History, Language & Culture Îles Fidji

Histoire, langue et culture Îles Fidji

Early settlement

Pottery art from Fijian towns shows that Fiji was settled by Austronesian peoples before or around 3500 to 1000 BC, with Melanesians following around a thousand years later, although the question of Pacific migration still lingers. It is believed that the Lapita people or the ancestors of the Polynesians settled the islands first, but not much is known of what became of them after the Melanesians arrived; they may have had some influence on the new culture, and archaeological evidence shows that they would have then moved on to Samoa, Tonga and even Hawai'i. Archeological evidence shows signs of settlement on Moturiki Island from 600 BC and possibly as far back as 900 BC. Aspects of Fijian culture are similar to the Melanesian culture of the western Pacific but have a stronger connection to the older Polynesian cultures. Trade between Fiji and neighbouring archipelagos long before European contact is testified by the canoes made from native Fijian trees found in Tonga and Tongan words being part of the language of the Lau Islands. Pots made in Fiji have been found in Samoa and even the Marquesas Islands.


In the 10th century, the Tu'i Tonga Empire was established in Tonga, and Fiji came within its sphere of influence. The Tongan influence brought Polynesian customs and language into Fiji. The empire began to decline in the 13th century.


Across 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) from east to west, Fiji has been a nation of many languages. Fiji's history was one of settlement but also of mobility, and over the centuries, a unique Fijian culture developed. Large elegant watercraft with rigged sails called drua were constructed in Fiji, some being exported to Tonga. Distinctive village architecture evolved consisting of communal and individual bure and vale housing with an advanced system of ramparts and moats usually being constructed around the more important settlements. Pigs were domesticated for food, and a variety of agricultural plantations such as bananas existed from an early stage. Villages were supplied with water brought in by constructed wooden aqueducts. Fijians lived in societies that were led by chiefs, elders and notable warriors. Spiritual leaders, often called bete, were also important cultural figures, and the production and consumption of yaqona was part of their ceremonial and community rites. Fijians developed a monetary system where the polished teeth of the sperm whale, called tambua, became an active currency. A type of writing existed which can be seen today in various petroglyphs around the islands. They produced a refined masi cloth textile industry with the material being used to make sails and clothes such as the malo and the liku. As with most other human civilisations, warfare was an important part of everyday life in pre-colonial Fiji. The Fijians were noted for their use of weapons especially war-clubs. Fijians use many different types of clubs that can be broadly divided into two groups, two handed clubs and small specialised throwing clubs called ula.


Official languages Fijian, English, Fiji Hindi

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