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13 August 2005
Face of ancient Fiji shows Pacific's past

Pacific islanders were given the first realistic glimpse of what one of their ancestors looked like after researchers from Fiji and Japan were able to construct a representation of the face of a 3,000-year-old female skeleton.
     Patrick Nunn of the University of the South Pacific (USP) in the Fijian capital, Suva, and his USP team found the skeleton and pieces of distinctive pottery in the tiny settlement of Naitabale on the island of Moturiki, just to the east of Fiji's main island of Viti Levu, in 2002. The skeleton was sent to Kyoto University's Primate Research Institute, where computer modeling was used to reconstruct Mana's face from her well-preserved skull.
     While their discovery did not challenge accepted theories about how the Pacific was settled, the result of their work did cause some surprises because the face of the woman they have named "Mana" bore little or no resemblance to modern Fijians. Tall and muscular, Mana was about 50 when she died, about 15 years older than the average islander's life span 3,000 years ago. She was probably right-handed and had given birth to at least one child.
     Mana was about 164 cm (5 ft 4 in) tall, her skeleton suggested a life of strenuous physical activity and her teeth were stained dark brown, probably from chewing the roots of the kava plant. "She was very healthy, she had a big body, she had well-developed muscles and there was no signs of bone degeneration. It was mainly only the teeth that were pretty awful," Nunn said.

Source: ABC News (11 august 2005)

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