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Fijian History
Fijians first settled their homeland about 8,000 years ago from south-east Asia. These Melanesian people also settled the islands to the north and east of Fiji like Vanuatu, New Caledonia and The Solomon Islands. A second migration from south-east Asia, distinguished by the arrival of Lapita pottery, brought Polynesians to Fiji about 3,000 years ago. Some of these Polynesians progressed further to the then uninhabited islands of Tonga, Samoa, Tahiti, New Zealand and Hawaii.


tombstone


historical site


rock paintings


levuka view


Ancient Fijians are well documented as being cannibals, engaging in gruesome localised warfare and believing in a animated spirit world. They lived in small fortified villages and formed clans with neighbouring villages through polygamy. However, they are less credited for being excellent sailors and navigators of the vast South Pacific Ocean and fine craftsmen and pottery makers. Unfortunately most of these skills have been forgotten or neglected and the ancient wood and thatch buildings have succumbed to the intense heat, rain and cyclones of the tropics, leaving only the rock foundations buried in the rainforest. Fiji's legends have been passed down through story-telling and dances known as meke.

Europeans 'discovered' the Fiji Islands in 1643, but it wasn't until after The Mutiny of the Bounty in 1789 that contact with the people was made. Over the next 100 years, trade, wars and friendships were made between rival Europeans and rival Fijian tribes. In 1874, tired of endless quarrels and warfare, King Cakabau ceded his kingdom to Britain at the historic old capital of Levuka on Ovalau. The British brought Colonial rule and introduced Indian labourers to the new sugar plantations. Fiji regained it's independence by mutual consent in 1970. There are now almost 800,000 people living in Fiji. Half are indigenous Fijians (and Rotumans), about 44% Indians and the remainder of European or Chinese origin.


Sigatoka Sandunes National Park, Coral Coast
This 4-mile stretch of large windswept sandunes along the coast is a protected environment administered by the National Trust of Fiji. The park has a very informative visitor centre about the ancient inhabitants and ecology of the region. Pottery sherd from the Lapita Era (1000 years ago), buried in time by drifting sands, can be found scattered amongst the sandunes and several archaeological excavations have revealed ancient fishing settlements. There are several official trails to explore the sandunes which often expose these ancient pottery shards.


Tavuni Hill Fort, Coral Coast
Important archaeological sight with preserved foundations, ceremonial sites and killing stones. A visitor centre and guided tours provide a detailed insight into how life used to be in Fiji's past. Tavuni is set on the peak of a fortified hill overlooking the rich farming area of the Sigatoka River Valley. A tar-sealed road follows the river from Sigatoka Town making it easy to get to from the resorts along the Coral Coast. The road continues beyond Tavuni alongside the river and through traditional villages right into the interior. Local buses leave from Sigatoka Town and it is easy to get off en-route and explore the surrounding hills.


Rock Paintings
Ancient rock paintings can be seen on Vatulele in the Southern Islands. There are two separate sites. One is 20 meters up on a cliff face and depicts human-like figures and hand impressions. The other, at the opening to an inland cave, shows numerous hand impressions. Unfortunately they are quite difficult to get to unless staying at the beautiful and justifiably expensive resort on the island.

There are also rock paintings in the caves on Sawa-i-Lau in the Yasawa Group.


Levuka, Old Capital
The Old Capital of Levuka on Ovalau is a charming colonial town which lost its power almost 100 years ago and has since still in time. Most buildings are well preserved and there are several historical sights including a monument where King Cakabau signed Fiji over to the Queen Victoria in 1874. Fiji's oldest hotel, the Royal is located in Levuka along with several churches built in the mid 1800's. There are also several homestays available in Levuka.


Museum / Cultural Centre
The Fiji Museum in Suva, Viti Levu, has an excellent display of trinkets from the past as well as some larger objects like traditional canoes. The Museum is a great place to soak up the atmosphere from Fiji's mystical past.

There's a Cultural Centre at Pacific Harbour which offers theatrical displays of Fiji's past and present culture but it is too commercialized to be of much interest to discerning travellers. Another commercial presentation of a mock Fijian village is offered by the Ka Levu Cultural Centre near Sigatoka where an impressive re-constructed Fijian temple is the highlight.



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