Located in the central Pacific Ocean, Fiji's geography has made it both a desired destination and a crossroads for migrations for many centuries.
Melanesian and Polynesian Settlement
Polynesian peoples are believed to have settled the Fijian islands some 3,500 years ago, with Melanesians following around a thousand years later.
Most authorities agree that they originated in Southeast Asia and came via Indonesia.
Archeological evidence shows signs of settlement on Moturiki Island from 600 BC and possibly as far back as 900 BC.
Recent research by the Fiji Museum and the University of the South Pacific (USP) has found that skeletons excavated at Natadola in Sigatoka, at least 3000 years old, belonged to the first settlers of Fiji, with their origins in South China or Taiwan.
The skeletons are to be sent to Japan for assembling and further research. Obsidian, a rare volcanic glass found only in Papua New Guinea had been discovered there, according to Patrick Nunn, USP Professor of Ocean Science and Geography, who theorized that the people could originally have left southern China or Taiwan some 7000 years ago, settling in Papua New Guinea before drifting on to Fiji and other countries.
Lapita pottery found on the surface of the graves was almost 2500 years old, he said.
Fiji Museum archaeologist Sepeti Matararaba said that the area beside the sea must have been occupied, because a great deal of pottery, hunting tools, and ancient shell jewellery had been discovered.
More than 20 pits had been dug following the discovery of lapita in the area.
On 15 July 2005, it was reported that the same teams had uncovered 16 skeletons at Bourewa, near Natadola.
The skeletons were found in a layer of undisturbed soil containing pottery from around 550 BC.
Professor Nunn said there was now abundant evidence that Bourewa had been the first human settlement in the Fiji archipelago, occupied from around 1200 BC onwards.
"Lapita people were the first people to come to Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Tonga and Samoa.
These people left evidence of their existence by mainly their elaborately decorated and finely fashioned pottery," Nunn said.
He said the evidence pointed to Papua New Guinea or the Solomon Islands as the place from where the earliest Fijians came, as the pottery fragments were typical of the early Lapita period in Papua New Guinea and the Solomons, but not readily found on Lapita Pottery in Fiji.
According to oral tradition, the indigenous Fijians of today are descendants of the chief Lutunasobasoba and those who arrived with him on the Kaunitoni canoe.
Landing at what is now Vuda, the...