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lapita pottery & polynesians

lapita pottery & polynesians

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Published by Sándor Tóth

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Published by: Sándor Tóth on Apr 27, 2009
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Lapita Pottery
Small Fijian outrigger from Kabara, Suva
Lapita pottery

Lapita pottery has long been held as the key to Polynesian colonization of the Eastern Pacific, despite there being no hard evidence to prove it. In fact the deeper one delves into the archaeology, chronology and gene trees of the Pacific one finds that there is no connection whatsoever between Polynesian and Lapita culture. The following article outlines many of these discrepancies. In fact it is quite embarrassing how poorly the scientists have interpreted the facts.

Lapita pottery is a finely decorated (dentate stamped) coil built, low fired pottery commonly found in archaeological sites in the Western Pacific. The earliest Lapita sites are in the Bismark Archipelago and are dated at 3,900 years BP. The Lapita culture doesnot predate the arrival of Melanesians, who have lived in New Guinea and it's surrounding Islands for over 40,000 years. Lapita pottery is commonly found in coastal locations on the Islands of New Guinea, Vanuatu, Solomons, New Caledonia, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga. The Lapita people are believed to have spread eastwards and colonized Fiji, Samoa and Tonga ~3,500 years ago which predates the arrival of the Polynesian people in the Pacific by 1,300 years. Lapita pottery is common on most Melanesian islands and is often found associated with Melanesian deposits, but is not found amongst any Eastern Polynesian archaeological deposits in Hawai'i, Rapa Nui, Aoteoroa, Tahiti, Tuamotus, Raiatea, Raivavae or Rarotonga or any other Eastern Polynesian Islands. The archaeological assemblage on Melanesian Islands shows a gradual progression of design styles which merged with classic Melanesian designs such as Mangassi and Naviti styles, marking the end of the Lapita culture in the archaeological record at about 420BC Matthew

Spriggs " The Lapita Cultural Complex". This was over 400 years before
Polynesians arrived in Western Polynesia (Samoa and Tonga).

According to geneticists, Polynesian expansion in the Pacific was rapid. Genetics clearly shows that the pure strain of Eastern Polynesian genes began expanding 2,200 years ago in isolation from all other Pacific cultures, outlined by Bing Su and Mark Stoneking in Polynesian Y Chromozome. Their research also shows that Polynesians finally made contact with Melanesians merely 1,000 years ago. As you will see from evidence presented here, the Lapita people lived at a different time to Polynesians, in a different geographical area and were physically, genetically and culturally different to Polynesians.

Lapita the name

Lapita pottery has been misunderstood from the day it was discovered when an archaeologist picked up a piece of pottery from the bottom of his pit. Some natives arriving on the scene exclaimed "Xaapeta!" Which means "He dug a pit!" Unfortunately the scientist thought the natives were getting excited about the piece of rubble he was holding in his hand and decided that the exclamation "Xaapeta" was the name of the culture the pottery represented. Unfortunately he misheard them and decided the word said was Lapita, and through his "scientific" paper, the Lapita name has stuck.

Is Lapita Polynesian, Melanesian or....... ?

Many articles written on Pacific culture have assumed without question that the Lapita pottery people were Polynesians, resulting in a circular argument asserting that archaeological relics of the Lapita pottery culture in the Western Pacifc was clear evidence that Polynesians passed through island Melanesia into the Central Pacific. To come to this conclusion, one must ignore the fact that; Polynesians never made pottery, never used shell money and they never buried their dead in urns - three key characteristics of the lapita culture. The Lapita culture was most certainly part of the Western Pacific story, and relics of this society can still be found there, where Lapita style pottery and shell money were still used in Melanesia until recent times. (Patrick Kirch, Prehistoric Exchange in Western Melanesia). The archaeological record shows that there is no doubt that Lapita people co-habited with the Melanesians, not only in the archaeological tool kit of both cultures, but studies of a Lapita skeleton named 'Mana Man' found in Moturiki, Fiji shows that his skeleton is distinctly Melanesian. Robert Keith-Reid states; "The tentative conclusion was that the Lapita style pottery was carried to Moturiki from the Melanesian Santa Cruz/Reef Islands, 1,000km from Moturiki.

Mana Man is estimated to have been buried between 1000 B.C. and 800 B.C. and
was the second Lapita-age skeleton discovered in the Pacific Islands."
Mana man, Moturiki

John E Tyrrell and Schechter have found a culture in New Guinea on the Sepik coastline near Aitape that continues the traditional Lapita designs to this day. These designs represent turtles and go hand in hand with a creation myth whereby they believe a turtle became the first island for man and woman. This myth parallels many Native American myths that also assert that the turtle created the first land for man and woman. In fact North America is known by many Native American nations as Turtle Island. Melanesian type skulls found in Panama as well as the distinctly African looking Olmec heads of the Yucatan, suggests that people similar in appearance to Melanesians may have arrived from America with the turtle creation myth during Olmec sea trade 3-4,000 years ago. Another possibility is that this myth may also have arrived when Malaria - Plasmodium vivax arrived in Melanesia 10,000 years ago. This is also the time of the most rapid rises in sealevel at the end of the last Ice Age, which caused a massive dislocation of coastal populations globally. As flooding and the loss of land is the basis of the turtle myth, this is the most logical scenario. The other possibility is that Native American red heads arrived in Island Melanesia with the turtle creation myth. Ancestral figures who were tall with pale skin and red hair are often mentioned in Native American as well as Pacific legends (see Migrations, Myth and Magic from the Gilbert Islands by Rosemary Grimble). In fact the answer may be; "all of the above".

Fundamental differences between Lapita
and Polynesian Culture
The most basic difference between the Lapita and Polynesian culture is;

"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.\u201d (Anita Smith in; An Archaeology of West

Polynesian Prehistory, 2002). Polynesians also had a totally different tool kit. Lapita potters used bows and arrows, spears and nets to catch fish. They did not use fishhooks or harpoon heads, whereas the Polynesian fishing kit consisted of: two piece fishing hook, trolling lure and harpoon head which interestingly is very similar to Haida-gwaii artefacts of Canada. Other items unique to Eastern Polynesia and absent in the Lapita cultural complex identified by Anita Smith are the; two

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