Assessment of the technological variability in decorated Lapita pottery from Teouma, Vanuatu, by petrography and LA-ICP-MS: implications for Lapita social organisation

Mathieu Leclerc, Elle Grono, Stuart Bedford, Matthew Spriggs

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    This paper examines the social implications of the results from the petrographic and chemical analysis by laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry of dentate-stamped pottery sherds from the colonising-phase Lapita site of Teouma, Vanuatu, in the South Pacific (2940 to 2710 cal BP). Data from Dickinson et al.'s (2013) petrographic provenance are combined with the chemical analysis of 26 of these sherds to contextualise the provenance work and temper types identified at the Teouma site within the social context and with reference to the cultural practices of the Lapita community. Results show that the Lapita assemblage is characterised by significant variability in terms of fabric types, which is aligned with other Lapita pottery assemblages in the region. The variability of fabrics at Teouma reveals that there were no clear cultural guidelines regarding the raw materials used for Lapita pottery production. The absence of rules or at the very least the existence of rules allowing a wide range of raw materials indicates that the raw materials did not have any real significance or impact on the perception of the final product. This behaviour appears logical considering the high mobility of Lapita groups and the fact that Lapita settlers, beyond the main Solomon's chain, were the first inhabitants on a wide array of different insular environments with diverse geological origins. From a political economy perspective, the wide range of fabrics at Teouma is a sign that there was no apparent political control or imposed limitations over access to the raw materials.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)5257-5273
    JournalArchaeological and Anthropological Sciences
    Volume11
    Issue number10
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2019

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