Tattooing in Melanesia: local invention or Lapita introduction?
How old is tattooing in Melanesia? Kirch (1997:142-3), in a widely accepted argument, proposed that both body tattooing (i.e. cutting or piercing the body with designs, with or without staining) and pottery making were brought to Melanesia by Austronesian speakers and that the method of tattooing was transferred to create dentate-stamped Lapita pottery. Ceramic faces and a figure fragment bearing tattoos demonstrate contemporaneity with Lapita pottery (Green 1979:16; Summerhayes 1998; Torrence & White 2001), but we argue that tattooing has a very long history in Melanesia and is therefore more likely an indigenous invention.