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Geographical influences on settlement-location choices by initial colonizers: a case study of the Fiji Islands

Nunn, Patrick D. (2009) Geographical influences on settlement-location choices by initial colonizers: a case study of the Fiji Islands. Geographical Research, 47 (3). pp. 306-319. ISSN 1745-5863

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From 3200 to 2850 cal BP (1250–900 BCE), the Lapita people of the Bismarck Archipelago (Papua New Guinea) undertook voyages eastward that led to their colonization of the eastern outer Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa. The earliest (Lapita) settlements in Fiji were along the Rove Peninsula in southwest Viti Levu Island. At the time of colonization, sea level was 1.5 m higher than today. The Rove Peninsula was then a smaller island off the coast of larger Viti Levu, with a broad, fringing reef along its windward coasts, which was probably the main attraction for Lapita colonizers. As elsewhere during Lapita times in the western tropical Pacific Islands, settlement choice for the initial colonizers of the Fiji Islands was at one level driven by site access, at another by the presence of broad, fringing coral reefs suitable for marine foraging. The earliest settlement along the Rove Peninsula was at Bourewa, occupied first in 3050 cal BP (1100 BCE), where people lived in houses on stilt platforms built along the axis of a subtidal sand barrier; on one side was a broad coral reef, on the other a partly-enclosed tidal inlet. There is no evidence that the Bourewa settlers practised horticulture or agriculture at this time, their subsistence being predominantly marine foraging. After some 300 years of following this subsistence strategy, the inhabitants of Bourewa responded to sea-level fall and the arrival of cultivars (of taro and yam) by including horticulture. As sea level fell further, a total of 550 mm during the Lapita era, the tidal inlet dried up and marine-food resources diminished to a point where the natural environment of the Rove Peninsula could no longer sustain its Lapita inhabitants. All Lapita sites in the area were abandoned about 2500 cal BP (550 BCE), at the same time as the Lapita culture, marked by the end of dentate-pottery manufacture, came to an end in Fiji.

Item Type: Journal Article
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human ecology. Anthropogeography
Divisions: Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment (FSTE) > School of Geography, Earth Science and Environment
Depositing User: Ms Neha Harakh
Date Deposited: 26 May 2009 00:25
Last Modified: 16 Jul 2012 05:41

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