The Lapita question
The prehistory of the western Pacific has, for the last 30 years, been dominated by the problem of the origins of the present Polynesian and Melanesian cultures (Terrell 1988). In 1961 Golson drew attention to the distribution of highly decorated Lapita pottery, now known to date from between 3500 BP and 2000 BP, which crossed the present-day division between Melanesia and Polynesia. Furthermore, sites with Lapita pottery represented the first evidence of occupation on Tonga and Samoa, the most westerly Polynesian islands from which it was thought that the rest of Polynesia was colonized. Lapita pottery came to be associated with a movement of people from Melanesia to Polynesia and was seen to represent the founding group ancestral to later Polynesian groups.