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An Introduction to Polynesian Anthropology


Apart from the logs of the early explorers, works dealing with Polynesia as a whole were not attempted until toward the latter end of the nineteenth century. Abraham Fornander, a school inspector in Hawaii, brought out the first volume of "The Polynesian race" in 1878. In 1890, J. Edge-Partington and Charles Heape published the first series of their "Ethnographical album of the Pacific islands." It contained line drawings of artifacts in various museums and private collections throughout the world. A second series followed in 1895 and a third in 1898. The work is of great value to museum workers and students, but locality errors occur due to primary error in the inaccurate labeling of so many museum specimens. Tregear's "Maori-Polynesian compara-page 76tive dictionary" was published in 1891 and Ratzel's "History of mankind," with a comparative study of the Oceanic area, was published in English in 1896. The first edition of Percy Smith's "Hawaiki: the whence of the Maori" was printed in 1898, and though the title seems to restrict it to New Zealand, it is based on a comparative study of the traditions and genealogies from various Polynesian islands.

After 1900, the number of works on Polynesia began to increase materially, and those of J. Macmillan Brown, published in 1924 and 1927, excited a good deal of interest at the time. Though Brown visited various Polynesian groups, including Easter Island, his theory of sunken archipelagos had been evolved before his travels commenced, and his investigations were directed toward interpreting material to support a preconceived theory. Another voluminous writer was R. W. Williamson, who wrote principally upon social organization and religion, but his work was based entirely on library material of which he was not always able to appraise the value correctly. However, his works contain an excellent review of the literature that was available at the time of writing. His posthumous works, edited by Ralph Piddington, contain references by the editor to the later research work conducted by Bishop Museum. Myths and traditions aroused the interest of such well-known authorities as Sir James Frazer in England and Professor Roland Dixon in America, and they contributed comparative studies on the Polynesian area. They were followed in this field by Andersen, Mackenzie, and Luomala. Traditional material regarding origins and voyages received further attention from Elsdon Best, and religion was studied by E. S. C. Handy. Various other topical subjects were dealt with by authors whose names are included in the accompanying list on the general literature of Polynesia. Excellent studies on topical subjects in material culture were made by Hornell (canoes), Beasley (fishhooks), and Dodge (gourds). Some studies on museum and private collections are included in the list of general literature.