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Vikings of the Sunrise

2. The Manner of Men

page 13

2. The Manner of Men

Waves of the ocean are breasted by the bow of the canoe,
Waves of men are surmounted by human courage.

What manner of men were they who, by surpassing the achievements of the Phœnicians in the Mediterranean and the Vikings of the north Atlantic, are worthy of being called the supreme navigators of history?

The tourist's opinion as to race distinction, based so often on personal prejudices, is of little worth. It is only fair to human beings that they should be studied with the same courtesy that is extended to plants, insects, fish, birds, and lower mammals. What would we think of an alleged botanist who stated that a plant was a new species of a particular genus without publishing a careful description of the plant and giving his reasons for assigning it to its place in the plant kingdom? Yet a statement has been made in an official Government handbook that the Samoans are the purest branch of the Polynesians. Those who realize the amount of careful work that must be done cannot but be astounded at the confidence of lay statements which apparently issue from some form of popular inspiration that requires no proof. No statement as to the manner of men can be accepted by intelligent people unless it is based upon a sufficiently large page 14 number of measurements of the physical characters of the human body and careful observations as to the form of hair, eyes, nose, skin colour, and other general features.

Much importance has been attached to what has been termed the cephalic index. This index is merely the ratio of the greatest breadth of the head from side to side to the greatest length from before back. If the breadth is 75 per cent of the length or less, the head is proportionally long. If it is 80 per cent and more, it is proportionally short or, what is the same thing, broad. People are thus classified as long headed (dolichocephalic) and short or broad headed (brachycephalic). The heads between 75 and 80 per cent fall into a kind of no man's land that can be exploited from either trench. The classifications are established from exact measurements made by trained observers with special instruments designed for the purpose. The same need for meticulous accuracy applies to the measurements of the nose, face, and other parts of the human body. Among any group of people there is a wide range, and it is necessary to measure a sufficiently large number of individuals to correct individual abnormalities. The opinions of untrained men without a scientific technique are worthless. There is only one way by which we can arrive at an understanding of the physical characters of a people and that is by measurements, measurements, and yet more measurements.

Human beings, as the result of innumerable measurements and careful observations by trained scientists, may be divided into the three main divisions already mentioned: Negroids, Mongoloids, and Europoids. Without going into tiresome details, let us take a few outstanding characters that distinguish the three divisions. The Negroid is characterized by a long head, woolly hair, black skin, short wide nose with page 15 a depressed bridge, and thin calves. The Mongoloid has a short head, straight, wiry black hair, flat face, and above all the Mongoloid fold formed by extra tissue pushing down the skin of the upper eyelid at its inner angle and so covering the little red gland that is responsible for the secretion of tears. The Europoids, formerly termed Caucasians, seem to serve as a convenient category into which are cast those who cannot be classified as Negroids or Mongoloids. In head form they range from long to short, in stature from tall to short, and in complexion from blonde to brunette. They are best distinguished by what they have not. They have not the woolly hair and broad nose of the Negroid nor the flat face and drooping inner eyefold of the Mongoloid.

Until recent years our knowledge of the racial characteristics of the Polynesians was extremely scanty. Students had to rely on the comparatively few skulls that had been secretly filched from burial places and had found their way into modern mausoleums provided by museums. Professor J. H. Scott wrote a paper in 1893 on New Zealand and Chatham Island skeletal material compiled from his collection in the Otago Medical School. I remember well when a fellow Maori student and I first entered the taboo precincts of the Medical School and saw at the top of the stairs a notice offering various prices for Maori skulls, pelves, and complete skeletons. We read it with horror and almost abandoned our quest for western medical knowledge.

After acquiring a knowledge of human anatomy, however, I determined to contribute to the material on Polynesian somatology by measuring the heads of a number of my living countrymen. Six years as a member of Parliament and four years' service as medical officer with New Zealand troops during the Great War temporarily distracted me. With the page 16 end of the war and my appointment as one of two medical officers to the troop ship which was to bring the Maori Pioneer Battalion back to their homeland, I at last had a unique opportunity for measuring a number of Polynesian heads. After great difficulty, I acquired a Flower's cranio-meter, and on the voyage out to New Zealand I measured the heads of 424 full-blooded Maoris.

Bishop Museum of Honolulu, Hawai‘i, was the first scientific institution to study the problem of measuring living Polynesians on a comprehensive scale. For its programme of research work on the native people of Polynesia, commenced in 1920 through the Bayard Dominick fund and aided later by the Rockefeller Foundation and local patrons, the field workers were equipped with instruments and cards and worked out a uniform method of procedure. The cards returned by expeditions were collated by Dr. Louis Sullivan and after his death in 1925 by Dr. H. L. Shapiro. The studies compiled up to date, including my Maori material, have been based on the measurements of 2500 living people from representative parts of Polynesia. Additional measurements have been made, but the results have not yet been published.

The taking of measurements in the field is rather difficult for the student specializing in some other branch of the study of man, such as functionalism. People have to be brought together and their interest maintained during the long monotonous process of recording data and measuring. Individuals with a very dark skin or an unusually broad nose are susceptible to the witticisms of the waiting audience. Interest in a strange technique wanes, and those who have satisfied their curiosity but have not been measured are apt to go off fishing. On the Island of Mangaia in the Cook group, where I temporarily occupied the position of magistrate, I page 17 was able to mobilize the inhabitants by means of native police and to measure them in the courthouse. The measurements taken at that time illustrate how great may be individual variation of cephalic index within a culturally homogeneous group. The Mangaians measured in the courthouse all had long heads with narrow breadth averaging 156 millimetres, whereas on the nearby island of Atiu in the same group the natives previously measured had very broad heads, some of them over 160 millimetres. My wife filled in the cards as to name, age, sex, place of birth, and parentage, and I took no auditory notice of these preliminaries. Having become accustomed to the narrow breadths, I was astonished when my calipers were extended to 163 millimetres by the head breadth of an individual, and I said, ‘According to the breadth of your head you ought to be an Atiuan.’ ‘I am,’ he replied.

As a result of the studies made on the living in all parts of Polynesia, it is evident that the master mariners of the Pacific must be Europoid for they are not characterized by the woolly hair, black skins, and thin lower legs of the Negroids nor by the flat face, short stature, and drooping inner eyefold of the Mongoloids. Like other Europoids, the Polynesians show a wide range of variation in head form. Shapiro has pointed out remarkable homogeneity in certain characters that result in a relatively narrow and high forehead with a wide face. In general, however, there is a preponderance of short heads in central Polynesia, in Hawai‘i, and to some extent in Samoa and Tonga; and an extreme of long heads in New Zealand, which becomes modified in Mangaia and the atolls of Manihiki and Rakahanga in the Cook Islands, appears in the Marquesas, eastern Tuamotus, Mangareva, and becomes extreme in the eastern outpost of page 18 Easter Island. The tendency in the past has been to attribute the long heads to intermixture with the Negroid population of Melanesia and the short heads to intercourse with the Mongoloids of Indonesia. However, it is unlikely that head form alone should be affected by intermixture and that other physical characters should remain unchanged. If the New Zealanders have a Negroid strain, they should have woollier hair and wider noses than their Mongoloid-infected cousins in central Polynesia, yet the Maoris have the narrowest noses in Polynesia! The long-headed element among the present Polynesians has been regarded as proof that a group of Melanesians preceded the Polynesian voyagers and settled the far-flung islands of the Pacific as far as Easter Island, where long heads are dominant. This simple belief is based on unthatched skulls and is unsupported by any further physical or cultural evidence.

A. C. Haddon states that an analysis of the mixed population of Indonesia indicates that certain long-headed elements occur in a vast setting of Mongoloid short heads. This long-headed element as represented by the Battas and Dyaks has been conveniently termed Indonesian. The Indonesians probably originated along the lower valley of the Ganges and moved eastward into Indonesia centuries after the migration of the Australian aborigine. The short-headed Mongoloids probably migrated south at a still later period and dominated the Indonesians by force of numbers. The resultant intermixture between the long-headed Indonesians and the short-headed Mongoloids was supposed to produce the Proto Polynesians or the ancestors of the seafarers of the Pacific.

That this intermixture took place with invading hordes of Mongoloids in Indonesia may be admitted. It may even be possible that a Mongoloid vanguard followed the Polynesians page 19 into Micronesia, but the physical traces are surprisingly few. That intermixture took place between the Melanesians and Polynesians may also be admitted, but it appears that this mixture was due to a later westward movement of Polynesians from Tonga and Samoa rather than to contact with Melanesians by the original Polynesian migrants on their way through Melanesian islands.

The significance of head form may be left to the specialists to decide, when the measurements of the entire area come to be analyzed. Both long and short heads may have been inherited from a varied Europoid ancestry. Sufficient for the day is the fact that a tall, athletic people without woolly hair or a Mongoloid eyefold had the ability and courage to penetrate into the hitherto untraversed seaways of the central and eastern Pacific.