The shapes of prehistoric pottery vessels excavated in 1996 on Tumleo Island and at Aitape are described and compared with historic and modern pots from this area of New Guinea held in the ethnological collections of the Field Museum of Natural History. Four basic shapes are described. Two of these, platters and bowls with carinations, are not seen in the historic and contemporary ceramic collections. Additionally, a new shape is seen among historic but not contemporary vessels. Some decorative attributes used on prehistoric Wain Ware vessels occur also on Tumleo pots collected before World War I, but the decorations seen on most modern vessels are highly variable and cannot be readily interpreted as modern variations on older decorative themes. Uses are assigned to the various vessel shapes, and techniques of pottery making in historic and modern times are described on the basis of observations made by various investigators working in the area from 1902 through 1998. It is concluded that the same uses for pottery vessels as well as similar pottery-making techniques probably existed in prehistoric times, as in historic and in modern times.
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