Cannibalism or epidemic: mysterious human remains discovered in a mass grave in Fiji

Cannibalism or epidemic: mysterious human remains discovered in a mass grave in Fiji
Cannibalism or epidemic: mysterious human remains discovered in a mass grave in Fiji

Conflicts and cannibal rituals mark the past of the Fiji Islands. (Walter Bibikow)

Fiji It is an archipelago made up of more than 300 volcanic islands located more than 1,600 kilometers north of new zealand, in the South Pacific. Recently, on the largest island of Fiji, Vitu Levulocal villagers unearthed a common grave with human remainsof which there is minimal information.

The bodies found at this site could provide clues to turbulent periods in Fiji’s history, related both to cannibalism practices ritual during tribal wars as with a devastating measles epidemic which occurred after the king of Fiji and his entourage returned from a trip to Australia in 1875.

In Fiji, a rare mass grave on the island of Vitu Levu, a discovery that could reveal new information about a violent period in the history of the archipelago. This was found by local villagers at the top of a fort located on a hill, near the Sigatoka River.

Archaeologists and locals speculate about the origins of human remains at Vitu Levu. (Douglas Peebles)

Although the human remains have not yet been analyzed in detail, there is speculation among local about whether these belong to victims of cannibalism. On the other hand, the archaeologists They put forward the theory that the dead could have been victims of the epidemic of measles that devastated the population.

This discovery it occurred accidentally while a grave was being dug for a deceased local tribal chief, revealing a large amount of human skeletal remains, indicating that the grave did not contain the remains of a single individual but was a large massive tomb.

The history of Fiji, between spiritual conquests and devastating epidemics. (David Wall)

Until now, they were only found two mass graves like this one in Fiji and both were located near old forts in the hills. Archaeological evidence, including marks on bones, could clarify the causes of death, but for now, the discovery remains in custody for future protection and analysis.

The wave of smallpox on the islands occurred in 1875, after the king’s visit to Australia. During his stay in this country, both he and his party contracted measles. Upon returning to the archipelago, the virus spread rapidly among the local population who lacked immunity natural against disease.

Measles epidemic of 1875, a forgotten tragedy in Fijian history. (Ian Trower)

This resulted in a devastating epidemic that caused death from around one in three islandersapproximately 40,000 people. The disease mainly affected children and significantly aggravated the situation in the country, where weakened survivors They had difficulty arranging the proper burial of the dead. This tragedy marked one of the most distressing events in contemporary Fijian history.

In Fiji, the cannibalism was practiced as part of rituals and tribal wars until the 19th century. This practice was part of their belief system and intertribal conflicts, where the victors often consumed the defeated to obtain its power and spirit.

During the 19th century, European and American missionaries and settlers came to the islands, nicknamed them “The Cannibal Islands” due to these practices. These foreigners sought eradicate cannibalism along with the introduction of Christianity and the establishment of plantations.

Remains in mass graves could tell the unwritten history of Fiji. (Michael Runkel)

A notable incident occurred in 1867 with British missionary Thomas Baker, who angered locals by touching his chief’s head, a serious cultural taboo. Baker and seven of his Fijian converts were murdered and then allegedly consumed by villagers in Vitu Levu. This event, along with other conflicts, intensified tensions between traditionalist Fijians and colonial and Christian forces, leading to violent fighting.

Despite cannibalism ceasedarchaeological finds, such as mass graves and evidence of butchered human bonessuggest that this practice was a fundamental part of the cultural history of Fiji, although it was probably carried out under strict ritual conditions.

 
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