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    Re: Ancient mariners enjoyed Hawaiian holidays
    From: Peter Fogg
    Date: 2007 Nov 4, 05:27 +1100
    Thank Google for ads!

    One of the messages from the sponsors that attached itself to my last message was this link:
    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/11/071102-headless-skeleton.html

    Its another brick in the wall of the story of the Pacific.  To boil down a long and undoubtedly complex story into just a few probably ill-chosen words, there is now good evidence that (at least most of) the ancestors of the present Pacific peoples originally came from South East Asia - and not all that long ago, as suggested in this National Geographic article.

    These Lapita people are best known for the distinctive pottery they left behind, skills that were apparently lost to their later descendants (to be fair, clay would be a rare commodity on a coral atoll).

    However, the speed of their expansion alone argues against the accidental migration theories - eg; a couple and their sow (never go fishing without your wife or your pregnant sow, or lots of seed vegetables either, apparently) being blown out to sea to wash up on distant shores and begin another colony. Over and over again, it seems. Personally, I think you'd have to be remarkably bereft of useful scepticism to swallow that one.  However, their Pacific islander skills, including those of navigation, may well have then been in the process of development, beginning with that initial colonisation of the Pacific.

    Whatever, by about (very roughly) a thousand years ago, Polynesians - a distinct cultural and linguistic entity - were well established in what was their heartland in the eastern Pacific.  Then they expanded.  Pretty-well all over the Pacific, in a short time-span, often enough to places where people already lived (Hawaii was an exception - it was empty of people).  Yet often they imposed their own culture and language, to my mind a powerful argument in favour of perceiving these voyages as deliberate, planned and intentional colonisation forays, much in the same mould as later European ones.

    It seems overwhelmingly likely that they were already skilled sailors and navigators (in other languages the word is the same - in French for example) and it seems more than likely that they already knew where they were going.  In the case of New Zealand the remarkably detailed tale of how many great canoes arrived in this Land of the Long White Cloud, their names and those of the people who belonged to them, has been handed down over the centuries as oral Maori history. Incidentally, they also recorded that there were already people living in NZ when they arrived. Who were they, when and in what circumstances did they arrive?  We'll possibly never know, as these original Kiwis seem to have quickly faded away before the onslaught of the very capable Polynesians. I guess you could think of them as a little like Vikings of the Pacific.

    We know a little about how they navigated, although there is surely a lot we don't know or understand. And now we know that there WERE return voyages (your silence is deafening, George ...).

    It seems silly to say it didn't happen, or to cling to an increasingly untenable position that it was all accidental: in other words, bereft of navigational skill or planning. This isn't scepticism, this is bigotry.

    (O deary me. I hope 'bigotry' isn't "actionable" ?)

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