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Maori and Polynesian: their origin, history and culture

New Zealand as the Cul-de-Sac of the Pacific is the — Best Polynesian Example of Ethnological Stratification

New Zealand as the Cul-de-Sac of the Pacific is the
Best Polynesian Example of Ethnological Stratification

(1) We have seen that there are traces of a fair race throughout the Pacific, and also traces of a race that erected great stone monuments. And we have seen reason to believe that the two are the same. Even though there may have been different migrations of them from the Japanese Archipelago, spreading over several centuries, if not several thousand years, they are all practically the same Caucasian race that reached the Pacific through the north of Central Asia. The long periods that separate the migrations may even have produced different developments of custom and different dialects of the language. And as one immigration arrived in an island or group of islands, it would master some of its predecessors and drive out others on expeditions in search of further lands. And the last of the land-areas to be reached would certainly be New Zealand, where there was room for many immigrations, and where, doubtless, many different types of immigrants remained and fought it out, or entered into intercourse or alliance and union. Beyond it there was no further land to be found to the south or the east; and refluxes would have scant chance of finding new or uninhabited islands on the route they had come.

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(2) This land is, therefore, the palimpsest or many-times-rewritten record of the prehistoric history of the Pacific. And in its customs it should show better than any other group of islands the migrant wave on wave that has overflowed it; it should show more variety of custom than any other Polynesian land. The last conquering immigration is, of course, the most likely to be dominant in the legends. For it is always the last masterful aristocracy that arrogates to itself the rights of genealogy and birth and the privilege of having a history. The Polynesians of the six canoes, therefore, obliterated all genealogical records. But in absorbing their predecessors they were bound to absorb their customs too, especially those that were suited to the new country and the new climate. We may expect to find more than in any part of Polynesia a tangle of manners and customs and stages of culture. All tribes on the face of the earth were, long before history commenced, cross-breeds, some more, some less. And all show, therefore, an ethnology that is by no means simple or pure. But it is the culs-de-sac of the world, like New Zealand, that are bound to reveal most complexity of culture.