite being present in neighbouring New Guinea islands.
This unique pottery was made by sea going Lapita peoples who travelled between PNG, Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Tonga and Samoa, colonising previously uninhabited islands and making pottery along the way.
Julia Hagoria, ExxonMobil PNG Field Environment Specialist and archaeologist, said the discovery of Lapita pottery at the LNG Plant constitutes one of the most important archaeological findings ever made in mainland New Guinea.
“The unearthing of these materials at the LNG Plant site is extremely important in understanding the human history of settlement in Papua New Guinea.”
“This discovery effectively rewrites the history of the Motuan people who up until this point, could not be linked for certain to the Lapita migrations despite having the characteristics of the Lapita peoples such as being sea going and speaking the Austronesian languages,” said Julia.
Each of the Lapita sites located at the LNG Plant site contain undisturbed, buried archaeological deposits of pottery made by the Lapita people between 2,400 and 2,900 years ago.
The Lapita pottery is characterised by dentate-stamped designs banded around external walls of bowls, spherical pots, jars, dishes, globular pots and pedestals in repeated geometrics designs.
The discovery of the Lapita pottery links the earliest seafarers and pottery making communities to their journey between Papua New Guinea and Torres Strait where pottery has previously been located.
Also discovered within the Lapita sites was stone artefacts, shell deposits and other remains dating back more than 3,700 years ago.
Each of the items, including the Lapita pottery, was discovered at Portion 2456 of the LNG Plant site during the construction phase of PNG LNG.
A strategy to preserve the Lapita sites was developed and involved identifying and recording the sites, as well as creating and protecting a Lapita Protected Zone in conjunction with PNG National Museum and Art Gallery and archaeologists.