6 Aug 2007

Archaeologists in Tonga say lapita find may identify first village settled

6:25 am on 6 August 2007

Archaeologists digging in Tonga for lapita pottery say Nukuleka, a village in the eastern district, may have been the first village settled by Tongans.

The head of the Canadian Archeological team, Professor David Burley, says the pieces of lapita they have unearthed show some of the Tongan traditional designs, or kupesi, used in the tapa cloth.

Professor Burley says when they compare the designs from other lapita pieces they have uncovered in PNG, New Caledonia, Fiji and Vanuatu, there are similarities in the design

"The significance of what we are doing is that it is on the far eastern end of the lapita distribution and as I said I think it does relate to helping us understand Polynesian origins and how Polynesians got to be Polynesians and we are quite excited about it."

Professor Burley says his team have yet to carbon date the pieces, but he says if they are similar to pieces discovered in other parts of the Pacific, they could be almost 3,000 years old.

The team visited Tonga in 1999 and are now back to complete their excavations.