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The Early Prehistory of Fiji

The Early Prehistory of Fiji

Geoffrey Clark
Atholl Anderson
Series: Terra Australis
Volume: Terra Australis 31
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    The Early Prehistory of Fiji
    Book Description:

    I enjoyed reading this volume. It is rare to see such a comprehensive report on hard data published these days, especially one so insightfully contextualised by the editors' introductory and concluding chapters. These scholars and the others involved in the work really know their stuff, and it shows. The editors connect the preoccupations of Pacific archaeologists with those of their colleagues working in other island regions and on “big questions” of colonisation, migration, interaction and patterns and processes of cultural change in hitherto-uninhabited environments. These sorts of outward-looking, big-picture contextual studies are invaluable, but all too often are missing from locally- and regionally-oriented writing, very much to its detriment. In sum, the work strongly advances our understanding of the early prehistory of Fiji through its well-integrated combination of original research and the reinterpretation of existing knowledge in the context of wider theoretical and historical concerns. In doing so The Early Prehistory of Fiji makes a truly substantial contribution to Pacific and archaeological scholarship. Professor Ian Lilley, The University of Queensland

    eISBN: 978-1-921666-07-0
    Subjects: Archaeology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. 1 Research on the early prehistory of Fiji
    (pp. 1-18)
    Atholl Anderson and Geoffrey Clark

    This volume describes results of a research program on the early phases of prehistory in Fiji. The research began in 1995 as a collaborative project of the ANU and the Fiji Museum entitled ‘Prehistoric colonisation and palaeoenvironment of Fiji’ (Anderson et al. 1996). The initial emphasis was on the period beginning about 5000 BP and extending up to about 2000 BP, with the objective of studying the pre-human landscape and then the arrival, spread and environmental impact of human colonisation. At the time, human colonisation was thought to begin somewhere between 3000 and 4500 BP, depending on whether archaeological (3200–...

  4. 2 Palaeofaunal sites and excavations
    (pp. 19-40)
    Trevor H. Worthy and Atholl Anderson

    Fieldwork investigating fossil sites occurred in Fiji between June 1997 and November 1999. We concentrated on the limestone areas of Viti Levu, but also investigated the upraised coral island of Vatulele. Access and permission to the various sites was facilitated by the Fiji Museum, in particular by Sepeti Matararaba (Fiji Museum Field Officer). All research on fossil sites was directed by Worthy, as follows:

    1. In June 1997, assisted by Matararaba and Gavin Udy (New Zealand caver), we made a preliminary survey of caves in the Sigatoka Valley. Limestone areas around Volivoli, Raiwaqa, Toga, Tuvu and Saweni were examined (Figure 9)....

  5. 3 Results of palaeofaunal research
    (pp. 41-62)
    Trevor H. Worthy and Atholl Anderson

    In this chapter, we describe the results of identifications of the faunal remains described in Chapter 2. We restrict the results to data from the fossil sites rather than the archaeological sites, which are described in Chapter 10. Analyses were carried out by Worthy using the reference collections noted in Chapter 10, which include relatively modern material in order to examine changes in the Fiji fauna.

    The following abbreviations have been used for both single and plural reference to the elements: cmc, carpometacarpi; cor, coracoids; fem, femora; fib, fibulae; hum, humeri; pt, part; quad, quadrates; rad, radii; scap, scapulae; stern,...

  6. 4 Vegetation histories from the Fijian Islands: Alternative records of human impact
    (pp. 63-86)
    Geoffrey Hope, Janelle Stevenson and Wendy Southern

    The Melanesian high islands of Tertiary and Quaternary volcanic origin provide a natural laboratory for assessing the impact of human settlement on bounded habitats. In Fiji, the three largest islands, Viti Levu, Vanua Levu and Tavieuni, formed a single landmass at glacial times in the Pleistocene, while other high islands occur with a range of isolation from nearest land. Human settlement is known from about 3000 years ago from locations throughout the archipelago. The islands lie at about 16–23°S latitude in the tropical southeast trade-wind belt, and exhibit a marked zonation of climate. The eastern and southern windward coast...

  7. 5 Fieldwork in southern Viti Levu and Beqa Island
    (pp. 87-120)
    Atholl Anderson and Geoffrey Clark

    This chapter is concerned with research in southern Viti Levu and on Beqa Island, which lies off the south coast of Viti Levu. The investigations can be divided into four parts, based on site geography (Figure 35). Much of the early fieldwork effort concentrated on the lower and middle Sigatoka Valley and nearby areas of the south coast of Viti Levu. The Sigatoka, at 137 km long, is the second largest river in Fiji, after the Rewa. Its lower and middle reaches run through the relatively dry leeward zone of Viti Levu and annual rainfall in the valley is around...

  8. 6 Fieldwork in northern Viti Levu and Mago Island
    (pp. 121-152)
    Geoffrey Clark and Atholl Anderson

    This chapter outlines fieldwork in north Viti Levu and on Mago Island in the Lau Group. Major investigations were made at two already known north-coast Viti Levu sites: the Lapita site of Natunuku, in Ba Province, and Navatu 17A, in Rakiraki Province. On Mago Island, a Lapita site at Votua was discovered and excavated in 1997 and 2000. A rock shelter known as Sovanibeka, inland from the Votua site, was also briefly examined. The research history and fieldwork involving these sites in our project is described below.

    The north coast of Viti Levu is predominantly volcanic and, being on the...

  9. 7 Site chronology and a review of radiocarbon dates from Fiji
    (pp. 153-182)
    Geoffrey Clark and Atholl Anderson

    The earliest radiocarbon dates from the Central Pacific were obtained by Edward W. Gifford, on charcoal recovered from excavations at Vunda and Navatu on Viti Levu (Gifford 1951a, b), and the results were later used to outline the first culture sequence proposed for Fiji, by Roger Green (1963). Subsequent investigations by Frost (1970, 1979) and Best (1984) substantially increased the number of ¹⁴C results from the archipelago, and allowed a wider range of cultural attributes, such as settlement location, interaction pattern, subsistence economy and stone-tool types, to be age-correlated.

    This chapter is divided into two sections, with the first section...

  10. 8 Molluscan remains from Fiji
    (pp. 183-212)
    Katherine Szabó

    Shell recovered from archaeological sites can give valuable insight to issues of site formation, taphonomy, subsistence, the nature of the environment and environmental change over time. Here, I present a series of shell analyses that can assist in the investigation of several research issues, focusing primarily on ecological issues.

    The primary concern is the interaction of prehistoric Fijians with their environment. Firstly, the shell assemblages will be used to give a general idea of the structure and nature of exploited ecological zones. Once this has been established, the species diversity of each assemblage, coupled with an assessment of the relative...

  11. 9 The fish bone remains
    (pp. 213-230)
    Geoffrey Clark and Katherine Szabó

    Fisheries are a fundamental part of Remote Oceanic economies and lifeways, used for different types of fishing, invertebrate capture and collection, and the gathering of marine plants. Where no bones or calcareous parts remain, these activities are invisible to archaeologists, but modern studies of marine exploitation in Fiji and elsewhere in the Pacific (e.g. Rawlinson et al. 1994; Dalzell et al. 1996) indicate that a good portion of activities should leave traces in the archaeological record. As with marine mollusca, tropical Indo-Pacific fish species diversity is high. However unlike the mollusca, our inability to identify remains beyond the family level...

  12. 10 Bird, mammal and reptile remains
    (pp. 231-258)
    Trevor H. Worthy and Geoffrey Clark

    This chapter reports the non-fish remains from 10 archaeological excavations on Viti Levu and the Lau Group, including the reanalysis of a bird-bone assemblage from Lakeba Island excavated previously by Simon Best (1984). Bone remains from Natunuku and Ugaga were uncommon and the small assemblages were misplaced during collection relocation after bushfires destroyed the ANU archaeological storage facility in 2003, and these assemblages are not considered further. Three of the non-fish faunal assemblages are from the Lau Group (Qaranipuqa, Votua, Sovanibeka), one is from the north coast of Viti Levu (Navatu 17A), and the remainder are from the southwest Viti...

  13. 11 Ceramic assemblages from excavations on Viti Levu, Beqa-Ugaga and Mago Island
    (pp. 259-306)
    Geoffrey Clark

    This chapter describes the ceramic collections from Navatu 17A, Karobo, Votua (1996), Natunuku, Malaqereqere, Volivoli II, Volivoli III, Ugaga Island and Kulu Bay. The EPF ceramics from the nine sites consisted of 54,522 sherds, weighing 295.8 kg. The ceramics were analysed at different intensities, with Navatu, Karobo and Ugaga reported in a PhD thesis (Clark 2000), and those from Votua, Natunuku and Qaranioso II published, although not always in detail, in several papers (Anderson and Clark 1999; Anderson et al. 2000; Clark and Anderson 2001; Clark et al. 2001). Details of the ceramics from the nine sites are discussed further...

  14. 12 Post-Lapita ceramic change in Fiji
    (pp. 307-320)
    Geoffrey Clark

    No ceramic sequence in the Pacific has been as closely examined for evidence of stylistic change and external influences as Fiji’s. Such scrutiny stems from long-observed differences between the physical characteristics and social structures of ‘Melanesian’ Fiji and ‘Polynesian’ people who inhabit islands to the east of Fiji, and a search for historical explanations for the differences, which in due course began to incorporate archaeological data (Hunt 1986; Clark 2003). The data, methods and theories used to interpret the Fiji ceramic sequence are a litmus test for understanding prehistoric culture contact, and have implications for interpreting archaeological sequences elsewhere in...

  15. 13 Compositional analysis of Fijian ceramics
    (pp. 321-344)
    Geoffrey Clark and Douglas Kennett

    The varied geological setting of the Fiji Islands gave rise to clays and temper sands that were combined by prehistoric potters to manufacture ceramics with distinctive constituents. Compositional analysis of pottery can be used to identify non-local sherds, and when comparative geochemical information is available, to delineate a potential ceramic source locale for local and exotic ceramics. The technique of examining mineral and non-mineral materials entrained in clays or added to clays by prehistoric potters was first used by Curtis (1951), who analysed 26 pot sherds excavated by Edward Gifford from the Navatu and Vuda sites in northern Viti Levu....

  16. 14 Stone artefact manufacture at Natunuku, Votua, Kulu and Ugaga, Fiji
    (pp. 345-372)
    Chris Clarkson and Lyn Schmidt

    Pacific flaked-stone assemblages after ca. 3000 years ago are often portrayed as simple, expedient, homogeneous and typologically depauperate. Recent technological analyses, however, are beginning to reveal significant variation in the types of reduction strategies employed in different regions and sites, as well as in the degree to which raw materials of various origins were reduced, conserved and curated (Halsey 1995; Sheppard 1992, 1993; Swete Kelly 2001). These studies have largely been concerned with identifying the mechanisms and quantities in which raw materials (but typically obsidian) were distributed across the Pacific at different times. Yet there is a growing concern that...

  17. 15 Characterisation and sourcing of archaeological adzes and flakes from Fiji
    (pp. 373-406)
    Barry Fankhauser, Geoffrey Clark and Atholl Anderson

    This chapter focuses on the characterisation and sourcing of lithic artefacts (adzes and flakes) found in excavations conducted in 1996 and 1997 on Beqa Island, Mago Island and Viti Levu. Although the primary focus is on basalt because of accumulated knowledge, other rock types are represented due to the diversity of lithic materials found in Fiji in contrast to oceanic basalts in the island groups of Polynesia. Lithic material found in the Fijian Islands could be from the island on which it was found, from within the archipelago, or imported from another island group, especially from Samoa (Best 1984; Best...

  18. 16 Colonisation and culture change in the early prehistory of Fiji
    (pp. 407-438)
    Geoffrey Clark and Atholl Anderson

    The arrival of humans in the Fiji Islands at ca. 2950–3050 cal. BP was, in historical and ecological terms, a momentous event in Pacific prehistory that nonetheless comprised only a relatively small part of the Lapita expansion in Near and Remote Oceania. In turn, Lapita colonisation was only one of several prehistoric migratory movements in Oceania that began during the late Pleistocene movement to Near Oceania (Allen and O’Connell 2008), with the frequency and scale of maritime movements increasing during the late Holocene (Anderson 2001; Green 2003). In this chapter, we situate the colonisation of Fiji and the Early...