Re-dating of pottery in PNG changes history on Lapita people
A discovery in Papua New Guinea has scientists re-writing the history of the movement of Lapita people across the Pacific.
The current theory that Lapita people quickly moved on from the PNG coastline to the Bismarck Archipelago and other Pacific islands is now in doubt, after pottery pieces found 40 years ago were re-dated.
The lead author of the paper, Dylan Gaffney, from New Zealand's University of Otago, told Alex Perrottet the pieces are over 3000 years old.
DYLAN GAFFNEY: "And what we did was we re-dated some of the sites and did a geochecmical analysis on some of the ancient pottery that was dug up. These are telling us that, the significant finding is that Austronesian speakers, who are the ancestors of the Pacific Islanders, on their way out of Taiwan into the Pacific about 4000, 3000 years ago, they didn't just skirt the the coast of New Guinea as we originally thought. They actually penetrated inland and had some real influence with inland populations who had been there for about 50,000 years. These new findings are showing that Austronesian do have an impact on their way into the Bismarck and the Pacific. They had an impact on mainland New Guinea, there was interaction between populations and people."
ALEX PERROTTET: And how far inland are we talking there, you're talking about the north coast of Papua New Guinea, how far inland are these particular artefacts being found?
DG: So these pottery shards we found are right into the remote interior of the New Guinea highlands, so it's right inland and we've sourced the pottery in geochemical studies so some of the pottery is coming from coastal sources on the north east coast of New Guinea and some of it is being produced in the interior, so either the highlands or the foothill areas of New Guinea of the interior, so it's suggesting that Austronesian potters moved into the interior as well as onto the coast. And from there they started making pottery, trading pots and interacting with existing populations.
AP: And finally can you tell me something about the actual method of dating, obviously we've got better systems these days and the radio-carbon re-dating is able to find that these artefacts are far older than what we thought. What's the process and what's the technology that you're using?
DG: What we do is we date charcoal and remains through radio carbon dating, so this is dating by association, so essentially when you have a large ... with pottery in it, and you have associated with that charcoal you might have a half-feature... and that tells you by association how old the artefacts in that layer are. So we did a process of strategically re-dating certain charcoal fragments which told us that the pottery was in fact 3000 or over 3000 years old.
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