Lapita Period Modelled Ceramic Face from New Caledonia

By Noury, Arnaud | Archaeology in Oceania, April 2007 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Lapita Period Modelled Ceramic Face from New Caledonia


Noury, Arnaud, Archaeology in Oceania


Abstract

I report here a new Lapita period clay modelled face from the Lapita (WKO013A) site. This is similar to the seven Lapita period faces already known. I discuss the role that such faces could have played in Lapita culture and suggest they could have been made by distinct groups.

Keywords: Lapita, ceramic face

**********

Only seven clay modelled faces made by Lapita potters are known, very few compared to the thousands of decorated sherds in Near and Remote Oceania. Although none have been found actually on a pot, it is plausible that these faces constituted a significant part of the Lapita decorative system (Torrence and White 2001:135). Birds were also modelled, one being found at Nenumbo (RF2) (Donovan 1973 Fig 8) and four on the rim of a complete pot at Teouma (Bedford pers. comm.). Green (1979) and Donovan (1973) describes a modelled buttock from the Santa Cruz group in the Solomon Islands.

This face is the property of a French collector. It is the second known from New Caledonia, the other figure being reported by Frimigacci (1981) from Koumac, also in the north of the island.

Presentation of this report is an occasion to discuss some aspects of Lapita decoration, although there are no clear answers to some of the questions, partly because the number of known faces is so small. Were these modelled faces really part of pot decoration? Are they comparable to other examples of modelling in the Lapita decorative system? Why are there so few of them? Do they exhibit a specific style or come from specific periods? A list of the seven known faces is given in Table 1.

The WKO013A face

This small face was discovered on the edge of an eroding beach slope at site WKO013A, now a shrimp farm. Its fragility suggests that it had not been exposed long or it would have disappeared entirely. However, it does not seem to have deteriorated since its discovery.

The face is approximately 38 x 34 mm (Figure 1). It is incomplete, with two well marked orbital cavities and a triangular, long, slightly curved nose. Two small circular holes in the orbits suggest the presence of eyes, which may have contained colouring matter, shell or some other addition. A third hole, less regular and damaged is located right under the nose. This may be the remainder of a nostril, similar to that on Boduna Face 1 (Torrence and White 2001 Fig 1), or simply accidental damage. A fourth hole on the face seems accidental, but might be the remains of a previous decoration. There are no signs of dentate stamping. Traces of breakage are visible on the sides of the face; these are old, but indicate the face may have been originally attached to a larger vessel.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Other Lapita modelled faces

The other New Caledonian face, from Koumac (NKM001), is longer, with deep orbital cavities and a half circle of dentate stamping on the eyes. The two New Caledonian faces are quite similar to each other and to the three from Boduna. All are relatively long, eyebrows are apparent, the nose is lengthened and nostrils may occur. Boduna Face 1 has the same dentate stamped decoration in the eyes, while Face 2 is partially surrounded by dentate stamping typical of Lapita and implying incorporation of the face in a complex ceramic decoration. Face 3 is not decorated. These figures may also be similar to one from Naigani, Fiji (Best 1981:11), also discovered by a collector. However, since there is no detailed description or illustration of this, comparisons are difficult. The final face, from Kamgot (ERA) site on Anir, New Ireland (Summerhayes 1998), is similar in size to the current one. But it is rather different in form, being rounder in shape, uses dentate stamp marking for the eyes, and has dentate lines on the forehead, down the nose and on the nostrils. Kirch (1997:142-3, iii) notes a face carved on a bone in a style similar to the Kamgot face.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Lapita Period Modelled Ceramic Face from New Caledonia
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?