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By Anthony Regan, Helga Griffin

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Lapita represents a fully agricultural lifestyle which accompanies the first introduction of domestic pigs, dogs and chickens, and the commensal Polynesian rat to the New Guinea and Island Melanesian regions. There is a lot of debate about how much of the Lapita phenomenon represents an intrusion from Island South-East Asia and how much of this culture developed in the Bismarcks [Kirch 1997; Jones and Spriggs 2002]. The domestic animals, the use of pottery and some other artefacts, and the Austronesian languages that were introduced at this time, certainly represent intrusive elements from South-East Asia.

1988]. FROM 2,500 TO 500 YEARS AGO The post-Lapita Yomining phase on Nissan consists of a predominantly plain pottery with occasional incised decoration. It continues until perhaps 750 years ago, after which late Hangan style pottery from Buka begins to be imported. Because the Yomining assemblage is quite different from the Sohano style pottery of Buka, dating to about 2,200 to 1,400 years ago, a source to the north on New Ireland or one of the islands off its east coast must be assumed. The material culture and fauna are similar to that from Lapita sites [Spriggs 1991].

At European contact Buka had three contiguous pottery making villages, and there were several centres in central Bougainville and more in the south of the island. Given the rapid development of styles, surface sites of at least the last 1,000 years from Nissan south to the Shortlands can be dated generally to within a couple of hundred years by visual inspection of the decorated pottery. For Nissan, the impression gained from surface collections [Kaplan 1976 and my own work] is of a continuing expansion of the number and size of settlements through to European contact and then a substantial decline before the population boom of the last hundred years.

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