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Maori and Polynesian: their origin, history and culture

The Route of the Megalithic People was along the — East of the Carolines

The Route of the Megalithic People was along the
East of the Carolines

(9) The chief thing to guide us in this group is the megalithic habit of the early inhabitants. There are huge mounds in Ponape at least that are, though unexcavated, clearly ancient burial-places; they are called by the natives giants' graves. There are, also, old tombs in enclosures inland called the graves of the little people. There are, in addition to these, colossal stone tables and pillared galleries and megalithic ruins all over the island. And the natives have, like those of all the larger forested islands of Micronesia and Polynesia, a great fear of penetrating into the forests or mountains, lest they should encounter the fairies, a clear sign that the remnant of a conquered people took refuge in these more inaccessible haunts and preyed on any of their conquerors that ventured far from their coast centres.

(10) It is the colossal buildings that have been most investigated. And one feature of these is that they are all on the eastern and south-eastern islands of the group, the parts that lie nearest to Polynesia, an indication of the route of the megalithic people from the north-west into the Central Pacific. Had they been on the western islands as well, then the route might have been from Indonesia, though a gap of two or three thousand miles would have intervened between the terminus of the southern track and the Carolines. page 31In the colossal stone tombs of the south-east of Ponape, Mr. F. W. Christian found the human remains disintegrated, but unearthed shell ornaments and implements, one piece of obsidian and one piece of iron. This last shows Malay or Indonesian intercourse; but it does not go far back, else we should have had frequent finds of metal implements and weapons in the tombs. The Polynesian culture is the fundamental in the east and south-east of the group. In the west the Indonesian element has more dominance.

(11) The natives of the Gilbert and Marshall groups are still more Polynesian in their appearance and habits. These archipelagoes have evidently not only been stepping-stones for the megalithic people, on their passage from the north-west into Polynesia, but, in spite of their prevailing coralline structure, and the meagre sustenance they afford, they have had frequent Polynesian refluxes, and are, as a rule, thickly populated.