Maori and Polynesian: their origin, history and culture
Clearly there was a Primitive Route from Japan, — with Islands separated only by Narrow Straits
Clearly there was a Primitive Route from Japan,
with Islands separated only by Narrow Straits
(15) And now we are faced with a serious difficulty. How could man have found his way into these far-separated groups in palaeolithic times, when there could have been no oceanic navigation? Either the old stone age people that reached the coasts of Asia acquired the art of digging out tree trunks into huge ocean-going canoes or the land that stretched either from the south of Asia or the north-east of Asia was not so incontinuous as it is now. We must choose the one or the other to explain the palaeolithic culture of Polynesia. The latter alternative is the least improbable, for there are two belts stretching from the east coast of that continent that are still subject to movement, one rising, the other subsiding. The rising or volcanic belt strikes from Indonesia through New Guinea, the Solomons, the New Hebrides, and Fiji. The other, the subsiding belt, runs from the coast of Japan south-east through the Bonin group and all the main Micronesian and Polynesian groups down almost to Easter Island. It is marked by vast numbers of atolls and coral islets, which practically buoy or mark submerged mountain peaks. On either side of it are the deeps that were primeval oceans. The belt of elevation would not be that by which the people of the old stone age found their way into Polynesia; for we may assume that its land was in their time less continuous than it is even now, and if page 253there had been only such narrow straits between the piers of the bridge as would not stop their frail canoes, neither would the alligator and other land-animals of New Guinea and Indonesia that either frequent the water or can swim have been stopped.
(16) We may conclude that the Japan-Micronesia route was that which palaeolithic man took into the island-world of the Pacific, as it was that which megalithic man afterwards took. But that this land-bridge was incontinuous since ever the mammals appeared we may accept as a fact; else the mammals of the north temperate zone, if not those of the sub-Arctic zone, would have found their way into the Pacific, and, even if they had failed to persist, their remains would have been found.