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Maori and Polynesian: their origin, history and culture

The Primary Problems of Polynesia are Three

The Primary Problems of Polynesia are Three

(1) Three problems have confronted observers and theorists concerning Polynesia since the time of Cook. The first is the origin of the Europeanlike face and figure of so many of its inhabitants. Cook and the other Pacific voyagers were struck by it. And Crozet puts it very clearly in his account of the Maoris of the Bay of Islands:"t is most certain that the whites are the aborigines. Their colour is, generally speaking, like that of the people of Southern Europe, and I saw several who had red hair." "There were some who were as white as our sailors, and we' often saw on our ships a tall, young man, 5ft. 11in. high, who by his colour and features might easily have passed for a European."

(2) But most observers and theorists, arguing a priori, have thought that the darker were the aboriginals, and that there was a primitive negroid substratum in all the islands. As we have seen, this theory does not accord with the native admiration for a dark skin as an essential of beauty, or with the custom of flattening out the nose in Polynesian babies. The special features of the aborigines would be an object of scorn to the conquerors, instead of entering into the ideal of beauty. Crozet comes nearer the truth than any of the other voyagers or the later speculators.

(3) The second problem is the origin of the megalithic monuments that exist on so many of the islands. Most page 257speculative observers have noticed the resemblance of many of them to the teocallis or stepped pyramids of colossal stone that distinguish the great Pacific coast civilisations of America, and have come to the conclusion that the islands were peopled from that continent. The objection to the inference is that the characteristic foods of the American Pacific coasts, maize, the potato, the tomato, and the narcotics, tobacco and coca, were not brought into the islands of the Pacific till the times of the European voyagers.

(4) The third problem is the extraordinary resemblance between the culture of the natives of the British Columbian coast and that of the Polynesians. What stood in the way of seeing the significance of this was the American Indian face and figure of the British Columbians. An examination of the headforms revealed a mixture of the Mongoloid broad-head and the Caucasian long-head; and an occasional wash revealed a skin underneath the life-long layer of dirt often as fair as the European.