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NOUMÉA, New Caledonia (August 1, 2002 - Oceania Flash)---The world's top Pacific archaeologists are meeting this week in the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the first discovery of Lapita pottery, which is the foundation for current Pacific early migration theories, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports.

The conference, titled "Pacific Archaeology: Taking Stock and Future Prospects," is being held in Koné village (Northern Province of New Caledonia), where the first Lapita pottery were unearthed in July 1952, on Foué Beach (west coast of the main island of New Caledonia) by a team led by American archaeologist Richard Shutler.

It was also the first time that the Carbon 14 datation system was used in this field.

Fifty years later, Shutler is back in New Caledonia as the main guest of the conference, which is co-organized by New Caledonia's territorial government, its cultural affairs department, the Northern and Southern provinces and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).

On Thursday, a ceremony to commemorate the crucial discovery took place.

Lapita pottery (which derives its name from the original New Caledonian site) was later found in several Pacific islands: Papua New Guinea's Bismarck islands, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Wallis and Futuna, Fiji and Samoa.

Their presence in all those scattered islands gradually established the theory of a west-east migratory movement by the Pacific's early settlers, some 4,000 years ago, probably coming from Southeast Asia.

Organizers, including New Caledonia Museum’s archaeology department head Christophe Sand, said they wanted the Koné conference to be a venue for exchange, communication, involving representatives from neighboring Pacific island countries where Lapita pottery has been found.

The meeting is also an occasion for world-renowned specialists to look back at fifty years of archaeological research in Melanesia, as well as Micronesia and Polynesia.

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