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Polynesian Voyagers. The Maori as a Deep-sea Navigator, Explorer, and Colonizer

Who preceded the Polynesians?

Who preceded the Polynesians?

The unsatisfactory part of all these traditions and the deductions drawn therefrom is that nothing is said as to what folk inhabited the isles of Polynesia at the time when the page 12 ancestors of the present inhabitants broke into the sunlit sea. If those voyagers did not reach this island system until the fifth century A.D., it is assuredly too much to expect us to believe that it was unoccupied at that period. Man has been a long time upon the face of the earth, and drift vessels, if nothing else, would have brought him into this area. Either the present Polynesians have been here much longer than we wot of, or there was a prior people in the isles.

What folk occupied Polynesia in 5000 B.C.? The question is one of much interest, but apparently unanswerable. Haply the unknown folk who left their mysterious written records and huge stone statues on lone Easter Isle dominated some part of it, until exterminated by the ancestors of the present inhabitants. Or perchance the Manahune, that elusive and unknown people of whom we hear dim traditions from the Sandwich Isles to Maoriland, may have been no mythical folk, but the pre-Maori population of Polynesia

The mystery of Easter Island, that outlying unit of the island system situated on the 110th parallel of west longitude, and looking eastward to South America across a lone ocean, is a fascinating one, for here alone of all the many isles of Polynesia do we meet with a system of written characters, unlike any other known script, and still undeciphered. These are said to have been the work of a “long-eared” folk found in possession of the island by the Polynesians many generations ago, and by them destroyed. Apparently these “Long Ears,” as the invaders termed them, were a neolithic people of a different race from the Polynesians; one conjecture being that they originally came from South America. There is no evidence to show that they ever occupied any other island than Easter Island.

Fornander notes several cases of the discovery of human relics at the Hawaiian (Sandwich) Isles beneath volcanic sands and coral rock, showing that man must have dwelt there in times long passed away; whereas local traditions of that group go back for only twenty-eight generations, much the same as in New Zealand.