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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 27, No. 2. 1964.

Migration By Design—Or Accident

page 8

Migration By Design—Or Accident

Andrew Sharp, as his final thought in this book, says "The attraction of Pacific prehistory is that of a series of fascinating 'whodunits', the attempted solution of which gives people interest and pleasure. Long may the attempt continue!"

The book is a persuasive and erudite attempt to solve one such "whodunit"—how the Pacific Islands were settled. It is also an answer to criticisms directed at his other book "Ancient Voyagers in the Pacific". For anyone interested in Pacific and New Zealand prehistory this book is a must; it should also be interesting and intelligible to the general reader.

Mr Sharp's theory is that the islands were settled by "one-way voyages of Polynesians swept out to sea, put off-course by storms or exiled either voluntarily or by force. Once they had reached a habitable island, with their primitive vessels and sailing techniques it was well-nigh impossible for them to return. There was no attempt on the Islanders' part at deliberate colonization by special expeditions following sailing directions to a specific island as the New Zealand 'canoe tradition' would suggest. The maximum practicable range for safe two-way voyaging and reliable navigating is 300 miles although generally much less than that. This rules out long exploratory and colonizing expeditions."

His supporting evidence and references do in fact seem to bear out his theory, though only a trained anthropologist and archaeologist could evaluate them properly. The book first discusses primitive navigation the world over to prove the above limitations were world-wide. He next considers in detail Polynesian craft and skills to show how limited they were for long-range sailing, passing on to a critical examination of voyaging traditions. The final chapters deal with general explanations of how plants, animals and men found their way to individual islands and the general pattern of settlement. Of particular interest is the possibility that New Zealand might have been settled from the Marquesas as easily as from the Cooks or Tahiti and that almost certainly the Marquesas were the dispersion point for settlement of Eastern Polynesia (Cook-Tahiti-Tuamotu-Mangareva-Easter Island area). Hawaiki, where Maori legends stated they migrated from, was not their actual point of departure but a folk memory of Savaii in Samoa, where the original settlers in the Marquesas had come from.

Without detailed expert knowledge it is difficult to criticise the book but it did strike me that Sharp might have included a summary of his opponents' arguments (published as a supplement by the Polynesian Society) and refuted their arguments and evidence directly rather than make unfavourable passing references.

Some of his sources may also not be beyond reproach. I doubt whether a Post-Primary Schools Bulletin is the best source for geological information. One photograph (and here I must pay a tribute to the book's excellent layout, diagrams and photographs) shows a Fijian kava ceremony with a markedly Polynesian-like participant: the caption reads: "The Polynesians could have come from Polynesian-like people in Melanesia." The author can advance good reasons for this view but the use of such photographs as implied "evidence" is highly misleading.

Even in pre-European times there was contact between Polynesian Tonga and Fiji, in the 19th century one of the factors leading to the Cession of Fiji to Britain was the struggle for dominance between a Fijian chief and a Tongan interloper who was supported by the large Tongan community in Fiji. It would indeed be very remarkable if you could not find Polynesian-featured Fijians.

A final point. Mr Sharp concedes off-handedly that there might have been occasions when a chief set off to find islands mentioned in legends. This would seem to be an opening for an updated version of the deliberate colonization theory, but with a very haphazard destination and no reliable means of getting there.

The controversy over this particular Pacific "whodunit" is, I suspect, far from over and only time bringing with it greater archaeological knowledge will show whether Mr Sharp is a Sherlock Holmes or marely a "Scotland Yard Bungler."

The Ghana Students' Association of Great Britain is calling on Ghanian students in Britain to defy the directive from their government to hand in their passports to the embassy in London.

The secretary of the Association, Mr Kenneth Doughan, said "we have no date yet for handing in the passports, but we want the students to be ready for it when the time comes."

"We are calling on all of them to defy the order." More than 2000 Ghanian students in Britain are involved in the order. Officials of the Association believe the order to hand in passports is a move to control the students' movements in western countries.

A pause for a view and a bite during a trip up the Holyford Valley in Southland. The Varsity Tramping Club organised the trip to the South Island over the Christmas holidays.

A pause for a view and a bite during a trip up the Holyford Valley in Southland. The Varsity Tramping Club organised the trip to the South Island over the Christmas holidays.