Papuan-speaking hunter-gatherers from New Guinea were settling the southern and eastern Solomon Islands by 25, 000 BC. They were the only inhabitants for thousands of years, until Austronesian-speaking proto-Melanesians began moving in around 4000 BC. The Lapita people appeared between 2000 and 1600 BC.

Most people lived in small villages on tribal lands, practising shifting cultivation, fishing, hunting, carving, weaving and canoe building. Rule was by kastom (custom) as recalled by clan elders, ancestors were worshipped and blood feuds, head-hunting and cannibalism were common.

Polynesians from the east settled the outer islands such as Rennell, Bellona and Ontong Java between AD 1200 and 1600, and their settlements suffered raids from Tongans between the 14th and 18th centuries.