by David Hatcher Childress
The settlement of the Pacific remains a mystery to this day.
vastness of the Pacific as well as the lack of concern by historians
has made tracing the origin of the Polynesians, at best, difficult.
While anthropologists agree that there are at least three races in
the Pacific region, they have not agreed on where they came from or
when the Pacific was settled.
Evidence now suggests that man may have ventured out into the
Pacific over 30,000 years ago. New discoveries in partially
submerged caves in New Ireland, a long narrow island east of New
Guinea, are proving that man reached these islands tens of thousands
of years ago.
In his book The Fragile South Pacific, Andrew Mitchell says,
recently archaeologists who worked in the Bismarcks and the Solomons
were unable to find any evidence of occupation by man older than
This seems odd, for man appears to have been in
mainland New Guinea for at least 40,000 years; indeed, some believe
that agriculture originated in the highlands of New Guinea so old
are the cultures that have been discovered there.
What took man so
long to reach these nearest major islands?... In 1985, Jim Allen and
Chris Gosden from La Trobe University in Melbourne, excavated Matenkupkum cave in New Ireland and found human artifacts 33,000
years old deep in the earth deposits.
These finds are set to
revolutionize theories about the movement of man into the Pacific."
According to Maori tradition, the first Maori to come to New Zealand
was the warrior Kupe, a powerful man and a legendary navigator of
Kupe was fishing near his island home Hawai’iki, when a
great storm arose and blew him far down to the south, where he
"the land of the long white cloud."
says that Kupe eventually made the return voyage to his homeland,
and told them of his discovery. Many researchers believe that this
happened as late as 950 A.D. but other theories place it much longer
ago than that.
It is generally accepted that Maoris are Polynesians. But the
location of Hawai’iki is open to considerable interpretation. Most
anthropologists who write about the Maori do not believe that
Hawai’iki is the same as modern-day Hawaii. Rather, accepted belief
usually places Hawai’iki at either Tahiti or in the Marquesas
Islands east of Tahiti.
Carbon dating in New Zealand places settlements there at least about
the ninth century A.D. In addition, according to tradition, New
Zealand was already inhabited by another race of people before the
Maoris. a group of people called the Moriori.
The Moriori were
driven out of New Zealand and lived only on the remote Chatham
Islands, which are more than 500 miles to the east of New Zealand.
Early observers to New Zealand considered the Maoris and Morioris to
be different ethnic groups, though today prevailing theory is that
they were part of different waves of "Polynesian" migration, the
Morioris being part of the earliest migratory waves. Today, with the
discovery of the Kaimanawa Wall in the Taupo district of the North
Island, there are indications of even earlier settlers in New
Zealand than the Morioris.
Since archaeologists admit that nearby islands to New Zealand such
as Tonga, Fiji and New Caledonia were colonized at least 3000 years
ago, it seems that these same navigators would have reached New
Zealand as well.
The history of New Zealand, and many Pacific
islands, would seem to need some radical revision.
EARLY THEORIES ON THE POLYNESIANS
The origin of the Polynesians perplexed early explorers in the
Pacific from the very start.
The Dutch Navigator Jacob Roggeveen
said that the Polynesians were descended from Adam though "human
understanding was powerless to comprehend by what means they could
have been transported to the Pacific." Such doubts also afflicted
James Cook and his men.
Prior to the publication of Darwin’s The Origin of the Species, it
was generally believed (by Europeans anyway) that the races of man
were descended from the sons of Noah, Shem, Japheth and Ham. Darker
races were considered the sons of Ham, while lighter races, such as
American Indians and Polynesians, were considered the sons of Shem.
Early on, a Malaysian origin for the Polynesians was speculated. The
second edition of pioneer anthropologist J.F. Blumenback’s book
Natural Varieties of Mankind (1781) added a fifth race to his
originally speculated four of Caucasian, Asiatic, American and
Ethiopian. This fifth race was Malaysian, which included the
With the arrival of missionaries in the Pacific came other theories,
such as that the Maoris "had sprung from some dispersed Jews,"
thereby making them one of the lost tribes of Israel. We now have
the notion that Maoris, and Polynesians in general, are Semites. The
Book of Mormon also follows this theory, stating that the
Polynesians were descended from American Indian Semites who first
landed in Hawaii in 58 B.C. after voyaging in Mexico and South
Thor Heyerdahl has sought to provide some evidence of this
hypothesis in a number of his expeditions.
Heyerdahl is not a
Mormon, but does believe that there was contact between Polynesia
and the Americas. Heyerdahl has stated that voyagers in the Pacific
came from both the shores of Asia and the Americas. Many critics of
Heyerdahl have believed that he advocates the American contact
theory exclusively, which is wrong.
Archaeologists admit that there is evidence that the Polynesians
were in contact with North and South America, especially such
islands or groups as the Marquesas, Rapa Nui and Hawaii. The sweet
potato plant, or yam, is originally from South America and was known
to have been cultivated on many Pacific islands before European
discovery. The South American sweet potato was cultivated in ancient
New Zealand and the Maoris called it Kumara.
However, contact with the Americas does not necessarily mean that
the Polynesians originated there and the prevailing theory of the
late 1800s and early l900s was that the Polynesians were actually an
Indo-European group who came to the Pacific via India. Linguistic
evidence was usually cited, such as the detection of Sanskrit words
in Polynesian vocabularies.
In the days when racism was a common
fact of life, one reason for such a theory was partly political: to
prove that a fellowship existed between Maoris and Europeans. The
main contributor to this theory was a book entitled The Aryan Maori,
by Edward Tregear, published in 1885.
A more important scholar who supported Aryan Maoris was John
Macmillan Brown who had studied at Glasgow and Oxford before taking
up the Chair of English, History, and Political Economy at
Canterbury University College in 1874.
Brown retired from his chair
in 1895 and spent much of the remaining forty years of his life
traveling the Pacific in pursuit of his intellectual hobbies,
including the origin of the Maori. Brown settled in New Zealand and
published his first book Maori and Polynesian in 1907.
A leading philologist of his day, Brown stressed that the "true
classification of linguistic affinities is not by their grammar, but
by the phonology." Unlike earlier philologists, Brown admitted that
the phonology of the Polynesian dialects differs by a whole world
from that of all the languages to the west of it-that is, the
language of Melanesia, Indonesia, and Malaysia. How then did the
Aryan forbears of the Polynesians come into the Pacific?
Brown believed that they had come by several routes from the Asian
mainland. Some had come through South East Asia, having been driven
on by a Mongol influx, others had come in a northern arc through
Micronesia. This northern migration had passed over the Bering
Strait into the Americas before doubling back to colonize eastern
Pacific islands like Easter Island.
The Polynesian language that
eventually emerged was a combination of several primitive Aryan
tongues. In Maori and Polynesian, Brown suggested that the amalgam
was formed in Indonesia, but later he shifted his ground. In his
The Languages of the Pacific, Brown argued that "the
linguistic attitude" of the Polynesians faced "north towards
Japanese and Ainu."
What had induced Brown to change his mind was
the discovery of Tocharish, a "primeval" Aryan language, as Brown
called it, in a manuscript found at Dunhuang in the Gobi Desert in
This famous cache of ancient texts, some written in unknown
languages that have never been deciphered, was to provide a gold
mine for those scholars who took interest in them.
"The main features of the Polynesian tongue... go back
to the old stone age in Europe....We must conclude that the Aryan
language started on its career from twenty to twenty-five thousand
years ago, and that philological students of Latin and Greek and the
modern European languages must study Polynesian in order to see the
type from which these sprung."
Brown went on become Chancellor of
the University of New Zealand, and enthusiastically championed
unorthodox theories on the origin of the Polynesians, even to the
point of advocating a lost continent in the Pacific which a few
years later was called "Mu" by
Colonel James Churchward.
Greek, Celtic, and especially Scandinavian models for Polynesian
Brown had traveled widely throughout the Pacific, something most
anthropologists and historians had not done, and was awed by the
many megalithic remains he had seen. He believed that he could trace
the footsteps of the Aryans into and through the Pacific from their
megaliths. Brown claimed that the megalithic remains at Coworker and
Atiamuri in New Zealand were evidence of Aryan occupation.
Brown’s magnum opus on the Pacific startled many people. His final
book, The Riddle of the Pacific, published in 1924, claimed that
there was once a continent in the Pacific that was now mostly
This continent, of which most Pacific islands were the
last remnants, had been founded by Aryans from America. Here was the
Chancellor of the University of New Zealand advocating a sunken
civilization in the Pacific and not without reason. Brown may have
first become convinced of a lost Pacific continent when he was
introduced to the ancient texts at Dunhuang.
One of the ancient
papers allegedly contained a fragment of a map which showed a sunken
Brown had also been to Easter Island where the local tradition has
it that natives are from a sunken land called Hiva. He was convinced
that an advanced culture once existed throughout the Pacific and
that sudden cataclysms had submerged most of the land causing a
collapse of the civilization.
Despite the fact that geologists of his time discounted any rapid
geological change in the Pacific it is a fact that the flat-topped
guyots throughout the Pacific must have been formed above the water.
These wind-blown mesas, similar to those in the American southwest,
need thousands of years of blowing sand to flatten their tops.
Similarly, large atoll archipelagos such as the Tuamotus, Kiribati
or the Ha’apai group of Tonga would become mini-continents if the
ocean levels were dropped only a few hundred feet. Today, geology
remains divided as to slow geological change and sudden geological
catastrophes that occasionally take place.
Most geologists now favor
both theories and admit that occasional catastrophes do take place,
just how often is the usual question.
EGYPTIANS IN THE PACIFIC
The late Professor Barry Fell, a former Harvard Professor and native
New Zealander popularized the theory that the Pacific was settled in
second millennium B.C. by the Egyptians.
He is well known for
advocating Egyptian, Libyan, Celtic and Phoenician ancestry for
American Indians, and applies his epigraphic (the study of ancient
writing) research to Polynesians.
Fell believed that the Polynesians were descended from Libyans in
the service of Egypt, working as sailors to Egyptian gold mines in
Sumatra, and even Australia and elsewhere.
He also believes that
many Melanesians are the descendants of Negro slaves used as workers
in the gold mines. Fell even goes on to call the dialect used by the
Zuni Indians of the American south-west as Mauri script and
maintains that the Maoris may be related to the Zuni Indians and
their "Mauri" language.
Phoenician and Libyan rock inscriptions have been discovered in
Indonesia. A letter in the January 21, 1875 issue of the magazine
Nature spoke of Phoenician script in Sumatra.
Writes the author J.
"In a short communication to the Anthropological
Institute in December last (Nature, Vol. XI. p. 199), Phoenician
characters were stated by me to be still in use in South Sumatra.
many of your readers may be glad to have more information of the
subject, I write to say that the district above alluded to includes Rejang, Lemba, and Passamah, between the second and fifth parallels
of south latitude.
One clear link between Australia and Egypt is that the Torres
Straits Islanders, between New Guinea and Northern Queensland, use
the curious practice of mummification of the dead.
Museum at Sydney University has a mummified corpse of a Darnley
Islander (Torres Strait), prepared in a fashion that has been
compared to that practiced in Egypt between 1090 and 945 B.C.
It was reported in Australian newspapers circa 1990 that a team of
Marine archaeologists from the Queensland Museum had discovered
extensive cave drawings on many of the Torres Straits Islands. Some
of the cave drawings, on isolated Booby Island, were of a Macassan
prau which is a unique vessel with telltale double rudders and
triangular sails used by beche de mer (sea cucumber) fishermen out
of the Indonesian island of Sulewesi.
The archaeologists declared
the Torres Islands the "crossroads of civilizations" and were quoted
"Now it’s a new ball game in an archaeological sense."
In 1875 the Shevert Expedition found similarities in Darnley Island
boats and ancient trans-Nile boats.
Island boats were used to row
corpses to sea and leave on a coral reef. Egyptian practice was to
ferry corpses across or down the Nile for desert burial.
Similarly, it was pointed out by the Kenneth Gordon McIntyre in his
book The Secret Discovery of Australia (Picador, 1977) that the
island of Mir in the Torres Strait was similar to the Egyptian word
for pyramid, "mir" and even that the name for Egypt is "Misr."
Another similarity with the Torres Strait Islanders, as well as in
the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Polynesia, a wooden headrest was used.
This carved headrest was used to slightly elevate the head, while
the subject slept on his back. It is unusual to ancient Egypt and
certain Pacific Islands around New Guinea that these headrests are
Curiously, on the island of Pohnpei (formerly called Ponape), the
new capital of the Federated States of Micronesia. an ancient
Egyptian word is important in the government. Pohnpei island is
divided into five districts and the governor of a district is called
a Nan marche in the language of Pohnpei.
Similarly, in ancient
Egypt, a district was known as a nome, and a district governor was
known as a nome-marche. Here we have the exact same word meaning the
exact same thing in ancient Egyptian and modern Pohnpei dialect.