3000-year-old pottery has been discovered in the highlands of New Guinea

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Scanning electron micrograph (SEM) image of one of the twenty pieces of pottery found at the Wanelek site in the New Guinea Highlands. Image: Gaffney.

A piece of 3000-year-old pottery found in the highlands of Papua New Guinea is helping researchers build a picture of what happened when two ancient people met.

The New Zealand, Australian and US researcher say the coastal pottery found among locally-made pottery in the New Guinea Highlands suggests Austranesian migrants forged relationships with the indigenous peoples living inland.

Before now, little was known about the impact of these Austranesian people in New Guinea as they moved from Southeast Asia and into Oceania.

Austronesian speaking people from Southeast Asia came to the Western Pacific 4000 to 3000 years ago, then went on to colonise Oceania where they became the ancestors of Polynesians.

Dylan Gaffney of the University of Otago and colleagues say the findings represent the oldest dated pottery on the island of New Guinea.

The find was announced in the journal Plos One.