Refereed Article Social networks and the spread of Lapita

Citation: Torrence, R; Swadling, P. 2008. Social networks and the spread of Lapita. Antiquity . 82. 600-616.


Despite major research efforts, the spread of Lapita pottery within the Bismarck Archipelago of Papua New Guinea continues to be debated (Figure 1). Locally made pottery with ornate designs appeared c. 3300 cal BP--seemingly out of nowhere. With the possible exception of a plain ware assemblage from Mussau (Kirch 2001: 85), ceramics were not previously manufactured in this region and there are few if any local precursors for the elaborate dentate decoration that was eventually shared over an enormous region stretching from the Bismarck Archipelago, across Melanesia, and into western Polynesia (Kirch 1997; Spriggs 1997, but see Craig 1995). Pacific scholars are divided about whether the knowledge of pottery production and/or decoration was imported to the Bismarck Archipelago with immigrants or whether it represents a local adoption and adaptation of a new technology derived from Taiwan or the Philippines (e.g. Allen & White 1989; Green 1991; 2000; Diamond & Bellwood 2003: 601).

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