Were the first Lapita colonisers of Remote Oceania farmers as well as foragers?

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    Archaeological evidence indicates that the first Lapita colonisers of Remote Oceania relied heavily on foraging to sustain themselves, exploiting pristine marine and land resources. Did they also carry with them and establish a range of cultivated tubers and tree crops, as argued by Kirch (1997) and others? Noting the lack of direct evidence for horticulture in Lapita sites in this region, Anderson (2003) suggested that cultigens may not have been introduced until considerably later and then in a piecemeal fashion. This paper examines several lines of evidence that bear on this debate, with particular reference to Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga. Micro-botanical evidence from Vanuatu indicates that yams, aroids and bananas were among the cultigens introduced very early. Comparative lexical evidence suggests the same for the greater yam, Colocasia taro, two kinds of Musa bananas and the major cultivated tree crops. Archaeological evidence shows that pigs and chickens were present in the earliest sites. Divergence of pottery styles points to loss of regular contact between Lapita communities in Near and Remote Oceania and between major regions of Remote Oceania from 2800 BP onwards, within 100–200 years of first settlement. These factors favour the conclusion that most of the typical Oceanic array of cultivated plants had already been introduced before the loss of regular contact and probably in the first generation or two of settlement.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationNew Perspectives in Southeast Asian and Pacific Prehistory
    Editors Phillip Piper, Hirofumi Matsumura and David Bulbeck
    Place of PublicationActon, Australia
    PublisherANU Press
    ISBN (Print)9781760460945
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


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