Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Maori and Polynesian: their origin, history and culture

Chapter XX — Recapitulation and Conclusion

page 256

Chapter XX
Recapitulation and Conclusion

The Primary Problems of Polynesia are Three

(1) Three problems have confronted observers and theorists concerning Polynesia since the time of Cook. The first is the origin of the Europeanlike face and figure of so many of its inhabitants. Cook and the other Pacific voyagers were struck by it. And Crozet puts it very clearly in his account of the Maoris of the Bay of Islands:"t is most certain that the whites are the aborigines. Their colour is, generally speaking, like that of the people of Southern Europe, and I saw several who had red hair." "There were some who were as white as our sailors, and we' often saw on our ships a tall, young man, 5ft. 11in. high, who by his colour and features might easily have passed for a European."

(2) But most observers and theorists, arguing a priori, have thought that the darker were the aboriginals, and that there was a primitive negroid substratum in all the islands. As we have seen, this theory does not accord with the native admiration for a dark skin as an essential of beauty, or with the custom of flattening out the nose in Polynesian babies. The special features of the aborigines would be an object of scorn to the conquerors, instead of entering into the ideal of beauty. Crozet comes nearer the truth than any of the other voyagers or the later speculators.

(3) The second problem is the origin of the megalithic monuments that exist on so many of the islands. Most page 257speculative observers have noticed the resemblance of many of them to the teocallis or stepped pyramids of colossal stone that distinguish the great Pacific coast civilisations of America, and have come to the conclusion that the islands were peopled from that continent. The objection to the inference is that the characteristic foods of the American Pacific coasts, maize, the potato, the tomato, and the narcotics, tobacco and coca, were not brought into the islands of the Pacific till the times of the European voyagers.

(4) The third problem is the extraordinary resemblance between the culture of the natives of the British Columbian coast and that of the Polynesians. What stood in the way of seeing the significance of this was the American Indian face and figure of the British Columbians. An examination of the headforms revealed a mixture of the Mongoloid broad-head and the Caucasian long-head; and an occasional wash revealed a skin underneath the life-long layer of dirt often as fair as the European.

Put the Three Together, and they are Solved

(5) The solution of the problems presented itself the moment they were placed together instead of being taken each by itself, and it was brought to mind that the Mongoloid flood over the north-east Asiatic coast and over America came not only after palaeolithic man but after early neolithic man. The gradual lowering of the temperature on the Central Asian plateau scattered the hitherto isolated Mongoloids to the four winds of heaven; and a temporary elevation of the temperature of the North Pacific drew the northern horde farther north and east, and finally across Behring Straits into America. But the northern division of the Caucasians, bred as they were amid the advancing and receding snow and ice of Central and Northern Europe, had page 258found the lower temperature of Northern Asia no bar to their migration eastwards to the Pacific. Doubtless the retreat of the reindeer and the mammoth drew them onwards when still in the hunting or nomadic stage. And once on the shores of the new ocean, they resumed fishing and navigation, ready to take the plunge into the unknown, when their canoes had become large and trustworthy enough, and pressure had begun to be exerted from behind.

(6) The track of the neolithic Caucasian was waymarked for ever right from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast, as soon as he gained sufficient engineering skill to cut, haul, and raise over his dead enormous blocks of stone, and to leave them either uncovered or mounded over. Nor did he cease to honour or to worship his dead in this fashion when he left the continental shores in canoes and ventured far over the ocean, until he came to lands abounding in lofty forests. There he found colossal timbers, easier to work than colossal stones with his stone implements. In the British Columbian archipelago and in New Zealand the stone habit gave way before the timber habit. But throughout Micronesia and Polynesia and along the Pacific coast of America he still clung to the habit of worshipping his ancestry and his gods by building pyramids of colossal stone.

(7) The other waymark this neolithic Caucasian left along his track was his own long head and wavy hair, and often fair complexion. And right from the Atlantic over the north centre of the continent till we reach the Pacific, and across that ocean into British Columbia and into Polynesia and New Zealand, is this to be found. It is of course more or less obscured, according as there have been more or fewer waves of alien peoples before or after him.

(8) In Polynesia there has been but slight obscuration; for no Mongoloid migration found its way thither. And the negroid element came into the region only in later times page 259and through the medium of the final Caucasian migration from South Asia. Hence, though there is, on the average, a darker skin than in Europe, and the negroid features, as coming in with the last conquerors or aristocracy, are artificially cultivated, all observers have been struck with the European appearance of the islanders; whilst anthropology has found their headform, though mixed, strongly inclining to the long, as in Europe.

The Language Question obstructed the Solution

(9) What made the problem more complicated and difficult of solution was the proximity of Southern Asia, and especially of Indonesia, and the affinity of the languages. Philology misled investigators of the racial problem. It made them believe first of all that the Malays had peopled Polynesia, in spite of the complete dissimilarity of the races in headform, features, stature, and culture. Then it kept the eyes of theorists wholly fixed in this direction.

(10) But we saw from an analysis of the language that it had no resemblance to an agglutinative or Turanian tongue, that it was the result of the collision of two or more inflectional languages like the Aryan, and that both traces of inflection and the meaning of a considerable proportion of the roots gave a strong presumption in favour of the tongues that had clashed being Aryan. But this sloughing of inflections had occurred in Indonesia before the South Asiatic migrants had left Polynesia. What did occur in the latter region was the encounter with a language of highly primitive simplicity, as far at least as the sounds were concerned. The sounds available were reduced from above a score in the Malay Archipelago to just above a dozen in Polynesia. It is the simplest and briefest of phonologies, a striking thing in so advanced a barbaric people.

page 260

How Early Palaeolithic Culture entered is the
Fundamental Problem

(11) And this touches the most serious problem of all that confronts the observer and investigator in this region of the world. It is this: Why do we here encounter the strangest medley of culture to be found on the face of the earth? In analysing the industries, we saw that alongside arts that almost equal in their advance those of the most civilised of modern times, there are arts and practices that are primeval, and, in fact, palaeolithic. The Maori arts of fortification and siege are absolutely abreast of modern Europe; yet here is a people that is not so advanced as the Australians and Fuegians in fire-making, and not so advanced as the Melanesians and Papuans in the making of vessels out of clay. Their textile art showed great facility in the manipulation of both bark and fibre, and yet they had only the beginnings of a loom; nor had they reached a spindle in making the thread, an exception to all other primitive peoples. Why should this early palaeolithic culture belong to the same people as shows itself so modern in other phases? This is the fundamental problem of Polynesia, and no one can face satisfactorily its other problems who has not solved this.

(12) The solution attempted in this volume is based on an analysis of the culture into the women's and the men's. The palaeolithic elements belong to the household arts; most of the advanced culture belongs to the sphere of the men. Fire-making, spinning, and the art of pottery all belong to the women's department in primitive times. We may therefore infer that there has been unbroken continuity in the Polynesian household since early palaeolithic times, when the artificial production of fire by the rubbing together of two sticks had just been discovered, when there was no spindle page 261and no pottery. Now, the isolation of the region far out in the ocean makes it unique as an abode of man. As long as it was isleted, with vast distances between the islets themselves and between them and the mainland, none but far-voyaging canoes could reach it, and that meant only masculine expeditions, only masculine colonisation. A few hundred miles of sea were sure to daunt primitive woman from venturing her children and her household gods upon so dangerous an element; the thousands of miles between resting-places in Polynesia made such ventures impossible for them.

There must have been a more or less Incontinuous
Land-bridge from the Coast of Asia

(13) Whence, then, could have come the women into it, unless there was at one time a fairly continuous land-bridge for them to cross from the continent? That could not have been in recent times. But the household culture of the region, being early palaeolithic, gives a hundred thousand years or more, and that should be sufficient to allow of very great changes in the distribution of the land in an area that is subject to comparatively violent and rapid upheavals and subsidences. Now, there is no area on the face of the earth so marked in this way as the western belt of the Pacific. There islands are reported as appearing and disappearing almost every year, their life-history sometimes running only a few months. But in this area there are zones of elevation and zones of subsidence. One of the latter stretches from the Japanese Archipelago south-eastwards through Micronesia and Polynesia, the peaks of its submerged mountains being buoyed by the coral insect. Down along this land-bridge in early palaeolithic times must have flocked a fair-complexioned wavy-haired, long-headed race, or, in other words, a Caucasian page 262race, with their households, only comparatively narrow seas and straits having to be crossed in their frail boats, probably built, like the Chatham Islands canoes and the Peruvian balsas, of reeds and other buoyant materials, with the water washing through them.

(14) This migration could not have taken place without some pressure from behind. In those early ages it could not well have been human compulsion so far north as this, for the waste and uninviting spaces of the world could not have been filled any more than they are now. The only conceivable pressure was that which in primeval times shepherded man northwards and southwards, and produced the highly migratory and adventurous division of mankind, the Caucasian race; and this was change of climate, the shifting of the boundary of the sub-Arctic zone farther south. So far north as the abutment of this broken land-bridge on the Asiatic continent, the ice-plough must have obliterated all temperate and subtropical vegetation and driven animals and their hunters, men, onwards to the south to find subsistence. And this will partly explain the comparative absence of affinity between the Asiatic plant-world and the Polynesian. The submersion of the piers of the land-bridge and the change from a volcanic or alluvial soil to a coralline were doubtless causes that worked in the same direction.

(15) When the ice-sheet began to recede, then sank slowly the bridge, pier after pier, till all ingress into the region became impossible without stout ocean-going canoes. And in Polynesia thereafter lived this Robinson Crusoe of a race, "cribb'd, cabin'd, and confined" within their islets, keeping alive their early palaeolithic culture for tens of thousands of years, uninfluenced by what happened in the rest of the world, unforced by alien pressure or competition, unaided by the new arts other people might be driven in the struggle for existence to find out. Not since there were formed the page 263three great divisions of mankind has there been such long and complete isolation, unless we count that of Australia.

New Migrations from the North began in Neolithic Times;
but these were only Masculine

(16) At last, when oceanic navigation began to extend its range beyond the narrower seas, and great canoes began to be hollowed out of gigantic trees, the solitude was broken. Down along the line of the coral islets that buoyed the piers of the submerged bridge neolithic man ventured; canoe followed canoe from island to island; but only the masculine heart had courage to break into those spaces of the unknown, and canoe after canoe failed to return with its men to their old homes. Like the sailors of Ulysses, they preferred to settle in some lotus-islet of the tropics. Had the land been continuous enough, or the islands large enough, to breed a strong united, warlike race, these immigrants would have been driven off or absorbed with ease; but the islets were small, and could support but a scanty and feeble population, and with their palaeolithic weapons the men would be no match for these neolithic sailors. The new-comers would be masters and aristocrats, enslaving the men and taking the women over with their households. The masculine arts would be reformed according to the ideas of the new-comers; but the women would be left to follow their old ways in the household.

(17) For thousands of years must this process of masculine infiltration into Polynesia have gone on in neolithic times till, all the islands being full, the new viking strain would venture away to the south and the east, some into New Zealand, some into Rapa the small, some into Easter Island, and some doubtless as far as the American coasts. We have to explain the extensive stratification that is manifest in the culture. We can see that it is not development: there are so many irreconcilable elements and stages in the strata.

page 264

There are Strata on Strata of Culture

(18) It is not merely the combination of cannibalism with chivalrous generosity to an enemy, of coarse licence and polygamy with the romance of love and devotion to woman and strict chastity in married life, of human sacrifice with gentleness to slaves in the same tribe and individual. The burial customs are many and contradictory. In the constitution of society, the patriarchal system and the village communal, the socialistic and the feudal, the oligarchic and the monarchic, stand side by side. Whilst in religion there are combined in the same tribe and locality household worship and a powerful priesthood, open-air rites and a sacred building, imagelessness and fetichism, sorcery and a highly developed philosophic attitude to the gods and the powers of Nature.

(19) It would not be impossible to assign many of these inconsistent customs to the migrations from the north and others to those from the south of Asia; but, as some of them might well belong to both, it would be a task of some difficulty to analyse and classify them. For, as the language seems to indicate even before it left Indonesia, two inflective or Aryan languages have gone to the making of it, and after it reached the islands it encountered a language of most primitive phonology that had Aryan words or elements. Even in the mythology, it would be difficult to apportion its various elements to the northern and the southern routes; though the sun-myths and sun-worship point to the cold north, this tendency belongs to all Aryan mythologies of the temperate and subtropical zones. It is the legends of the spirit world that most definitely point to the northern route; some of their heroes and aristocratic spirits ascend into the circles of heaven, as amongst Aryan peoples of the south, but most go to the under-world, Po, or twilight and darkness. And there are some portions of the mythology page 265that are classifiable: the culture heroes have more affinity to the Northern Aryans; the cosmogony clearly comes from the region of the Vedic religion.

In the Arts the Oldest are the Women's, those
Sacred to the Men are Newer

(20) In the sphere of the arts the task is easier. For there we have two powerful solvents to help us in distinguishing the older and northern migrations from the last and southern. One is that whatsoever is done by women is the older; the other is that whatsoever is confined to men, or sacred, came in with the conquering aristocracy. By help of these we can see that all household arts, inclusive of a large section of the textile art and steam-cooking, are ancient, and belong to the northern route, whilst much of the net-making and some of the dyeing came in with the last-comers. Canoe-building and the maritime art belonged to the aristocracy; but in New Zealand they took from the peoples of the northern migrations the art of making the huge single dugout and the art of canoe-carving, both of which undoubtedly belonged to the North Pacific. In fact, we have to assume an artistic people in Japan before the Japanese, before the Ainos, who, when not subdued and absorbed, were driven out of the northern archipelago, and took the arts of carving and designing south into Polynesia, and thence farther south into New Zealand, Easter Island, Pitcairn Island, and Rapa-iti. The same people also took with them the art of fortification, both in stone and earthwork. Theirs, too, were probably the half-underground dwellings, though either they or some other migrants from the north brought the art of building great timber houses ornamented with carved work. One of the northern migrations brought the aute, or paper-mulberry tree from page 266Japan, to cultivate in Polynesia for its bast, and may have brought some of the methods of agriculture too, probably the primitive method of avoidance of animal manure, and that of shifting from patch to patch and burning down the scrub or bush. But the culture of edible bulbs came from South Asia, and, in all probability, the edible dog, the pig, and the domestic fowl. And the healing art, as it finally existed in Polynesia, came with the last migrants from the same region.

The Last Immigrants from South Asia brought Negroid
Blood and Cannibalism

(21) But these rested in Papuasia or Melanesia by the way, and married dark negroid women before they went on to the island world. But they did not rest long enough to take the bow as a weapon of war with them or to think of pottery as an art that should displace the calabash and the steam-oven of the Polynesian aboriginals. Some of them settled in these resting-places, and others afterwards led back Polynesian colonies to reinforce the settlers they had left. It is more than likely that they learned cannibalism in these resting-places, and took it with them as an intermittent habit into their final settlements. It was always sacred to the men, and usually to the aristocrats and warriors. The women as a rule were not allowed to touch human flesh. Only one or two contingents took the pig with them, the others indulging in cannibalism till that animal was introduced into their group. One or two seem to have missed taking the domestic fowl with them. But most of them took the dog. This and this alone will explain the choice of animals by the six canoes, when they came to New Zealand. Both the pig and the fowl had got into some of the groups long before that emigration, as we know from the language.

page 267

No Migration from the North after the Sixth Century
before our Era, and None from the South after
its BeginningNone from a People with an

(22) And all this occurred before the beginning of our era, as the iron age commenced in Indonesia about that time. Had the immigrants seen any weapon made of the new metal, warlike as they were, they would not have failed to bring it with them. The complete absence of iron from the whole of Polynesia before the arrival of the first European voyagers makes it quite certain that there was no migration into that region after our era began. And the cause of the cessation was undoubtedly the new maritime power of the Malays, which preyed upon commerce and upon peaceful as well as adventurous expeditions. From the north migration ceased at an earlier period; for bronze weapons came in with the Japanese into the northern archipelago six or seven centuries before our era, and had migrants gone south after that they would have taken those with them. It was this very Japanese invasion that stopped emigration from their islands; the invaders were too busy for many centuries subduing the Ainos to attend to navigation or foreign ambitions. Not till their empire was consolidated, and they had surplus population, did their maritime enterprise extend beyond their own and the Chinese coastal seas.

(23) Nor did the immigrants by either route come from a people that had risen to the dignity of a script or written alphabet; for none came into the region except in the far east, into Eastern Island. And this bars any Semitic land as the origin of any immigration, for all the Semitic peoples in South Asia had reached that stage of culture thousands of years before our era.

page 268

The Methods adopted in the Book

(24) There still remain many interesting questions in connection with the peopling of Polynesia, including the problems of Easter Island and the relationships of Eastern Polynesia and the American coast. But they stand apart. The problems discussed have had special reference to Western Polynesia, and most of all to New Zealand, and their solution has been attempted with the one aim of eliciting the truth. The methods applied have been those of scientific research. The facts were classified, and hypothesis after hypothesis was tried till a good working hypothesis was found, that would explain them all. If a flaw become apparent in it through the discovery of other facts, that it did not cover, it was rejected or modified. It has happened frequently, however, that it helped to explain new facts and difficulties, and to solve unforeseen problems; and then it became practically a fact itself. If wider knowledge, combined with scientific method, can suggest truer working hypotheses, no one would be more ready to adopt them in place of his own than the writer of this book.