By Sera Tikotikovatu-Sefeti
Fiji is this week hosting the 10th International Lapita Conference, an event that brings together experts in the field of archaeology from the Pacific and beyond.
The Lapita conference occurs every three to four years. This year it is being held at the University of the South Pacific and will end with a fieldtrip to the Sigatoka Sand Dunes and Nakabuta village on Saturday.
According to USP’s Deputy Head of School of Law and Social Science, Dr. Nicholas Halter, the conference brings together archaeologists and people involved in museum studies, linguists, historians, and anyone else that is interested in the heritage and history of Fiji and the Pacific Islands.
Previewing the meeting, Halter said: “I think it’s really exciting for contemporary society, because it will be encouraging us to think about ways in which Pacific Islanders have adapted over time.”
In their effort to reconstruct the past, archaeology and allied disciplines often illustrate a dynamic view of socio-cultural systems, including demographic growth, climate change, and how people adapted to these changes. This can serve as a valuable lesson for contemporary societies seeking to find instances of successful past adaptive strategies while taking pride in the various cultural and technological achievements of their ancestors.
Lapita is the foundation culture for the Pacific islands of Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa. Halter said, “Lapita often refers to a period of early human settlement in the South Pacific, [those] who migrated down through parts of Melanesia and across Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga, and continued to spread through the rest of the Pacific.”
The Fiji Museums archaeologist, Elia Nakoro, shared: “I think that term was misinterpreted when it was first discovered in New Caledonia. The person who discovered the pottery shard actually asked the locals what they would call the shard, so instead of hearing the correct name, he assumed it was called Lapita, so that is where that term originated.”
Nakoro added, “We have a few archaeological Lapita sites in Fiji; just to mention a few, there’s Baurewa in Nadroga, the famous Sigatoka Sand Dunes, Tau cave in Nadroga as well, Lau, and a significant discovery in Moturiki.
“We have Lapita sites that are almost 3000 years old in all the provinces of Vanua Levu, and at the conference we will be talking about these Lapita sites,” he said.
The 2023 conference will feature over 50 presentations, panels, and discussions from specialists involved in academic, museum, cultural heritage, and artistic studies.
Venue: USP Japan ICT Center
Dates: 26th to the 30th of June