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the polinesian oceanic culture
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the polinesian oceanic culture



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Origins, exploration and settlement (c. 1800 BC - c. 700 AD)

Recent maternal mitochondrial DNA analysis suggests that Polynesians, including Samoans, Tongans, Niueans, Cook Islanders, Tahitians, Hawaiians, Marquesans and Māori, are genetically linked to indigenous peoples of parts of Southeast Asia including those of Taiwanese aborigines. This DNA evidence is supported by linguistic and archaeological evidence.[1] Recent studies into paternal Y chromosome analysis shows that Polynesians are also genetically linked to peoples of Melanesia.[2] However the "out of Taiwan model" has been recently challenged by a study from Leeds University and published in Molecular Biology and Evolution. Examination of mitochondrial DNA lineages shows that they have been evolving within Island Southeast Asia (ISEA) for a longer period than previously believed. Polynesians arrived in the Bismarck Archipelago of Papua New Guinea at least 6,000 to 8,000 years ago and modern Polynesians are the result of a few Austronesian seafarers mixing with Melanesians.[3] The population migrations were most likely to have been driven by climate change — the effects of the drowning of a huge ancient peninsula called ‘Sundaland’ (that extended the Asian landmass as far as Borneo and Java). This happened during the period 15,000 to 7,000 years ago following the last Ice Age. Oppenheimer outlines how rising sea levels in three massive pulses caused flooding and the submergence of the Sunda Peninsula, creating the Java and South China Seas and the thousands of islands that make up Indonesia and the Philippines today.[4]

Between about 3000 and 1000 BC speakers of Austronesian languages spread through island South-East Asia – almost certainly starting out from Taiwan[5] – into the edges of western Micronesia and on into 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 a degree of certainty. In the mid-2nd millennium BC a distinctive culture appeared suddenly in north-west Melanesia, in the Bismarck Archipelago, the chain of islands forming a great arc from New Britain to the Admiralty Islands. This culture, known as Lapita, stands out in the Melanesian archeological record, with its large permanent villages on beach terraces along the coasts. Particularly characteristic of the Lapita culture is the making of pottery, including a great many vessels of varied shapes, some distinguished by fine patterns and motifs pressed into the clay. Within a mere three or four centuries between about 1300 and 900 BC, the Lapita culture spread 6000 km further to the east from the Bismarck Archipelago, until it reached as far as Tonga and Samoa. In this region, the distinctive Polynesian culture developed.

The early Polynesians were an adventurous seafaring people with highly developed navigation skills. They colonised previously unsettled islands by making very long canoe voyages, in some cases against the prevailing winds and tides. Polynesian navigators steered by the sun and the stars, and by careful observations of cloud reflections and bird flight patterns, were able to determine the existence and location of islands. The name given to a star or constellation taken as a mark to steer by was kaweinga. The discovery of new islands and island groups was by means of entire small villages of people setting sail on great Polynesian double-hulled canoes. Archaeological evidence indicates that by about 1280 AD, the Polynesians had settled the vast Polynesian triangle with its northern corner at Hawai'i, the eastern corner at Rapa Nui (Easter Island), and lastly the southern corner in New Zealand.[6] By comparison, Viking navigators first settled Iceland around 875 AD. There have been suggestions that Polynesian voyagers reached the South American mainland. Carbon-dating of chicken bones found by Chilean archaeologists on the Arauco Peninsula in south-central Chile was thought to date from between 1321 and 1407 AD. This initial report suggested a Polynesian pre-Columbian origin. However, a later report looking at the same specimens concluded:



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