Impacts of volcanism on pre-European inhabitants of Taveuni, Fiji
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Taveuni is a Fijian ocean-island volcano that sporadically erupted throughout the Holocene. The 437-km2 island is an active monogenetic volcanic field with a constantly shifting locus of activity along a single apparent rift axis. Although the eruptions were not large ( ≤VEI 2), unexpected shifts in Taveuni volcanism had the potential to affect habitation sites. Since known human settlement of the Fiji Group (ca. 950–750 BC), there have been at least 58 eruptions on Taveuni. Up to 25 of these eruptions potentially affected pre-European inhabitants of the island and at least four former occupation sites are known to have been affected by volcanic products. Despite apparent earliest settlement of Taveuni post-dating other nearby islands by up to 600 years, volcanism probably did not hinder or stall settlement of Taveuni compared with neighbouring islands. However, a period of voluminous eruptions between 300 and 500 AD covered much of south Taveuni with lava and/or thick tephra, apparently causing abandonment of at least this portion of Taveuni until approximately 1100 AD. Most eruptions were not of catastrophic proportions and, due to their localised effects, re-settlement was rapid in marginal unaffected areas. Localised stories and a relict place name survive to describe former eruption locations and effects since approximately 120–320 AD. Knowledge of the impacts on Taveuni's past inhabitants forms the basis of volcanic disaster-mitigation strategies to minimise future effects on the current 14,500 residents.
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