POLYNESIA (UK : /ˌpɒlᵻˈniːziə/ ; US : /ˌpɑːləˈniːʒə/ ,
from Greek : πολύς "poly" _many_ + Greek : νῆσος "nēsos"
_island_) is a subregion of
Oceania , made up of over 1,000 islands
scattered over the central and southern
Pacific Ocean . The indigenous
people who inhabit the islands of
Polynesia are termed
They share many similar traits including the language family , culture
, and beliefs. Historically, they were experienced sailors who used
stars to navigate at night.
The term _Polynesia_ was first used in 1756 by French writer Charles
de Brosses , and originally applied to all the islands of the Pacific
. In 1831, Jules Dumont d\'Urville proposed a restriction on its use
during a lecture to the Geographical Society of Paris. Historically,
these islands have also been referred to as the SOUTH SEA ISLANDS.
* 1 Geography
* 1.1 Geology
* 1.2 Geographic area
* 1.3.1 Core area
* 1.3.2 Outliers
* 18.104.22.168 Subantarctic islands
* 2 History
* 2.1 Origins and expansion
* 2.2 Culture
* 2.3 Political history
Tonga 16th century–present
New Zealand Māori
* 3 Links to the Americas
* 4 Cultures
* 5 Languages
* 6 Economy
* 7 Inter-Polynesian cooperation
* 9 See also
* 10 References
* 11 Further reading
* 12 External links
Cook\'s Bay on
French Polynesia Mokoliʻi Isle
Polynesia is characterized by a small amount of land spread over a
very large portion of the mid and southern
Pacific Ocean . Most
Polynesian islands and archipelagos, including the Hawaiian Islands
Samoa , are composed of volcanic islands built by hotspots . New
Zealand , Norfolk
Island , and
Ouvéa , the
Polynesian outlier near
New Caledonia , are the unsubmerged portions of the largely sunken
Zealandia is believed to have mostly sunk 23
million years ago and recently resurfaced geologically due to a change
in the movements of the
Pacific Plate in relation to the
Indo-Australian plate , which served to uplift the New Zealand
portion. At first, the Pacific plate was subducted under the
Australian plate. The
Alpine Fault that traverses the South
currently a transform fault while the convergent plate boundary from
Island northwards is called the Kermadec-
Zone . The volcanism associated with this subduction zone is the
origin of the Kermadec and Tongan island archipelagos.
Out of approximately 300,000 or 310,000 square kilometres (117,000 or
118,000 sq mi) of land, over 270,000 km2 (103,000 sq mi) are within
New Zealand ; the Hawaiian archipelago comprises about half the
Zealandia continent has approximately 3,600,000 km2
(1,400,000 sq mi) of continental shelf. The oldest rocks in the region
are found in
New Zealand and are believed to be about 510 million
years old. The oldest Polynesian rocks outside of
Zealandia are to be
found in the Hawaiian Emperor Seamount Chain, and are 80 million years
Polynesia is generally defined as the islands within the Polynesian
Triangle , although there are some islands that are inhabited by
Polynesian people situated outside the Polynesian Triangle.
Polynesian Triangle is drawn by connecting the
New Zealand and Easter
Island . The other main
island groups located within the
Polynesian Triangle are
Samoa , Tonga
Cook Islands ,
Wallis and Futuna
Wallis and Futuna and
French Polynesia .
There are also small Polynesian settlements in
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea , the
Solomon Islands , the
Caroline Islands , and in
Vanuatu . An island
group with strong Polynesian cultural traits outside of this great
Rotuma , situated north of
Fiji . The people of Rotuma
have many common Polynesian traits but speak a non-Polynesian language
. Some of the
Lau Islands to the southeast of
Fiji have strong
historic and cultural links with Tonga.
However, in essence,
Polynesia is a cultural term referring to one of
the three parts of
Oceania (the others being
Micronesia and Melanesia
The following are the islands and island groups, either nations or
overseas territories of former colonial powers, that are of native
Polynesian culture or where archaeological evidence indicates
Polynesian settlement in the past. Some islands of Polynesian origin
are outside the general triangle that geographically defines the
COUNTRY OR DEPENDENCY
Unincorporated and unorganized territory of the US; administered by
Office of Insular Affairs ,
US Department of the Interior .
Self-governing state in free association with
Province and special territory of
Overseas country of France
A state of the United States
Self-governing state in free association with New Zealand
An Australian External Territory
A British Overseas Territory
Overseas dependency of New Zealand
Wallis and Futuna
Wallis and Futuna
Collectivity of France
Phoenix Islands and
Line Islands , most of which are part of
Kiribati , are geographically Polynesian islands, but they had no
permanent settlements until European colonization.
Anuta (in the
Solomon Islands )
Island (in the Solomon Islands)
Emae (in Vanuatu)
* Mele (in
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea )
Nukumanu (in Papua New Guinea)
Ontong Java (in the Solomon Islands)
Pileni (in the Solomon Islands)
* Rennell (in the Solomon Islands)
Sikaiana (in the Solomon Islands)
Takuu (in Papua New Guinea)
Tikopia (in the Solomon Islands)
United States Minor Outlying Islands
Kapingamarangi (in the Federated States of
Nukuoro (in the Federated States of Micronesia)
Auckland Islands (the most southerly known evidence of Polynesian
ORIGINS AND EXPANSION
The Polynesian spread of colonization in the Pacific Moai
at Ahu Tongariki on
Polynesian people are considered to be by linguistic,
archaeological and human genetic ancestry a subset of the
sea-migrating Austronesian people . Tracing Polynesian languages
places their prehistoric origins in the
Malay Archipelago , and
Between about 3000 and 1000 BC speakers of Austronesian languages
began spreading from
There are three theories regarding the spread of humans across the
Pacific to Polynesia. These are outlined well by Kayser _et al._
(2000) and are as follows:
* Express Train model: A recent (c. 3000–1000 BC) expansion out of
Taiwan, via the
Philippines and eastern
Indonesia and from the
northwest ("Bird\'s Head ") of
New Guinea , on to
roughly 1400 BC, reaching western Polynesian islands around 900 BC.
This theory is supported by the majority of current genetic linguistic
, and archaeological data.
* Entangled Bank model: Emphasizes the long history of Austronesian
speakers' cultural and genetic interactions with indigenous Island
Southeast Asians and Melanesians along the way to becoming the first
* Slow Boat model: Similar to the express-train model but with a
longer hiatus in
Melanesia along with admixture, both genetically,
culturally and linguistically with the local population. This is
supported by the Y-chromosome data of Kayser _et al._ (2000), which
shows that all three haplotypes of Polynesian Y chromosomes can be
traced back to Melanesia.
In the archaeological record there are well-defined traces of this
expansion which allow the path it took to be followed and dated with
some certainty. It is thought that by roughly 1400 BC, "Lapita
Peoples", so-named after their pottery tradition, appeared in the
Bismarck Archipelago of northwest
Melanesia . This culture is seen as
having adapted and evolved through time and space since its emergence
Taiwan ". They had given up rice production, for instance,
after encountering and adapting to breadfruit in the
Bird's Head area
of New Guinea.
The results of research at the Teouma
Lapita site (Efate
Vanuatu ) and the Talasiu
Lapita site (near Nuku\'alofa ,
published in 2016 supports the Express Train model; although with the
qualification that the migration bypassed
New Guinea and Island
Melanesia . The conclusion from research published in 2016 is that the
initial population of those two sites appears to come directly from
Taiwan or the northern
Philippines and did not mix with the
New Guinea and the
Solomon Islands . The
preliminary analysis of skulls found at the Teouma and Talasiu Lapita
sites is that they lack Australian or Papuan affinities and instead
have affinities to mainland Asian populations. DNA analysis of modern
Polynesians indicates that there has been intermarriage resulting in a
mixed Asian-Papuan ancestry of the Polynesians. Research at the Teouma
Lapita sites implies that the migration and intermarriage,
which resulted in the mixed Asian-Papuan ancestry of the Polynesians,
occurred after the first initial migration to
Vanuatu and Tonga.
The most eastern site for
Lapita archaeological remains recovered so
far is at
Upolu . The
Mulifanua site, where 4,288 pottery
shards have been found and studied, has a "true" age of c. 1000 BC
based on C14 dating. A 2010 study places the beginning of the human
archaeological sequences of
Tonga at 900 B.C.
Within a mere three or four centuries, between 1300 and 900 BC, the
Lapita archaeological culture spread 6,000 km further to the east from
the Bismarck Archipelago, until reaching as far as
Fiji , Tonga, and
Samoa which were first populated around 3,000 years ago as previously
mentioned. A cultural divide began to develop between
Fiji to the
west, and the distinctive
Polynesian language and culture emerging on
Samoa to the east. Where there was once faint evidence of
uniquely shared developments in Fijian and Polynesian speech, most of
this is now called "borrowing" and is thought to have occurred in
those and later years more than as a result of continuing unity of
their earliest dialects on those far-flung lands. Contacts were
mediated especially through the eastern
Lau Islands of Fiji. This is
where most Fijian-Polynesian linguistic interaction occurred.
Grinding stones discovered from archaeology in
Tiny populations seem to have been involved at first.
Polynesians were matrilineal and matrilocal societies upon
arrival in Fiji,
Tonga and Samoa, after having been through at least
some time in the Bismarck Archipelago. The modern
show human genetic results of a Melanesian culture which allowed
indigenous men, but not women, to "marry in" – useful evidence for
Although matrilocality and matrilineality receded at some early time,
Polynesians and most other Austronesian speakers in the Pacific
Islands, were/are still highly "matricentric" in their traditional
Lapita pottery for which the general
archaeological complex of the earliest "Oceanic" Austronesian speakers
in the Pacific Islands are named also went away in Western Polynesia.
Language, social life and material culture were very distinctly
"Polynesian" by the time
Eastern Polynesia was being settled after a
"pause" of 1000 years or more in Western Polynesia.
The dating of the settlement of Eastern Polynesia, including Hawai\'i
Island , and
New Zealand , is not agreed upon in every
instance. Most recently, a 2010 study using meta-analysis of the most
reliable radiocarbon dates available suggested that the colonization
Eastern Polynesia (including
Hawaii and New Zealand) proceeded in
two short episodes: in the
Society Islands from 1025–1120 AD and
further afield from 1190–1290 AD, with Easter
Island being settled
around 1200. Other archeological models developed in recent decades,
which are challenged by that recent set of radiocarbon dating
interpretations, have pointed to dates of between 300 and 500 AD, or
alternatively 800 AD (as supported by
Jared Diamond ) for the
settlement of Easter Island, and similarly, a date of 500 AD has been
suggested for Hawaii. Linguistically, there is a very distinct "East
Polynesian" subgroup with many shared innovations not seen in other
Polynesian languages. The
Marquesas dialects are perhaps the source of
the oldest Hawaiian speech which is overlaid by Tahitian variety
speech, as Hawaiian oral histories would suggest. The earliest
New Zealand Maori speech may have had multiple sources
from around central
Eastern Polynesia as Maori oral histories would
Tonga 16th Century–present
After a bloody civil war, political power in
Tonga eventually fell
under the Tu\'i Kanokupolu dynasty in the 16th century.
In 1845 the ambitious young warrior, strategist, and orator
Tonga into a more Western-style kingdom. He held
the chiefly title of Tuʻi Kanokupolu, but had been baptised with the
name Jiaoji ("George") in 1831. In 1875, with the help of the
Shirley Waldemar Baker , he declared
Tonga a constitutional
monarchy, formally adopted the western royal style, emancipated the
"serfs", enshrined a code of law, land tenure, and freedom of the
press, and limited the power of the chiefs.
Tonga became a British-protected state under a Treaty of Friendship
on 18 May 1900, when European settlers and rival Tongan chiefs tried
to oust the second king. Within the British Empire, which posted no
higher permanent representative on
Tonga than a British Consul
Tonga formed part of the British Western Pacific
Territories (under a colonial High Commissioner, residing in Fiji)
from 1901 until 1952. Despite being under the protectorate, Tonga
retained its monarchy without interruption.
On June 4, 1970 the Kingdom of
Tonga received independence from the
Samoa remained under Malietoa chieftains until its East-West division
Tripartite Convention (1899) subsequent annexation by the German
Empire and the United States. The German-controlled Western portion of
Samoa (consisting of the bulk of Samoan territory) was occupied by New
Zealand in WWI, and administered by it under a Class C League of
Nations Mandate until receiving independence on January 1, 1962. The
new Independent State of
Samoa was not a monarchy, though the Malietoa
title-holder remained very influential. It officially ended, however
with the death of
Malietoa Tanumafili II on May 11, 2007.
Outrigger canoes at
Waikiki beach , Oahu
Island, early 20th century Main article: Kingdom of
New Zealand Māori
On October 28, 1835 members of the
Ngāpuhi and surrounding Māori
tribes (iwi ) issued a "declaration of independence", as a
"confederation of tribes" to resist potential French colonization
efforts and to prevent the ships and cargo of Māori merchants from
being seized at foreign ports. They received recognition from the
British monarch in 1836. (See United Tribes of
New Zealand , New
Zealand Declaration of Independence ,
James Busby .)
Treaty of Waitangi and right of discovery as a basis, the
United Kingdom annexed
New Zealand as a part of
New South Wales
New South Wales in
In response to the actions of the colonial government, Māori looked
to form a monarchy inclusive of all Māori tribes in order to reduce
vulnerability to the British divide-and-conquer strategy. Pōtatau Te
Wherowhero , high priest and chief of the
Ngāti Mahuta tribe of the
Waikato iwi, was crowned as the Māori king in 1858. The king's
territory consisted primarily of the lands in the center of the North
Island, and the iwi constituted the most powerful non-signatories of
the Treaty of Waitangi, with Te Wherowhero also never having signed
All tribes were incorporated into rule under the colonial government
by the late 19th century. Although Māori were given the privilege of
being legally enfranchised subjects of the British Empire under the
Māori culture and language (te reo Māori) were actively
suppressed by the colonial government and by economic and social
pressures from the
Pakeha society. Efforts were made to preserve
indigenous culture starting in the late 1950s and culminating in the
Waitangi Tribunal 's interpretation of language and culture being
included in the treasures set to be preserved under the Treaty of
Waitangi. Moving from a low point of 15,000 speakers in the 1970s,
there are now over 157,000 people who have some proficiency in the
Māori language according to the 2006 census in New Zealand,
due in large part to government recognition and promotion of the
See also: History of
Seru Epenisa Cakobau , and
the time of Cakobau
The Lau islands were subject to periods of Tongan rulership and then
Fijian control until their eventual conquest by Seru Epenisa Cakobau
of the Kingdom of
Fiji by 1871. In around 1855 a Tongan prince, Enele
Ma\'afu , proclaimed the Lau islands as his kingdom, and took the
Tui Lau .
Fiji itself had been ruled by numerous divided chieftains until
Cakobau unified the landmass. The
Lapita culture, the ancestors of the
Polynesians, existed in
Fiji from 3500 BCE until they were displaced
by the Melanesians about a thousand years later. (Interestingly,
Samoans and subsequent Polynesian cultures adopted Melanesian face
In 1873, Cakobau ceded a
Fiji heavily indebted to foreign creditors
to the United Kingdom. It became independent on 10 October 1970 and a
republic on 28 September 1987.
See also: History of the
Cook Islands is made up of 15 Islands comprising the Northern and
Southern Groups. The islands are spread out across many kilometers of
a vast ocean. The largest of these islands is called Rarotonga, which
is also the political and economic capital of the nation.
Cook Islands were formerly known as the Hervey Islands, but this
name only refers to the Northern Groups. It is unknown when this name
was changed to reflect the current name. It is thought that the Cook
Islands were settled in two periods: the Tahitian Period, when the
country was settled between 900 - 1300 AD. The second settlement, the
Maui Settlement, occurred in 1600 AD, when a large contingent from
Tahiti settled in Rarotonga, in the Takitumu district.
Cook Islanders are ethnically
Polynesians or Eastern Polynesia. They
are culturally associated with Tahiti, Eastern Islands, NZ Maori and
Hawaii. Early in the 17th century, became the first race to settle in
Main article: History of
Canoe carving on
The reef islands and atolls of
Tuvalu are identified as being part of
West Polynesia. During pre-European-contact times there was frequent
canoe voyaging between the islands as
Polynesian navigation skills are
recognised to have allowed deliberate journeys on double-hull sailing
canoes or outrigger canoes . Eight of the nine islands of
inhabited; thus the name, Tuvalu, means "eight standing together" in
Tuvaluan . The pattern of settlement that is believed to have occurred
is that the
Polynesians spread out from
Tonga into the
Tuvaluan atolls, with
Tuvalu providing a stepping stone for migration
into the Polynesian Outlier communities in
Stories as to the ancestors of the Tuvaluans vary from island to
Vaitupu the founding ancestor is
described as being from
Samoa ; whereas on
Nanumea the founding
ancestor is described as being from
The extent of influence of the Tuʻi
Tonga line of Tongan kings,
which originated in the 10th century, is understood to have extended
to some of the islands of
Tuvalu in the 11th to mid-13th century. The
oral history of
Niutao recalls that in the 15th century Tongan
warriors were defeated in a battle on the reef of Niutao. Tongan
warriors also invaded
Niutao later in the 15th century and again were
repelled. A third and fourth Tongan invasion of
Niutao occurred in the
late 16th century, again with the Tongans being defeated.
Fishing was the primary source of protein, with the cuisine of Tuvalu
reflecting food that could be grown on low-lying atolls. Navigation
between the islands of
Tuvalu was carried out using outrigger canoes.
The population levels of the low-lying islands of
Tuvalu had to be
managed because of the effects of periodic droughts and the risk of
severe famine if the gardens were poisoned by salt from the
storm-surge of a tropical cyclone .
LINKS TO THE AMERICAS
See also: Pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact § Possible Polynesian
The sweet potato , called _kūmara_ in Māori and _kumar_ in Quechua
, is native to the Americas and was widespread in
Europeans first reached the Pacific. Remains of the plant in the Cook
Islands have been radiocarbon-dated to 1000, and current thinking is
that it was brought to central
Polynesia c. 700 and spread across
Polynesia from there, possibly by
Polynesians who had traveled to
South America and back.
Thor Heyerdahl proposed in the mid-20th century that the Polynesians
had migrated from the northwest coast of
Canada by large whale-hunting
dugouts, and from
South America on balsa -log boats. Many
anthropologists have criticised Heyerdahl's theory, including Wade
Davis in his book _The Wayfinders_. Davis says that Heyerdahl "ignored
the overwhelming body of linguistic, ethnographic, and ethnobotanical
evidence, augmented today by genetic and archaeological data,
indicating that he was patently wrong."
Polynesian culture _ Painting of Tahitian Women on
the Beach_ by
Paul Gauguin —Musée d\'Orsay
Polynesia divides into two distinct cultural groups, East Polynesia
and West Polynesia. The culture of West
Polynesia is conditioned to
high populations. It has strong institutions of marriage and
well-developed judicial, monetary and trading traditions. It comprises
the groups of
Samoa and extends to the atolls of Tuvalu
to the north. The pattern of settlement that is believed to have
occurred is that the
Polynesians spread out from the Samoan Islands
into the Tuvaluan atolls, with
Tuvalu providing a stepping stone to
migration into the Polynesian Outlier communities in
Eastern Polynesian cultures are highly adapted to smaller islands and
atolls, principally the
Cook Islands ,
Tahiti , the
Tuamotus , the
Rapa Nui and smaller central-pacific groups. The
large islands of
New Zealand were first settled by Eastern Polynesians
who adapted their culture to a non-tropical environment.
Melanesia , leaders were chosen in
Polynesia based on their
hereditary bloodline. Samoa, however, had another system of government
that combines elements of heredity and real-world skills to choose
leaders. This system is called Fa\'amatai . According to Ben R. Finney
and Eric M. Jones, "On Tahiti, for example, the 35,000 Polynesians
living there at the time of European discovery were divided between
high-status persons with full access to food and other resources, and
low-status persons with limited access." Carving from the
ridgepole of a Māori house, ca 1840
Religion, farming, fishing, weather prediction, out-rigger canoe
(similar to modern catamarans ) construction and navigation were
highly developed skills because the population of an entire island
depended on them. Trading of both luxuries and mundane items was
important to all groups. Periodic droughts and subsequent famines
often led to war. Many low-lying islands could suffer severe famine
if their gardens were poisoned by the salt from the storm-surge of a
tropical cyclone . In these cases fishing, the primary source of
protein, would not ease loss of food energy . Navigators, in
particular, were highly respected and each island maintained a house
of navigation with a canoe-building area.
Settlements by the
Polynesians were of two categories: the hamlet and
the village. The size of the island inhabited determined whether or
not a hamlet would be built. The larger volcanic islands usually had
hamlets because of the many zones that could be divided across the
island. Food and resources were more plentiful. These settlements of
four to five houses (usually with gardens) were established so that
there would be no overlap between the zones. Villages, on the other
hand, were built on the coasts of smaller islands and consisted of
thirty or more houses—in the case of atolls, on only one of the
group so that food cultivation was on the others. Usually these
villages were fortified with walls and palisades made of stone and
New Zealand demonstrates the opposite: large volcanic
islands with fortified villages.
As well as being great navigators, these people were artists and
artisans of great skill. Simple objects, such as fish-hooks would be
manufactured to exacting standards for different catches and decorated
even when the decoration was not part of the function. Stone and
wooden weapons were considered to be more powerful the better they
were made and decorated. In some island groups weaving was a strong
part of the culture and gifting woven articles was an ingrained
practice. Dwellings were imbued with character by the skill of their
building. Body decoration and jewelry is of an international standard
to this day.
The religious attributes of
Polynesians were common over the whole
Pacific region. While there are some differences in their spoken
languages they largely have the same explanation for the creation of
the earth and sky, for the gods that rule aspects of life and for the
religious practices of everyday life. People traveled thousands of
miles to celebrations that they all owned communally.
Beginning in the 1820s large numbers of missionaries worked in the
islands, converting many groups to Christianity. Polynesia, argues Ian
Breward, is now "one of the most strongly Christian regions in the
world....Christianity was rapidly and successfully incorporated into
Polynesian culture. War and slavery disappeared."
Polynesian languages are all members of the family of Oceanic
languages , a sub-branch of the Austronesian language family.
Polynesian languages show a considerable degree of similarity. The
vowels are generally the same—a, e, i, o, and u, pronounced as in
Italian , Spanish , and German —and the consonants are always
followed by a vowel. The languages of various island groups show
changes in consonants . _R_ and _v_ are used in central and eastern
Polynesia whereas _l_ and _v_ are used in western Polynesia. The
glottal stop is increasingly represented by an inverted comma or
‘okina . In the
Society Islands , the original Proto-Polynesian *_k_
and *_ng_ have merged as glottal stop; so the name for the ancestral
homeland, deriving from Proto-Nuclear Polynesian _*sawaiki_, becomes
Havai'i. In New Zealand, where the original *_w_ is used instead of
_v_, the ancient home is
Hawaiki . In the Cook Islands, where the
glottal stop replaces the original *_s_ (with a likely intermediate
stage of *_h_), it is ‘Avaiki. In the Hawaiian islands, where the
glottal stop replaces the original _k_, the largest island of the
group is named Hawai‘i. In Samoa, where the original _s_ is used
instead of _h_, _v_ replaces _w_, and the glottal stop replaces the
original _k_, the largest island is called Savai\'i .
With the exception of New Zealand, the majority of independent
Polynesian islands derive much of their income from foreign aid and
remittances from those who live in other countries. Some encourage
their young people to go where they can earn good money to remit to
their stay-at-home relatives. Many Polynesian locations, such as
Island , supplement this with tourism income. Some have more
unusual sources of income, such as
Tuvalu which marketed its '
internet top-level domain name or the Cooks that relied on postage
Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi
Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi , Prime Minister of
Samoa , who initiated the
Polynesian Leaders Group
Polynesian Leaders Group in late 2011.
After several years of discussing a potential regional grouping,
three sovereign states (Samoa,
Tonga and Tuvalu) and five
self-governing but non-sovereign territories formally launched, in
November 2011, the
Polynesian Leaders Group
Polynesian Leaders Group , intended to cooperate on
a variety of issues including culture and language, education,
responses to climate change, and trade and investment. It does not,
however, constitute a political or monetary union.
Polynesia comprised islands diffused throughout a triangular area
with sides of four thousand miles. The area from the Hawaiian Islands
in the north, to Easter
Island in the east and to
New Zealand in the
south were all settled by Polynesians.
Navigators traveled to small inhabited islands using only their own
senses and knowledge passed by oral tradition from navigator to
apprentice. In order to locate directions at various times of day and
year, navigators in
Eastern Polynesia memorized important facts: the
motion of specific stars , and where they would rise on the horizon of
the ocean; weather ; times of travel; wildlife species (which
congregate at particular positions); directions of swells on the
ocean, and how the crew would feel their motion; colors of the sea and
sky, especially how clouds would cluster at the locations of some
islands; and angles for approaching harbors. _ Polynesian
(Hawaiian) navigators sailing multi-hulled canoe , ca 1781 A
common fishing canoe va'a_ with outrigger in Savai\'i island,
These wayfinding techniques, along with outrigger canoe construction
methods, were kept as guild secrets. Generally each island maintained
a guild of navigators who had very high status; in times of famine or
difficulty these navigators could trade for aid or evacuate people to
neighboring islands. On his first voyage of Pacific exploration Cook
had the services of a Polynesian navigator, Tupaia , who drew a
hand-drawn Chart of the islands within 3,200 km (2,000 mi) radius (to
the north and west) of his home island of Ra\'iatea . Tupaia had
knowledge of 130 islands and named 74 on his Chart. Tupaia had
Ra'iatea in short voyages to 13 islands. He had not
visited western Polynesia, as since his grandfather’s time the
extent of voyaging by Raiateans has diminished to the islands of
eastern Polynesia. His grandfather and father had passed to Tupaia the
knowledge as to the location of the major islands of western Polynesia
and the navigation information necessary to voyage to
Tonga . As the Admiralty orders directed Cook to search for the
“Great Southern Continent” , Cook ignored Tupaia’s Chart and his
skills as a navigator. To this day, original traditional methods of
Navigation are still taught in the
Polynesian outlier of
Island in the
Solomon Islands .
From a single chicken bone recovered from the archaeological site of
El Arenal-1, on the
Arauco Peninsula , Chile, a 2007 research report
looking at radiocarbon dating and an ancient DNA sequence indicate
that Polynesian navigators may have reached the Americas at least 100
years before Columbus (who arrived 1492 AD), introducing chickens to
South America. A later report looking at the same specimens
A published, apparently pre-Columbian, Chilean specimen and six
pre-European Polynesian specimens also cluster with the same
European/Indian subcontinental/Southeast Asian sequences, providing no
support for a Polynesian introduction of chickens to South America. In
contrast, sequences from two archaeological sites on Easter Island
group with an uncommon haplogroup from Indonesia, Japan, and China and
may represent a genetic signature of an early Polynesian dispersal.
Modeling of the potential marine carbon contribution to the Chilean
archaeological specimen casts further doubt on claims for
pre-Columbian chickens, and definitive proof will require further
analyses of ancient DNA sequences and radiocarbon and stable isotope
data from archaeological excavations within both
Chile and Polynesia.
Knowledge of the traditional Polynesian methods of navigation were
largely lost after contact with and colonization by Europeans. This
left the problem of accounting for the presence of the
such isolated and scattered parts of the Pacific. By the late 19th
century to the early 20th century a more generous view of Polynesian
navigation had come into favor, perhaps creating a romantic picture of
their canoes, seamanship and navigational expertise.
In the mid to late 1960s, scholars began testing sailing and paddling
experiments related to Polynesian navigation: David Lewis sailed his
New Zealand using stellar navigation without
Ben Finney built a 40-foot replica of a Hawaiian
double canoe "Nalehia" and tested it in Hawaii. Meanwhile,
Micronesian ethnographic research in the
Caroline Islands revealed
that traditional stellar navigational methods were still in every day
use. Recent re-creations of Polynesian voyaging have used methods
based largely on Micronesian methods and the teachings of a
Mau Piailug .
It is probable that the Polynesian navigators employed a whole range
of techniques including use of the stars, the movement of ocean
currents and wave patterns, the air and sea interference patterns
caused by islands and atolls , the flight of birds, the winds and the
weather. Scientists think that long-distance Polynesian voyaging
followed the seasonal paths of birds . There are some references in
their oral traditions to the flight of birds and some say that there
were range marks onshore pointing to distant islands in line with
these flyways . One theory is that they would have taken a frigatebird
with them. These birds refuse to land on the water as their feathers
will become waterlogged making it impossible to fly. When the voyagers
thought they were close to land they may have released the bird, which
would either fly towards land or else return to the canoe. It is
likely that the
Polynesians also used wave and swell formations to
navigate. It is thought that the Polynesian navigators may have
measured the time it took to sail between islands in "canoe-days’’
or a similar type of expression.
Also, people of the
Marshall Islands used special devices called
stick charts , showing the places and directions of swells and
wave-breaks, with tiny seashells affixed to them to mark the positions
of islands along the way. Materials for these maps were readily
available on beaches, and their making was simple; however, their
effective use needed years and years of study.
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* List of
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