Defining Mana 1.mov





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Published on Jul 30, 2011

Press Release Description

This is the first time a face from the Lapita era in the Pacific, has been revealed. The face of Mana was reconstructed using a model of her skull which was discovered by a member of a research team from USP and the Fiji Museum which excavated an early human settlement at Naitabale in the south of Moturiki Island , central Fiji (Map 1) in June-July 2002. The team was led by Patrick Nunn, Professor of Geography at USP, aided by Mr Sepeti Matararaba of the Fiji Museum and Ms Roselyn Kumar (USP's Institute of Applied Science ).

The Naitabale settlement was probably established about 1000 BC by a group of Lapita people whose ancestors had come from the Solomon Islands . The distinctive Lapita pottery that identifies the culture of these early settlers was found in abundance at the Naitabale settlement.

In the course of excavations at Naitabale in 2002, a complete human skeleton was discovered in beach sand more than 1.5 metres below the ground surface. The skeleton was covered by undisturbed layers of sediment (sand and silt) in which Lapita pottery was found. The discovery of the skeleton was exciting because it appeared certain to be of Lapita age.

Lapita-age skeletons are few. Some have been found in Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu , but this skeleton was perhaps only the 16th found. What was also remarkable about this skeleton was the excellent state of preservation of the skull.

The discoverer of the skeleton at Naitabale, a Solomon Island student from USP named Chris Suri, named it "Mana" which means "truth" in the Lau dialect of Malaita Island in the Solomon Islands . The bones of Mana were removed from Naitabale with the permission and cooperation of the landowners. Initial analysis was undertaken at USP, and thence at the Primate Research Institute of Kyoto University in Japan .

In December 2003, the bones of Mana were returned to Fiji from Japan , placed in a coffin and re-buried at Naitabale.

While the skeleton of Mana was in Japan , a model was made of her head. This is the first time that the skull of a Lapita-era skeleton had been so well preserved that it was possible to faithfully reconstruct the head. This therefore represents the first time that the face of a person from the Lapita era (1350 BC to 650 BC) has ever been seen. It is the face of one of the very first people to have lived in the Fiji Islands.

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