THE POLYNESIANS: Prehistory of an Island People by Peter Bellwood

THE POLYNESIANS: Prehistory of an Island People

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The allure of the South Pacific islands and their inhabitants, the Polynesians, has given rise to much speculation. Peter Bellwood, senior lecturer in prehistory at the Australian National University, is both well situated and well qualified to illuminate Polynesian history up to the advent of European civilization. He finds no evidence to support the more romantic and exotic theories that the islands were settled or received their cultural direction from the Americas or from Caucasoids. The Polynesians are speakers of Austronesian languages and belong to the Mongoloid race with some Melanesian admixture. Their origins can be traced to the island societies or perhaps even to the mainland of Southeast Asia in the second millennium B.C. They migrated mainly through Melanesia to the western islands of Polynesia (Tonga, Samoa) by about 1500 B.C. Over the next 2000 years they expanded eastward as far as the Hawaiian Islands and to all points of Polynesia including New Zealand and Easter Island. The Polynesians were horticulturists and coastal fishermen; they lived in fairly large villages and developed a knowledge of canoe construction and oceanic navigation, although the sophistication of their naval prowess is still disputed. All the islands, to different degrees, gave rise to aristocratic warrior societies. The archaeological evidence is concisely arranged and the text is replete with apposite illustrations, maps, and drawings. No hard questions are asked--what, in particular, was the impetus for their extraordinary explorations?--but the book is usefully and valuably descriptive.

Pub Date: Nov. 13th, 1978
Publisher: Thames & Hudson--dist. by Norton