01. Global Prehistory, Art & Humanities

#11. Terra cotta fragment. Lapita. Reef Islands, Solomon Islands. 1000 BCE. Terra cotta (incised).

Art Historical Background

Believe it or not there is a human face in this piece. I know, I know, I totally did not see it the first 100 times! If you look all the way to the right, there is a oval shape with what looks like two eyes, a long straight nose ending in a mouth. Additionally below this “head” are two perpendicular lines that can be arms sticking out and a stick torso.

The Lapita peoples are a Prehistoric Pacific culture that specialized in terra cotta pottery. Many of their pottery pieces featured stylized human faces or figures with lots of incised (pressed in) geometric patterns (this piece perfectly demonstrates both). Something that is cool about this piece is that it kind of foreshadows the later Pacific tradition of full-body geometric tattoos; whether or not they are directly connected, it does demonstrate the evolution of culture in a geographic region.

This piece is unfortunately really fragmented (hence the title), if it was completed we would be able to glean more information about the size and shape of the pottery vessel this decorated and perhaps its use in society. Without the rest of the pottery piece, we must stop here.



Next time#12 White Temple and its ziggurat. Uruk (modern Warka, Iraq). Sumerian. c. 3500-3000 BCE. Mud brick.


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