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He immediately recognized its distinctive pattern — “dentate stamping,” an ancient technique so named because it looked as though some tiny-toothed creature had bitten an intricate pattern into the ceramic — and understood that this pottery coincided with the very first movement of ancient peoples into the South Seas.
Bedford rushed to the site of the discovery, an old colonial coconut plantation that the bulldozer had been clearing for use as a prawn farm.
But with one very small exception — the tiny eastern outliers of the Solomon Islands — Vanuatu offers the first solid ground on the far side of a major but invisible maritime boundary.
On the west side of that border is a string of archipelagoes called Near Oceania: islands chained to one another (and to the rest of the world) by lines of sight.
PART IA faint aura of destiny seems to hover over Teouma Bay.
We climbed into his white Land Cruiser and drove to a tidy village compound outside town.
Vanuatu is a volcanic archipelago of more than 80 islands littered in an extended slingshot shape across an 800-mile arc of the South Pacific.
Europeans first heard of its existence in 1606, when a Portuguese navigator stopped through on a brief but violent imperial errand for the Spanish crown.
A meaningful national identity has been constructed from a common appreciation of ceremonial pig-tusk bracelets and the taking of kava, a very mild narcotic root that looks like primordial pea soup and tastes like a fine astringent dirt.
Above all, however, the ni-Vanuatu are bound together by the fact of the country’s nautical isolation: Their nearest neighbors are hundreds of miles in any direction.