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Maori and Polynesian: their origin, history and culture

Neolithic Immigration came in Ocean-going Canoes — and without Women

Neolithic Immigration came in Ocean-going Canoes
and without Women

(17) As the land sank, and hundreds of miles of rough ocean lay between the islands that mark its old line, the peoples that had reached Polynesia would remain isolated till great ocean-going canoes began to be made; and then only men would join these adventurous oceanic expeditions. For the track of the old stone age immigrants would be forgotten in the intervening millenniums, and oceanic navigation would have to feel its way into the unknown, which was sure to be full of terrors. Hence Polynesia is the home of primeval culture as far as household arts and women's arts are concerned, just as Australia by its long isolation as a continent is a museum of animal antiquities. The route that that culture took is indicated by its appearance in Micronesia as well.

(18) And as soon as the peoples of the new stone age had mastered oceanic navigation, it was this route again page 254that they first took. For the large single dugout that preceded the double canoe and the South Asiatic outrigger in Polynesia came from the North Pacific. There are no outriggers or double canoes in this great ocean north of Micronesia, and it is the huge single dugout that is characteristic of the British Columbian coast.

(19) Of these neolithic migrations one at least consisted of men who were capable of cutting, hauling, and erecting immense blocks of stone, a primitive engineering art that, on account of its difficulty and its need of exceptional skill, could not well have been a mere stage of evolution of all advancing neolithic races, and could not well have belonged to more than one division of mankind. And, to judge by the enormous number of megalithic monuments, and by the traces of the fair European-like people wherever they appear, around the Mediterranean and on the Atlantic coast, we have no hesitation in deciding that this was the Caucasian, whose birthland was the Mediterranean region. A second neolithic people, if it is not to be identified with the megalithic, must have brought, by the same route, the extraordinary artistic taste that is manifested in Maori carving and design. And all of these migrations of the new stone age must have brought with them advances in most of the arts, but only as far as men's work was concerned. But from South Asia must have come most, if not all, of the bulb-culture that distinguishes Polynesian food-raising, and the culture of the bread-fruit, the sugar-cane, and the cocoanut. That, in spite of the addition of this most important department to the agriculture of Polynesia, it remained in its methods and implements early neolithic, and in its use of fern and tree roots and fronds early palaeolithic, confirms the many indications that the region was peopled chiefly in palaeolithic and the earliest neolithic times; in other words from fifty to a hundred and fifty millenniums before our time,

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(20) All the migrations after the palaeolithic must have been in ocean-going canoes, and consisted chiefly, if not solely, of men; hence only men's arts show advance from palaeolithic to neolithic, and from early neolithic to late neolithichouse-building, canoe-building, carving, net-making, and the military art. The women and the household arts remained as they had come into the region a hundred thousand years ago, more or less. Had the women come with the various expeditions of later adventurers and conquerors, the culture of the continental peoples they had left would have entered with them. The comparative absence of advance in household arts proves absence of external influence and competition. The fire-drill, pottery, spinning, would all have been long established in Polynesia, had the neolithic immigrants, either from the north-east or the south of Asia, brought their women with them.

(21) It is more than probable that, though Polynesia was peopled in palaeolithic times, New Zealand was not so, for it does not lie in the great central subsidence belt; it lies rather at the extreme end of the outer or volcanic belt that runs through the New Hebrides and New Caledonia, but at a very long distance from these groups, and it lies at as great a distance from the most southerly of the Polynesian belt. This intervening oceanic space has probably not been materially less for geological ages, possibly since the evolution of the mammals. It would be only oceanic navigators that could reach that ultima thule. Hence, we may infer that man did not touch its shores till neolithic times, and till that period of them when great, long-voyaging canoes were built. It will be useless, therefore, to search for traces here of palaeolithic man, except such as have been brought with them by the neolithic immigrants from Polynesia.