Exploring Lapita diversity on New Britain’s south coast, Papua New Guinea

  • Jim Specht Senior Fellow in Anthropology Australian Museum Sydney
  • Chris Gosden
  • Christina Pavlides
  • Zoe Richards
  • Glenn Summerhayes
Keywords: Lapita, New Britain, Near Oceania, cultural variability, material culture


Variability in material culture at Lapita pottery sites has long been recognised, but is rarely discussed. Here we explore differences between two Lapita sites on Apugi Island near Kandrian and two in the Arawe Islands on the south side of New Britain, Papua New Guinea. In the Arawes, the Apalo and Makekur sites have rich assemblages with shell fishhooks, and coral and shell discs similar to those found in Lapita and later contexts across Oceania. In contrast, the less rich assemblages of the Rapie/Iangpun and Auraruo sites on Apugi Island lack similar fishhooks or discs. Three possible explanations for these differences are discussed: sample bias, environmental constraints, and cultural factors. While each may have contributed to some degree, we propose two scenarios involving cultural choices for further consideration: the selective uptake and transfer of new ideas between communities, and contrasting site functions between central places for ritual or trading activities (Arawes) versus unspecialised residential locales (Kandrian). 

Author Biography

Jim Specht, Senior Fellow in Anthropology Australian Museum Sydney
Anthropology section, Senior Fellow (retired), Australian Museum, Sydney; and Honorary Associate, School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry, University oif Sydney
How to Cite
Specht, J., Gosden, C., Pavlides, C., Richards, Z. and Summerhayes, G. (2016) “Exploring Lapita diversity on New Britain’s south coast, Papua New Guinea”, Journal of Pacific Archaeology, 7(1), pp. 20-29. Available at: https://pacificarchaeology.org/index.php/journal/article/view/175 (Accessed: 22January2021).