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The Australian National University

Mr Mathieu Leclerc

Position: PhD student in Archaeology


Thesis title: From over the sea or form the island: Provenance study of ceramics from Vanuatu

Research interests: sourcing of archaeological materials, ceramic technology, exchange networks, migration patterns, archaeometric characterisation.

My PhD project is oriented toward reconstructing distribution and exchange patterns, as well as population movement, based on exotic ceramic distribution throughout the archipelago of Vanuatu. Because of Vanuatu’s particular geographical location, it represents a crucial place for understanding population movements in the Pacific and accordingly, it is believed that Vanuatu was a major stepping stone during the initial human colonization of this part of the world about 3000 years ago. More than 20 Lapita sites with pottery showing Lapita motifs similar to the ones observed on sites located elsewhere in Remote Oceania have been found in Vanuatu. Among Vanuatu archaeological sites, Teouma is the only Lapita cemetery in the Pacific where Lapita pottery has been found in direct association with burials, and hence represents a unique research opportunity.

The following post-Lapita archaeological record shows a greater variability of pot shapes and motifs as regional diversification is observed all across the archipelago. A fairly complete sequence for Central Vanuatu in particular has been established and covers the whole span of ceramic production from 3200 BP to 1200 BP.

The aim of this project is to undertake a detailed geochemical study of pottery and soil samples using several analytical techniques providing complementary information (optical and petrographic microscopy, XRD, LA-ICP-MS and lead isotopic ratios) in order to identify pottery manufacture locations and thus contribute to the understanding of modes of production and to study transformation of these processes through time.


Updated: 9 January 2012/ Responsible Officer:  Head of School / Page Contact:  Web Publisher