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There is archeological evidence of human settlement in Oceania as early as the Upper Palaeolithic period of the Stone Age, but little rock art of any great antiquity survives since with a few exceptions, like the monumental lava-stone statues on Easter Island the materials used are not especially long-lasting: painted and carved wood, bark-cloth, vegetable fibres, feathers and bone.
Once made, few artifacts were conserved as treasures or enduring memorials; most were abandoned or sometimes destroyed once their immediate purpose had been fulfilled.
Oceanic painting, sculpture and wood-carving were conceived as an integral part of the religious and social ceremony of everyday island life, and were aspects of the various prevalent forms of ancestor-worship and spirit-worship.Among the Oceanic peoples anxiety about the hereafter is predominant.Melanesian philosophy, like Australian, conceives of a world with no differentiation where dead and living, natural and supernatural, coexist in close association.A closer scrutiny modifies this opinion, which, however, certain authors still hold.Note: one of the least known forms of Oceanic art, a specialty of Vanuatu (formerly New Hebrides) in the South Pacific, is "sand drawing".
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The living have to defend themselves against the jealousy of the dead.