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Maori and Polynesian: their origin, history and culture

Chapter V — When did the Caucasians Migrate into the — Pacific; and When was the Pacific Closed

page 39

Chapter V
When did the Caucasians Migrate into the
Pacific; and When was the Pacific Closed

(1) The usual method of fixing the period of some prehistoric people or movement is to find the relics of it in the earth, and to calculate the layers of humus above them. Thus the age of the people of the Danish shell-mounds was roughly defined, and thus the times of the Swiss lake-dwellers.

Prehistoric Movements of Caucasians and Mongols,
and their causes

(2) But another method can be applied to the East, and especially to the Pacific, and that is the method of inference from historical movements to prehistoric. If, for example, we can fix approximately the period when the Mongols began to migrate out of the central Asiatic plateau, we can define the time after which no great Caucasian migration could have made its way across the Northern great-stone route to the Pacific Period. As soon as the Turks and Finns began to move away from the head-waters of the Yenesei and the Irtish into the steppes on the Asiatic side of the Ural Mountains, the way was barred from Europe to the East; it was no longer an open route for the megalithic peoples from the west or south-west.

(3) It had been a migration road for displaced Mediterranean peoples during tens of thousands of years, in fact during page 40early palaeolithic times, and the retreat of the mammoth into sub-arctic regions; for the rude palaeolithic chipped weapons of man have been found alongside the remains of this huge animal in Southern Siberia. It became a high-road when one of the advances, probably the last, of the ice-sheet in the glacial age had begun to relax its grip on southern lands. The peoples driven by the northern blondes from the Mediterranean would naturally crowd the southern route to the East, as long as the glacial cold made the northern part of Central Asia uninhabitable. But as it receded they would find a way to the north-east, either along the north or the south of the Black Sea. It is not unlikely that at first an inland sea or inland seas filled the depression to the south of the Urals, and stretched far to the north and the east. But this would make, instead of an obstacle to these originally maritime peoples, an easier route and an inducement for them to pioneer in their boats till they struck the mountains again. But, as the sea dried up, and the central plateau rose and grew less inhabitable, the route from the south-west would close first; for the Mongols would press down primarily into the richer and more habitable lands to the east, south, and south-west. The pressure of population on the narrowing means of sustenance up on the Mongol plateau would be relieved earliest on its southern boundaries. And hence the primitive Mongol elements in India and Indo-China, and the Akkadian and Hittite empires in the valleys of the Euphrates and Tigris, and near the coast of the Mediterranean. These latter, along with the nomade people in the steppes to the north-east, would make the migration of the Mediterranean races east and north-east difficult, if not impossible.

(4) The northern route, when once it was opened after the final recession of the ice-sheet, would remain open much page 41later. The northern Mongols would be the last to move north-east, north, and north-west, because of the lack of rich countries and tribes to tempt them. Hence the evidences of blue-eyed peoples all along the north of Central Asia to the Pacific, and the rapid blanching of the Turks and the Finns by the conquest and absorption of Caucasians as they moved westwards. But these blonde Caucasians must have been an upper layer superimposed upon a darker stratum of longheads, and must have migrated eastwards in comparatively recent times, only a few hundreds or thousands of years before the Turki-Finn movement.

(5) If then we can fix approximately the period when one of the southern or eastern Mongol migrations took place, we may fix approximately, too, the time when the northern route was finally closed to Europeans.

An Ancient Mongoloid Empire in Mesopotamia

(6) Now the ancient race that we know most of is the Akkadian, whose cuneiform inscriptions were unearthed on the site of Babylon during the latter half of the nineteenth century; their decipherment has thrown a flood of light on prehistoric times. And it is generally agreed that their civilisation was in full bloom in Mesopotamia between five and six thousand years before our era; and their development of writing, literature, science, and art at that early period implies at least a thousand years of preparation for such a climax; whilst in their religion these Akkadians looked to the highlands on the north-east, "the Father of Countries," and "the abode of the gods" as the paradise to which their spirits would return. In these mountains they must have been settled as a people for at least another thousand years and mingled with the Caucasian drift from the Mediterranean; for page 42the paradise of a primitive people is the home of their fore-fathers; and the busts of these Akkadians that have been unearthed show not only the flattened face and high cheek-bones that mark the Mongol, but, long before the Semites from the south mingled with them, the wavy hair and often the full eyes of the Caucasian. They, in fact, illustrate the law of cross-breeding, that it evolves the new competitive types that ever go to produce a new advance in civilisation.

Copper Defines the Time Vaguely

(7) It is not improbable that the Mongols were beginning to move west and south nearly ten thousand years before our era. Their eastern movement into China may not have been long after. But their northward migrations must have been considerably later; the northern route remained open longer for the megalithic peoples from the West; for some of them reached the Pacific without copper, and afterwards, when forced off the coasts, reached Polynesia without any trace of that metal. And the age of copper in Northern Asia goes back four or five thousand years before our era; it was early there, because the Ural-Altai region was one of the great sources of the primitive world's copper.

(8) But copper, next to the precious metals, is the most uncertain for defining a period. The tools or weapons made out of it are soft, and turn before the task of cutting or hewing. They are not to be compared for efficiency to the flint or obsidian knives and axes of the stone period. Primitive man did not seize on it with avidity. A copper age exists with any definiteness only in a few regions, and even there has but vague limits. But before the megalithic drift eastwards had stopped on the northern route, that metal had come into use; for it is found in the kurgans or mound-graves page 43of the Tchudes, that mythical people to whom the Northern Mongols attribute everything they cannot explain the origin of.

Bronze Defines Time Better

(9) Bronze is different. It is as ornamental as copper, and it takes a much keener edge. It was sought after more eagerly by the neighbours of those primitive civilisations that discovered it. Many an experiment must have been made before an alloy could be found to remedy the defects of copper. But, when found, it spread rapidly amongst civilised peoples, so that we find the bronze ages over the Old World much nearer being contemporaneous in their beginnings. That of the north-east and east of Asia seems to have started in the fourth millennium before our era. And, according to a vague tradition, there came into the South Island of Japan about 1240 b.c. a cultured race with finely formed weapons of bronze, as well as of stone, and drove the Ainos north. The legendary founder of the Japanese empire, Jimmu Tenno, is placed only in the seventh century before our era. But the gradual migration from Korea and the struggle with the aborigines must have gone on for many centuries before the evolution of such a political unity. Their bronze and beautiful stone weapons must have given them a great superiority over those whom they call in their annals Ebisu or barbarians, a name that stands for the "hairy Ainu," and over those primitive peoples who built the huge burial mounds, and the People of the Hollows, who lived in dwellings half underground. It is not improbable that this may date the beginning of one of the sea-migrations of the megalithic people down into the islands of the Pacific. If so, they did not profit by the weapons of their enemies, for no bronze has ever been found in these islands, except a Tamil ship-bell in New page 44Zealand. Of course, the pressure of the Mongols from behind must have begun long before this; must have begun, in fact, when they started north-east towards Behring Straits and found their way into America during some temporary elevation of the temperature in the North Pacific. Evidence for this is found in the fact that the Ainos once occupied the coast of Korea and Manchuria, and were driven into the archipelago. And when they crossed they must have displaced the earlier aborigines of Japan that their traditions speak of. But the greatest impulse to migration over the sea, both north and south, must have come when the Mongols arrived and took to founding an empire. The millennium just before our era doubtless saw vast transferences of the megalithic people in ocean-going canoes into the island-world to the south, and of smaller migrations north along the Kurile and Aleutian groups into British Columbia in coast-hugging canoes.

(10) Of one thing we may be sure, that migration into Polynesia ceased from Japan at the foundation of the empire in the south of it during the seventh century before our era. Else bronze weapons and tools and ornaments would have gone with the emigrants into the new lands.

Iron gives the Most Definite Time

(11) A still stronger proof of the final closing of Polynesia to the peoples of the north-east of Asia is the complete absence of iron from that island region. When the Polynesians realised what a sharp edge the new metal introduced by the Europeans would take, they seized on it with avidity. They would give their dearest possessions for a hatchet, or even a piece of hoop-iron or a nail. It is this passion for iron that makes the beginning of its age all over the Old World so nearly contemporaneous. Its use spread with extraordinary rapidity through Europe, Asia, and Africa. And we may say roughly page 45that its age has its backward limit in the earlier part of the millennium before our era.

(12) It is this metal that, when introduced into a region, finally closes its stone age. The sharpest and hardest of stone tools and weapons, even obsidian and greenstone, are not to be compared with it in incisive efficiency. The tribe equipped with iron weapons soon masters the users of stone spear-heads. The iron hatchet gives them their houses and canoes in a fraction of the time and with half the trouble that the old stone axe gave them. And, if timber abounds on the continent, the wooden house takes the place of the mound house or the stone house, and, if on the coast or on the islands, the canoe becomes universal. The beginning of the iron age in any country is also the close of its megalithic age. For iron tools so quicken the process of stone-cutting that people can afford the time to quarry small blocks that do not need vast masses of labour to move them. The stone tomb raised by a single family takes the place of that which needed a whole tribe or nation to manipulate it. And timber, now so easily cut, takes the place of stone in most burial monuments. In the Pacific the colossal-stone-building habit continued except where forests abounded, as in New Zealand and the old volcanic islands; and there the canoe and its carving taught the people to use timber for their dwellings and tombs. Obsidian and greenstone tools made the cutting of wood more rapid than the old flint or basalt.

Not Since our Era has there been any Immigration
Into Polynesia

(13) The absence of iron from Polynesia would seem to have closed it to all immigration for nearly three thousand years. But this conflicts with the traditions and genealogies of the islands. For, if the latter are to be trusted in chrono-page 46logy, there seems to have been a drift into them from Indonesia about the beginning of our era. But the contradiction is removed when we remember that the iron age did not start in that region till about the same period, and that it followed there straight on the stone age, as in trans-Saharan Africa. The words in Malay for copper and bronze are all of Sanskrit origin; and these two metals were brought into the Malay Archipelago by the Buddhists from India when they established their empire and built their colossal temples in Java. Iron took the place, not of copper or bronze, but of stone, and that it never came farther east than the west of New Guinea till the Europeans arrived, shows the fallacy of the idea that the Malays ever mastered Polynesia by their influence, language, or customs, or had ever had even a trade route into it. Whatever there is in common between the Polynesian dialects and the Malay (and there is much) is due to the absorption of primitive elements in Indonesia. Language is never a safe test of race or origin. Had the Malays ever ventured as traders or conquerors into Polynesia, iron would have come with them. Its complete absence proves that there was neither immigration nor trade route into that island-world from the coasts of Asia during our era, and none from the eastern coasts for at least a thousand years before it. Had even chance metal weapons or tools found their way into the islands we should have seen them cherished as amulets or objects of worship.