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Maori and Polynesian: their origin, history and culture

From no Pacific Region could a Potteryless People — have come since Palaeolithic Times

From no Pacific Region could a Potteryless People
have come since Palaeolithic Times

(8) But the farthest-reaching deduction from this absence of pottery is to come. It is that immigrants came into Polynesia in palaeolithic times, for all round the Pacific, on both the Asiatic and the American coast, pottery has been made from time immemorial; and so it is in all the island world from the Malay peninsula, south-east, to the New Hebrides and Fiji. The Australians have not got the art; but Melanesia and Papuasia have it, except for one or two Polynesian colonies. Thus, Polynesia is completely surrounded with pottery-making peoples, and there is no country in all Southern or Eastern Asia from which any potteryless people could have come since palaeolithic times. The conclusion is inevitable that the fundamental and primitive population of the region, the people that came with their wives and families, entered it during the old stone age, nearly a hundred thousand years ago. It is generally admitted that the great development of man in neolithic times and the copper and bronze ages demands several tens of millenniums to explain it; for human development is slow in its earlier stages.

(9) Had the art belonged to men as well as to women in primitive times, or had the later migrations into Polynesia been true migrations of whole households, this potteryless state would not have lasted. It is the masculine arts that have so marvellously progressed in the region. It is the household arts that belong to the palaeolithic stage. Nor is it the want of clay; for even Crozet, in 1771, noticed that there was very good potter's clay in New Zealand. His page 248master-gunner "rigged up a potter's reel, on which, in the presence of the savages, he made several vessels, porringers, and plates, and even baked them under the very eyes of the savages." He gave the articles to the natives; but, he adds, "I doubt whether they will profit by such an industry as this, which would afford them a thousand conveniences." Nothing could show more clearly that they had never known the art than the fact that it took no root in New Zealand; a great contrast to the use of iron, which was at once appreciated and eagerly seized on. Had the women that came with any immigration ever known the art, it would never have died out, its uses are so patent, and the need of them so pressing. In no way can we evade the conclusion that the later immigrants into Polynesia did not bring their women; were, in fact, only male adventurers, if not pirates. And some of the last of them must have settled on the way in a community with a large strain of negroid blood in it; else the Polynesians would never have looked upon flattened nostrils as the fashionable or aristocratic shape of the central feature of the face. Nor can we resist the obvious inference that the only large influx of women into Polynesia was in the old stone age, before man on the Asiatic coasts had attained the art of making pottery.