Lapita pottery, Vanuatu Cultural Centre, Port Vila, Vanuatu
The Lapita culture or tradition was a pre-historic Pacific Ocean people and society dating from about 1600 BCE to 500 BCE. Archaeologists believe that the Lapita was the ancestor of historic cultures in Polynesia, Micronesia, and some coastal areas of Melanesia. The characteristics of the Lapita culture are the extension of human settlement to previously uninhabited Pacific Islands scattered over a large area, distinctive geometric dentate-stamped pottery, the use and widespread distribution of obsidian, and the spread of Oceanic languages.
The Lapita were perhaps the most advanced people of their day in seamanship and navigation, reaching out and finding islands separated from each other by hundreds of miles of empty ocean. Their descendants, the Polynesians, would populate islands from Hawaii to Easter Island, possibly even reaching the South American continent.