Prehistoric Fijian diet and subsistence: integration of faunal, ethnographic and stable isotopic evidence from the Lau Island Group
Journal of Archaeological Science, 36, 2742- 2754, December 2009
Rhonda L. Quinn, Ph.D.
Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work
We explore subsistence practices and dietary change on islands in the central Lau Group of Fiji with zooarchaeological methods and stable isotopic analysis of human and animal skeletal material interpreted through an ethnoarchaeological lens. Our dataset combines detailed identifications of fauna, especially fishes, with stable isotopic (δ13C, δ15N) values of human and animal bone collagen and apatite carbonate spanning approximately three thousand years of human occupation on three study islands. Additionally, over fifty inshore and offshore contemporary fishing expeditions were observed on all study islands over a six-year period. We integrate these separate lines of evidence to form robust interpretations of Lauan subsistence patterns over a broad temporal scale. We add to the existing literature on stable isotopic analysis of archaeological bone from Remote Oceania and compare all of these groups through time. Our results indicate that Lauans differentially relied on nearshore reef resources rather than pelagic fishes, and terrestrial endemic species may have served as a portion of the diet during the early prehistoric period. Root crops (e.g., taro, yam) provided the majority of calories to the diet; however, sea grapes likely contributed to the early diet. Our isotopic results differ from previous studies of Fijian diet and that of Remote Oceania at a time of probable marine ecosystem shifts (AD 1300) illustrating diet breadth and variability in subsistence strategies potentially due to climatically influenced resource depletion.