Skip to comments.Early Polynesians Sailed Thousands Of Miles For Trade
Posted on 09/27/2007 3:46:25 PM PDT by blam
Early Polynesians Sailed Thousands of Miles for Trade
for National Geographic News
September 27, 2007
Early Polynesians sailed thousands of miles for exploration and trade, suggests a new study of early stone woodworking tools.
The analysis confirms traditional tales of vast ocean voyages and hints that a trading network existed between Hawaii and Tahiti as early as a thousand years ago.
The work also bolsters research suggesting that the Polynesians were skillful sailors who rapidly expanded across the Pacific and journeyed as far as South America by the 1400s A.D.
Kenneth Collerson and Marshall Weisler of the University of Queensland in Australia studied 19 adzesbladed tools used to shape woodthat were collected early last century.
The tools were found on nine islands in the Tuamotu Group, which is located more than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) southeast of Tahiti in eastern Polynesia.
The adzes were made from basalt, a volcanic rock not found naturally on the Tuamotus, confirming they must have arrived with pre-European explorers or traders.
By comparing the trace elements and isotopes in the tools with basalt sources throughout the Pacific, the scientists were able to trace the artifacts to islands such as Pitcairn and the Marquesas.
But it was an adze known only as C7727collected from the tiny atoll of Napukathat gave the pair their greatest surprise.
C7727 was hewn from a fine-grained basalt known as hawaiite. The stone is unique to the Hawaiian island Kaho'olawe, located some 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers) to the northwest of Napukaa distance roughly the size of Western Europe.
"Until our discovery, there was no object found in southeast Polynesia that we could link back to a source in Hawaii," Collerson said. "That's the real magic of this discovery."
Collerson said the findings corroborate Hawaiian oral tradition that recounts canoe journeys over the vast southeastern Pacificthe last region on Earth colonized by humans.
"This 4,000-kilometer [2,500-mile] journey now stands as the longest uninterrupted maritime voyage in human prehistory," he said.
The find also coincides with a "pulse of migration into southeast Polynesia about 900 A.D.," Collerson added.
The traditions tell of voyagers pausing before setting out on their epic voyages at a headland on the westernmost tip of Kaho'olawea place called Lae o Kealaikahiki, meaning "cape or headland of the way to Tahiti."
The ratio of thorium and uranium to lead in a core sample of C7727 left "a very distinctive isotopic fingerprint of the source region," which confirmed that the tool could only have come from a few sites along the coast of Kaho'olawe.
One such site lies very close Lae o Kealaikahiki, suggesting that sailors may have collected the rocks immediately prior to departure as ballast for their canoes. The stones were probably turned into tools or given as gifts or mementos to distant trading partners later.
The Tuamotu group was likely a center of trade, Collerson added. "It was probably the Singapore of the Pacific."
His study appears in this week's issue of the journal Science.
Voyages No Accident
Ben Finney, a professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Hawaii, welcomed the findings as further evidence that early Polynesian voyages were far from accidental, as past academics often claimed.
Rather, the journeys were carefully planned and skillfully conducted, he said, with a thorough understanding of the geography of island archipelagoes.
In 1976 Finney and a Polynesian crew sailed a traditional twin-hulled canoe from Hawaii to Tahiti and back "as proof of a concept."
The team used traditional navigation techniques on the journey, such as consulting star and wind compasses, watching migrating birds, and maintaining a bearing relative to prevailing sea swells.
Such voyages would initially have been exploratory, and canoes would have been laden with tools, provisions, and a crew of men and women carefully selected to establish new colonies, Finney said.
The journeys would have been meticulously timed to exploit favorable trade winds, which would have eased return journeys.
"I'm delighted that [Collerson and Weisler] are at last getting some hard evidence for us," Finney said. "We can now get a handle on back-and-forth voyaging."
The challenge now lies in determining the true extent of Polynesian colonization, Finney added.
"Now that we've found a chicken bone in South America, the job is to find those adzes."
Lead study author Collerson agreed, saying the analysis technique has "opened up a Pandora's box of opportunities. We can now track down [the source of stone artifacts] throughout Polynesia."
But further mysteries about the Polynesians remain, he added. While navigational knowledge would have grown as it passed down through hundreds of generations, voyaging in the southeastern Pacific mysteriously ended around A.D. 1450.
"Perhaps that knowledge was lost," Collerson said, "or climate change influenced weather patterns that made sailing more difficult."
Interesting, blam. I’ve always had a hard time with the theory that flora from Polynesia just floated on its own to South America. Looks like the Polynesians were perfectly competent to sail that far.
Might have been carried there by a swallow.
So did they have a 14th century “Pearl Harbor” attack or was it all peaceful kumbaya?
May I see your passseport?
Man, if you knew Hawaiians, you'd know how funny that image is..........
Well it was really the Tahitians I was worried about..... :^)
Well, you know what they say . . . the grass is always greener 2,500 miles away.
Polynesians liked fried chicken and sweet potato pie??? Yum!
Of open-ocean sailing in a hand-made boat, that is.
As closely related as they were back then, I suspect the Tahitians were just as hair-trigger violent! Interesting cultures...........
I guess I still have trouble believing this. It's nice that moderns, knowing Hawaii is there, and that a rescue team is standing by, might make the trip, but making a trip over a couple of thousand miles of open ocean in a canoe (of any sort) and then RETURNING, and doing it again with women is just to much for me to believe.
European or African?
about 1,000 years ago, some Polynesians sailed 7 out-rigger canoes from Tahiti to a group of islands in the South pacific they called, Aotearoa..”Land of the long White Cloud..actually a long mountain range appeared as clouds from out at sea...
The islands were later discovered by a Dutchman, Able Tasman, and called...New Zealand..
Tell them to bring their own women next time.
The human settlement of the Pacific Islands represents one of the most recent major migration events of mankind.
Polynesians originated in Asia according to linguistic evidence or in Melanesia according to archaeological evidence.
To shed light on the genetic origins of Polynesians, we investigated over 400 Polynesians from 8 island groups, in comparison with over 900 individuals from potential parental populations of Melanesia, Southeast and East Asia, and Australia, by means of Y chromosome (NRY) and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) markers. Overall, we classified 94.1% of Polynesian Y chromosomes and 99.8% of Polynesian mtDNAs as of either Melanesian (NRY-DNA: 65.8%, mtDNA: 6%) or Asian (NRY-DNA: 28.3%, mtDNA: 93.8%) origin, suggesting a dual genetic origin of Polynesians in agreement with the "Slow Boat" hypothesis.
Our data suggest a pronounced admixture bias in Polynesians toward more Melanesian men than women, perhaps as a result of matrilocal residence in the ancestral Polynesian society. Although dating methods are consistent with somewhat similar entries of NRY/mtDNA haplogroups into Polynesia, haplotype sharing suggests an earlier appearance of Melanesian haplogroups than those from Asia.
Surprisingly, we identified gradients in the frequency distribution of some NRY/mtDNA haplogroups across Polynesia and a gradual west-to-east decrease of overall NRY/mtDNA diversity, not only providing evidence for a west-to-east direction of Polynesian settlements but also suggesting that Pacific voyaging was regular rather than haphazard.
We also demonstrate that Fiji played a pivotal role in the history of Polynesia: humans probably first migrated to Fiji, and subsequent settlement of Polynesia probably came from Fiji.
I used to have NZ neighbors...
No complaints about the NZ who just happen to have Maori blood...
What an ijit that woman is...
Every schoolkid in NZ knows that the Tahitians, the Hawaiians and the Maoris are all cousins...
The Hawaiians and the Maoris all come from Tahiti...
No Masters for you...
The stars have been around forever..almost..
They used the stars to guide them just as later, Captain Cook and others used the stars...the Southern Cross... to guide them...
Ask the Vikings how they found the coast of America and other parts about the same time as the Polynesians made their journeys across the Pacific Ocean...
Read James A Michener’s account of the Hawaiians trip from Tahiti..and subsequent trips for women etc in his book, South Pacific..
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Ben Finney, a professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of HawaiiI've hated that guy ever since he tried to destroy the Enterprise and send Cap't Kirk to prison.
Thanks, blam. So, it looks like chickens went from Southeast Asia to South America and sweet potatoes from South America to Polynesia.
Another thing I have read that they used is reading the ocean waves. When waves strike an island, they can be deflected or reflected. So when you have a steady wind, and a small swell running counter to the main swell, it will indicate the presence of land.
I can't remember the title, but there is a great book of survival at sea by a guy whose sailboat sank in the eastern Atlantic during a race to the Caribbean, and survived 76 days in a lifeboat with only a few items, including a makeshift water purifier that he got some water from. A lot of what he got was from the fish though, particularly the eyes.
Anything floating or slow moving draws small fish seeking to hide, which eventually draws Dorado and other gamefish (and sharks). Also if you hang a light at night squid and flying fish will jump into the boat. Food isnt a problem, water is the most important thing to bring and you can fit enough to survive for a few weeks pretty easily.
> The analysis confirms traditional tales of vast ocean voyages and hints that a trading network existed between Hawaii and Tahiti as early as a thousand years ago.
I found the similarities between Hawaiian and Rarotongan and Maori to be so similar it is remarkable. At some base level they are able to communicate, which suggests that there would have been some level of regular dialog between them over the vast expanses of blue Pacific Ocean that separate their island groups.
> So did they have a 14th century Pearl Harbor attack or was it all peaceful kumbaya?
Along with trade there would probably have been regular dinner meetings between Tahiti, Aotearoa and Hawaii.
> You can point to all the supposed scholarly articles you want. I still have trouble believing that people who apparently could leave no written record, could navagate thousands of miles over open oceans to places they didn’t know existed.
Over the years I have wavered to-and-fro on this one. My current view is that they most certainly could and definitely did navigate thousands of miles over open oceans, just as they claim. I used to think they shipwrecked, and that there was no way a stone-age culture (for they never discovered metal) was far too primative to do anything clever like stellar navagation and read tides and ocean currents.
I have since met many Maori and am convinced that such feats were certainly within their grasp.
The absence of a written record no longer poses a problem, to my way of thinking. I have met many Maori who can recite their whakapapa (family tree) going back generation after generation after generation (and complete with all the cross links to other family trees), complete with humorous stories about some of their ancestors, all the way back to the canoe that their greatgreatgreatgreat...great granddaddy landed on NZ shores some 900-is years ago.
They do this, amongst other reasons, so that they know, and everybody else around them knows, precisely who they are in the grand scheme of things.
Their oral history is both detailed and remarkably accurate.
Anyone who has ever tried to commit to memory vast screeds of difficult information accurately (Freemasons, for example) will tell you that this is not a simple task: it requires concentration and repetition to get it word-perfect, and constant practise to keep it that way.
Stone age savages they irrefutably were. Pig-ignorant they were demonstrably not.
I would go as far as to say that Maori achieved amazing feats with their memory and powers of recall — the sorts of things our Western Civilizations delegated to pen-and-paper because we are lazier.
They would have had little difficulty figuring out how to cross the Pacific ocean.
> What sort of provisions to you lay in for such a trip?
Root crops like Kumara, which keep reasonably well. Some say they came from South America: I would argue that just as likely the South Americans got them from the South Pacific instead. Hi-energy starches and complex sugars.
Rats, definitely. In NZ the rat was introduced by the Maori (or even earlier settlers). It is called “Kiore” and it is supposed to taste nice. With the added benefit of a fast gestation cycle.
Muttonbird: preserved in fat, it lasts forever and tastes quite nice. Chock-full of calories, precisely what you need to paddle a canoe for thousands of miles.
Oh yeah, and people. Normally to be had at the next island’s Drive Thru facility. They had amazing weaponry designed specifically for killing and eating people efficiently, and brilliant cooking technologies and methods. Easy for us to say “yuck” to that, but there wasn’t alot of readily-available protein available in any easy-to-catch quantities on the islands for regular diet — aside from the local inhabitants.
Many of these old ways and technologies are at risk of being forever lost and forgotten, due to “civilization”. I think that is a real shame.
Mine had haplogroup I1a DNA, from a Viking lineage.
Check out this light fishing. Unbelieveable...my kind of fishing!!
I had seen the original Julie Andrews / Max von Sydow movie about the early missionaries (in its first run in NY) and parts of the sequel taken from the second generation story (The Hawaiians). I knew that the novel covered much more (Id read and enjoyed some other Michner novels, particularly The Source and just knew that movie didn't cover the whole thing) but was really impressed with the breadth of the story. Im also really impressed with how well it stands up to time.
The opening pre-history section was really excellent and has long been vindicated by this type of archeology. The later sections covering the racial mix of the islands was dismissed in the 80s and 90s as simplistic and the white mans view, but that too is being vindicated by actual research. Though Michner wasnt mentioned he could easily have been used as a primary source for the Ken Burns World War 2 series that is on PBS this week when they talked about the Japanese American divisions that fought during the war.
Michner's Hawaii would make a spectacular long form television ala The Sopranos. Imagine if they made the entire book into a TV series, each major section covering one or two seasons? And who would you cast in the roles? Certainly you would use actual members of each ethnic group represented for those roles, and think of the education that could provide for LOTS of things. For one thing I dont think the Japanese would like how their grotesque historic racism is exposed. But if done well, covering the deep cultural roots of those various traditions, Polynesian, Hawaiian, European, American, Japanese, Chinese, a lot of people would understand history better, for good and ill.
Every NZ schoolkid is taught Maori culture, legends, traditions, poi dances, the Haka, songs etc...
Every NZ child knows that the 7 canoes came from Tahiti...
Maoris had an ongoing culture, and life style before the white man...
They were extremmely intelligent and left a “written” history...
They cultivated and grew vegetables such as the kumara, (a sweet potato)..hunted for meat etc...their clothes were beautifully woven from softened flax..or bird feathers or softened skins...
They were militarily intelligent and defended themselves from enemies with a double fence affair...(wonder if they would build our border fence?)..their defences was a fence then a big hand dug ditch and then another fence....
Most NZ children know Maoris at school etc...
A Maori woman was a Miss NZ as long ago as the early 1960’s, aznd they are considered no different than “white” children...
Many “Maoris” have red hair and blue eyes...
Mutton bird is a sea bird that is fat and lives on the rocks of cliffs etc...easy to catch, bang on the head...tastes like chicken....very greasy though....simmer it in a few different lots of water to get make it less greasy and its a corker feast...
Unlike the US the Maori have been part of the NZ govt etc since the 19th Century as MP’s etc (Member of Parliament)...many Maoris are titled by the Queen and well to do...
Although there were cannibals in NZ at one time, (the Moa hunters may have been) when the Pakeha (white man/strranger) arrived, the Maoris had moved onto other culinary choices LOL
I first read Hawaii when it was first published...
Of the 1,200 pages only 200 of thje book were used for the movie, Hawaii..
There was also a Made for TV Movie called The Hawaiians about the plague and the fire and the internment of orientals in big fenced holding areas while their houses were burnt down...
I dont know of any other productions, but the description of the jouirney from Bora Bora (Tahiti) to Hawaii by the natives would have been like the trip the original Maoris took...
Imagine, history that I learnt nearly 50 years ago in school is now being “discovered” and disected by liberal, socialist ijits with too much PC time on their hands and no life...LOL
Here I was, thinking the 7 canoes were a forgone conclusion...An “anchor” carved from a stone was found in the sand of a NZ beach while I was in school...
The trip was “proven” decades ago...LOL
Pitcairn has been a long time fascination to me. Several of us sent fuel to Tom Christian many years ago for the island generator. We received hand made baskets in return.
Tom and Betty (and several others) are ham radio operators and even today you will occasionally hear Tom on a Pacific net talking about island life. I listened carefully as he explained them going out to meet ships at sea to swap goodies and provisions. I cant imagine paddling to Tahiti much less Hawaii.
Environmental setting of human migrations in the circum-Pacific RegionA period of stable climate and sea level 45,000-40,000 years BP gave rise to the first major pulse of migration, when modern humans spread from India, throughout much of coastal southeast Asia, Australia, and Melanesia, extending northward to eastern Russia and Japan by 37,000 years BP. The northward push of modern humans along the eastern coast of Asia stalled north of 43° N latitude, probably due to the inability of the populations to adjust to cold waters and tundra/steppe vegetation. The ensuing cold and dry Last Glacial period, ~33,000-16,000 year BP, once again brought dramatic changes in sea level and climate, which caused abandonment of many coastal sites. After 16,000 years BP, climates began to warm, but sea level was still 100 m below modern levels, creating conditions amenable for a second pulse of human migration into North America across an ice-free coastal plain now covered by the Bering Sea. The stabilization of climate and sea level in the early Holocene (8,000-6,000 years BP) supported the expansion of coastal wetlands, lagoons, and coral reefs, which in turn gave rise to a third pulse of coastal settlement, filling in most of the circum-Pacific region. A slight drop in sea level in the western Pacific in the mid-Holocene (~6,000-4,000 year BP), caused a reduction in productive coastal habitats, leading to a brief disruption in human subsistence along the then densely settled coast. This disruption may have helped initiate the last major pulse of human migration in the circum-Pacific region, that of the migration to Oceania, which began about 3,500 years BP and culminated in the settlement of Hawaii and Easter Island by 2000-1000 years BP.
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