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A Fijian maiden in the early days.

The most remarkable aspect of Fijian pre-history is its antiquity. It is now known that people had reached the Fijian archipelago as early as 2000 years before the birth of Christ.

Considering the fact that the Vikings, acknowledged as Europe`s greatest sailors, didn`t reach American until three thousand years later, or the fact that Columbus made his famous voyage only some five hundred years ago, the Fijian achievement must be seen as extraordinary.

The question is, who were the first settlers. And the answer is that we don`t know. There are some who are prepared to speculate and Dr Roger Green, Professor of Anthropology at Auckland University, in New Zealand is one of them. He calls this vast archipelago `Island of South East Asia`.

These migrants were relatively new, even though they were different from those of the people already living in the islands of Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, the Hebrides (now Vanuatu) and New Caledonia.

The first settlers were of Negrito stock with dark skin, woolly hair and other typical features. The newcomers were fairer, had straight or wavy black hair and we can assume were of many type stock.

They would seem to have been good sailors and craftsmen and excellent potters who made a distinct type of ware we know as Lapita pottery after its initial discovery in New Caledonia.

A picture emerges of these `Lapita` people - sailors, adventurers, good navigators and consummate craftsmen.

The trail of their pots, hooks, obsidian cutting tools and ornaments leads down from New Britain through some of the outer islands fringing the Solomons and Vanuatu, suggesting that perhaps they were not powerful enough to force settlements on the bigger islands which were already supporting large populations of people.

In this classic difference between the two groups we see the racial characteristics of what was later to be defined as Melanesian and Polynesian stock.

The Melanesians were to retain their grip on the western island of the south Pacific but it can be fairly assumed that a great deal of the `Lapita` blood found its way into its main stream.

At some stage, about 2000 years before the birth of Christ, a canoe load of adventurous `Lapita` sailors either deliberately set out to the east or were driven off course by a westerly wind and made landfall in the Fijian archipelago.

Dr. Green`s theory is that these were the first settlers, not only because at that time they would have had the necessary maritime technology, but also because their pottery is found throughout the whole of Fiji....

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