In 2003 the authors discovered and excavated a Lapita site at Naitabale close to the southern end of Moturiki Island (central Fiji). Today the site is 350 m inland from the coast, but in Lapita times it was located behind the active beach ridge. A large collection of potsherds (including 92 dentate-stamped or incised Lapita sherds), shell, and animal bones was recovered, together with a human burial. Sherd decorations show affinities with the Western Lapita Province rather than the Eastern Lapita Province (which includes Fiji). Temper analyses of 45 Lapita sherds do not show any unmistakably exotic (to Fiji) pottery, but 29 percent are nonlocal to Moturiki and nearby islands. Fish bones are mostly from inshore species (dominated by Scaridae), while nonfish vertebrates are dominated by turtle and include dog and chicken. Shellfish remains are dominated by gastropods, mostly Strombus spp. (43 percent of gastropod MNI). The surf clam (Atactodea striata) accounts for 38 percent of bivalve MNI, with Anadara antiquata and Gafrarium pectinatum each representing 14 percent of the bivalve MNI. The skeleton is that of a woman (Mana) 161–164 cm tall who died at 40–60 years of age. Six radiocarbon dates from bones overlap 2740–2739 cal. years B.P. (790–789 B.C.). The mandible lacks antegonial notches but is not a proper rocker jaw. The cranium was better preserved than any Lapitaassociated skeleton hitherto described, which allowed the head to be reconstructed. Stable-isotope analyses show that her diet contained significant amounts of reef foods but was probably dominated by terrestrial plants. The Lapita occupation of Naitabale is likely to have begun by 2850 cal. years B.P. (900 B.C.). Radiocarbon dates and pottery decorative styles both suggest Naitabale was first occupied within the early part of the Lapita history of Fiji.
Asian Perspectives – University of Hawai'I Press
Published: Mar 19, 2007