According to the most recent archaeological studies, the oldest traces of settlement in New Caledonia date from around 3,000 years ago, including attested life in the Koné region. It is in fact on the beach at Foué, in a place known as Lapita, that the first ceramics attesting to human settlement were found.
It is 1917 and the world is at war, and geologist Maurice Piroutet is discovering the fragments of pottery on the beach at Koné, in a place known locally as Lapita.
It is this name which will later be kept by archaeologists to refer to the potteries belonging to this cultural system. And not just for those discovered in New Caledonia, but for the whole of the South Pacific! Additional excavation sites will enable us to advance our knowledge of the pre-European past of the Pacific, and in particular that of New Caledonia.
Ceramics of the South PacificVoir plus
Archaeologists and historians refer to the period from 1300 to 200 BC as the ‘Koné tradition’. The Lapita potteries from this period have been almost exclusively found on these coastal sites. The hypothesis is that these richly decorated ceramics were intended for commercial or ritual use.
Two pottery styles: Lapita and Podtanean
Another style of pottery developed in parallel, named Podtanean (another reference to the Koné site where this style was identified). These ceramics, less meticulous and simpler in form, would have been for more practical use. In addition, these were widely distributed, proven by the number of sites they have been found at on the Grande Terre. In contrast to Lapita, which seems to suddenly disappear during the course of the first century AD, Podtanean pottery begins to evolve. Some pieces will continue to be fashioned until the start of the 20th century, while the oldest have been carbon-14 dated to almost 1200 BC!