Two 500 year-old village sites found on Fiji

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The historical discovery of two village sites dating back to at least 500 years has been made by a team from the Fiji Museum.

Two 500 year-old village sites found on Fiji
Tales in the rocks … raised stone alignment at the old village site in the
Koroyanitu mountain range [Credit: Fiji  Museum]

Following a request from villagers on an island off Lautoka, the team carried out a survey in the Koroyanitu mountain range in Lautoka last week. The survey resulted in the discovery of two old village sites.

Fiji Museum’s head of history and archaeology, Elia Nakoro, said the villagers wanted them to do a survey to substantiate stories passed down the generations.

Mr Nakoro said the villagers were only aware of the old village site from oral history. He said the survey found clear evidence of people once living at the site of the old villages.

The team would not disclose the name of the island that requested an archaelogical survey for various reasons, including safeguarding the site.

“There is evidence of houses being at the site, with stone alignments in the mountains and some clay pottery pieces also found,” he said

“We also did a mapping of the site which is on a slope towards Navilawa, just at the bottom of the mountain range.”

Asked when the villages existed, he said: “The villages would have existed between the years 1500 and 1800. Most villages were established on high ground like a fort at that time because of tribal wars to enable people to lookout for their enemies. It’s a source of ancestral link for the villagers and it also shows just how the early Fijians were moving about and they ended up on the island. Their movements have been confirmed by the Native Lands Commission records and the nearby villagers of Abaca and Navilawa in the Koroyanitu mountain range.”

Mr Nakoro said the villagers could have ended up on the outer island either to escape their enemies or in search of marine resources.

“The Koroyanitu mountain range is the origin of most villages in the West, especially in Nadi and Lautoka.”

His team has taken photographs and finer details of the old village site, which would go down in historical records. The team has been going around the country doing surveys based on information received from people.

Mr Nakoro said his office had been flooded with requests from villagers to trace and confirm their old village sites.

“There are numerous requests received by the museum from villages around Fiji to confirm and protect their cultural heritage from any sort of development – infrastructural, mining, hotel, logging, agriculture. The Archaeology Department has been doing this in the past several years by utilising Cap 264 of the Preservation of Objects of Archaeological and Palaeontological Interest Act. We have been assisting villagers in confirming their sites of cultural significance and also one that is tied to their identity and origin.”

Mr Nakoro said the museum had been helping in tracing the movements of the iTaukei ancestors from one place to another, recording historical accounts and linking it to the existing cultural features in the form of old village sites through mapping and reporting.

He said the data collected was entered into a database of cultural sites of Fiji and used to advise government departments and developers.

Source: The Fiji Times [June 10, 2013]

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