Prehistory in a nutshell: a Lapita-age nut-cracking stone from the Arawe Islands, Papua New Guinea


Correspondence: Carol Lentfer, Archaeology Program, School of Social Science, University of Queensland, Michie Building, St Lucia, Qld 4072, Australia, Email:


Organic residue on a stone artefact recovered from the Makekur Lapita site (FOH) on Arawe Island in West New Britain Province, Papua New Guinea, was sampled and dated. The residue is identified as endocarp fragments of a Canarium species nutshell, most likely Canarium indicum L. The artefact, which is made from coralline limestone, is interpreted as a nut-cracking anvil. AMS dating places its use at approximately 2800 calBP, in Middle–Late Lapita times, and provides the first direct confirmation of Lapita-age use of nut-cracking tools. The careful shaping of the tool, combined with ethnographic comparisons, suggests that it was made and used for preparation of special food, possibly for feasting associated with ritual or other ceremonial activities.