The Fiji Sun recently reported that the University of the South Pacific (USP) will host one of the biggest and most significant historical and archeological conferences in the Pacific in recent years.
The conference will be held at USP’s Japan-Pacific ICT Theatre, Laucala Campus, Suva and the Fiji Museum from June 26-30 with a field trip planned on July 1.
The 10th International Lapita Conference in Suva in June is organized jointly by the Fiji Museum, USP, Fiji National University (FNU), The University of Fiji (UniFiji), the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs, the iTaukei Trust Fund Board and the Australian National University (ANU).
Co-organizer of the conference and senior lecture in Pacific Studies at USP, Dr Frank Thomas says several themes will feature at the conference including the history of Lapita archaeology in the region, Fiji’s Lapita history, histories of language, symbols, societies and networks and new research in archaeology, land and identity in the Oceania.
Work on ancient deoxyribonucleic acid (aDNA) to better understand the origins and migrations of Lapita peoples across the Pacific is also expected to be presented at the conference.
Fiji Museum researcher and co-organiser Elia Nakoro, reflecting on Fiji’s Lapita history, said it was likely the Lapita people in Fiji settled first in Nadroga around 3000 years ago, at the sites of Bourewa and Qoqo and then spread out through southwest Viti Levu.
Mr Nakoro said early settlers also reached Vanua Levu and many of the smaller islands including Yadua (Bua), Moturiki and Naigani in the Lomaiviti Group before occupying Lau Islands such as Lakeba and Mago.
“The Lapita settlers of Fiji represent the world’s greatest voyagers for their time and exhibited a complex culture that included elaborately decorated pottery and shell, tools and ornaments as well as an extraordinary ability to sail and navigate their way across hundreds of kilometres of open ocean,” Dr Thomas added.
“Archaeological research shows that the Lapita settlers of Fiji came from the West, probably from Vanuatu or the eastern outer islands of Solomon Islands which they had reached from the Bismarck Archipelago in Papua New Guinea.”
ANU’s Professor Matthew Spriggs, also a co-organiser, said the conference would also delve into the nature of these migrations, raising the question of whether the movement was a wave of voyagers or a slower, more drawn-out trickle over a longer period of time.
“Since Lapita people relied heavily on marine foraging and fishing, this conference will report on the abundant resources that might have played a role in encouraging further expansion of Lapita communities,” Prof Spriggs said.
“Archaeological evidence suggests that Lapita disappeared as a distinct culture about 2500 years ago but their descendants still live on those islands today, doing many of the same things and speaking languages related to those of their distant ancestors.”