|16 July 2005
New finding disputes myth of early settlers in the Pacific
Archaeologists think they have unearthed the first human settlement on the South Pacific island of Fiji, a find believed to be about 3 000 years old. The archaeologists found 16 human skeletons at a burial site at Bourewa, on the south-west of the main island of Viti Levu, said Patrick Nunn, professor of geography at the University of the South Pacific, located in the Fiji capital, Suva.
He said abundant evidence at the site suggested that Bourewa was the first human settlement on the 340-island archipelago. Pottery deliberately buried with or underneath the human remains was of the so-called Lapita style and dated from around 1050 BCE, he noted. 'This represents an extraordinarily long ocean journey by the people that carried it'
Nunn said the Lapita pottery fragments bear designs typical of the early Lapita period of about 1250 BCE in Papua New Guinea and in the Solomon Islands to north-west of Fiji. Since it was unusual to find such designs on Lapita pottery in Fiji, the suggestions was that the Bourewa settlers were probably a new settlement from the Santa Cruz island group in Solomon Islands chain rather than from another part of Fiji.
The finding throws into question a popular local myth that modern Fijians first landed on the west side of Viti Levu after voyaging from Africa's Tanganyika region, which borders modern-day Tanzania. Nunn said an unexpected find in the burial site was a piece of obsidian almost certainly from a mine on the island of New Britain in Papua New Guinea. "It was carried at least 4 500 kilometres to Bourewa, probably as a talisman. This represents an extraordinarily long ocean journey by the people that carried it," he said.
Sources: Associated Press, IOL.co.za (14 July 2005)
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