A pottery sheds light on the migrations of the peoples of the Pacific

Amalyah Hart

Scientists believe they may have found evidence that explains why humans have colonized thousands of islands scattered across the South Pacific. And this evidence is based on a pottery fragment found buried on a small island in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

The settlers of the Pacific Islands have one of the most epic migration stories of mankind. An ancestral cultural group called “Lapita” spread over a third of the Earth’s surface in just three thousand years, reaching some of the most remote landmasses on our planet.


It is believed that these ancestral groups from the Pacific Islands took a distinctive type of pottery with them on their journey, as well as new species of domesticated animals such as Austronesian tongues, pigs, dogs and chickens.

Ben Shaw, lead researcher of the new study, published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, said: “For a long time it was thought that Lapita groups stayed out of much of Papua New Guinea because she was already there. [başka] people lived,” he says. On the other hand, that hasn’t always been the case, as the new research reveals.

Brooker Island is a small piece of land that stretches out to sea near the southern tip of Papua New Guinea, one of the first stops in the chain of islands that make up the South Pacific. According to the researchers, the archaeological excavation site “Gutunka” is located in a bay facing north, on the edge of an impressive lagoon of the island, one of the most biodiverse marine ecosystems in the world.


The oldest layers of the ancient settlement, excavated with great precision in 2018 and 2019, contained the bones of a group of animals including the aforementioned species, including pigs, dogs and rats. As described in new research published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, subsequent layers have revealed a rich mix of pottery and tools unique to the Lapita culture, including external obsidian, forged blades and vessels with characteristic distinctive.

Researchers believe that the Lapita people may have come for an occasional visit before establishing a more permanent base in the bay, as evidenced by elements of a more complex material culture in the early stages and more intense hunting of turtles marines for food. “Lapita cultural groups were the first to set foot on remote Pacific islands such as Vanuatu nearly 3,000 years ago,” says Shaw.


Shaw says their new discovery explains why the Lapita people colonized the Pacific Islands 3,000 years ago: Contact with indigenous peoples living in Papua New Guinea affected migration routes, and there was a time when communities came together, interacted and were probably in conflict. this may have caused them to move from island to island.

“This is one of the greatest migrations in human history, and there is evidence that helps explain why it may have ultimately happened and why it happened during this time period” , he said. Shaw says the discovery was the result of great luck: “There was no indication that this would be a major area; “We mostly traveled blind in the areas we explored, so it was like finding the infamous needle in a haystack.”

However, Shaw points out that the key to discovery is working with the local community, which is why Brooker Islanders are referred to as “senior writers” in their articles. “Most of our good fortune comes from cultural knowledge, and we have built a strong relationship with the locals based on honesty and transparency in our research on their traditional lands,” he says. “Without their express permission, research like this would not have been possible.

*The Austronesian languages ​​are one of the largest major language families on earth, spoken in Southeast Asia, Taiwan, Oceania and Madagascar. The language family, called Austronesians, with over 386 million speakers, is the fifth largest language family in the world in this regard.

The original article was taken from Cosmos Magazine. (Translated by Tarkan Tufan)

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