The Rossel Islanders probably represent the last remnants of an original population of the region, which on the other Islands has been superseded by, probably, several waves of Austronesian-speaking immigrants. In one of these pottery, derived from the Lapita culture, spread through the Massim about 2,000 B.P. It is probable that a stratified social system was introduced at the same time, linking island populations to political centers. Although Rossel preserved its Non-Austronesian language, the culture is much affected by its Austronesian neighbors. The first historical contact gave Rossel an ill repute: 316 Chinese coolies, bound for Australia, were reported massacred and eaten after a shipwreck in 1858. Rossel became a part of the British (later Australian) protectorate of Papua in 1884. During the next decades the island was "pacified" by government patrols. In 1903 an enterprising family of traders established a plantation that became the economic center of the island for the next fifty years and deeply transformed the socioeconomic relations of the people. Rossel is now more involved in the cash economy than its nearest neighbors to the west. The plantation is now worked by local people. Missions were established starting in 1930; the first was the Methodist (now United Church) mission, followed in 1947 by the Catholic. Now, roughly the western half of the island is United Church, while the eastern half is Catholic.