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Early German-language Analyses of Potsherds from New Guinea and the Bismarck Archipelago

Hilary Howes


In December 1905, the Austrian anthropologist and medical practitioner Rudolf Pöch unearthed a number of potsherds from a refuse heap in Wanigela, south-eastern New Guinea. Four years later, Otto Meyer, a German Catholic missionary, discovered decorated pottery fragments on Watom Island in the Bismarck Archipelago. His illustrated accounts of these fragments are now recognised as the earliest descriptions of Lapita pottery. Although Meyer and Pöch shared a common language and examined similar materials from neighbouring parts of the Pacific at much the same time, their interpretations of these materials differed significantly. By comparing and contrasting their analyses of prehistoric pottery and speculations about its origins, I hope to help contextualise early archaeological work in the Pacific and shed new light on the development of ideas about the settlement of the region.


Otto Meyer; Rudolf Pöch; Lapita; Wanigela; Watom

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ISSN (print) 1179 4704; ISSN (online) 1179 4712
Published with the assistance of the Department of Anthropology & Archaeology, University of Otago.
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