Understanding Lapita as History

John Edward Terrell

in The Oxford Handbook of Prehistoric Oceania

ISBN: 9780199925070
Published online November 2014 | e-ISBN: 9780199984428 | DOI:
Understanding Lapita as History

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Although often seen as a singular historical phenomenon, it is likely that the prehistory witnessed archaeologically by Lapita pottery and other associated artifacts differed significantly in Near Oceania from the tale told about this pottery in Remote Oceania. There is a high baseline probability that Lapita evolved in the Bismarck Archipelago as part of an ancient, broadly distributed community of practice among diverse local residential communities. In contrast, around 3,000 years ago and after a number of generations in Near Oceania, some of the bearers of Lapita pottery sailed away to colonize what had hitherto been the uninhabited islands to the south and east. Thereafter, due perhaps to the greater distances among the major Remote Oceanic archipelagoes, Lapita as an archaeological complex bears witness mostly to the shared ancestry of these pioneers rather than to their continuing mutual engagement in a newly founded, more expansive regional community of practice.

Keywords: prehistory; Near Oceania; Remote Oceania; colonize; Lapita pottery; baseline probability; community of practice; archaeological complex

Article.  9977 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology by Region

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