Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Polynesians discovered South America

Don't believe it? The evidence is here.

DNA from chicken bone shows Polynesians 'found' South America

A chicken bone has provided anthropologists with the strongest evidence yet to suggest that Polynesians sailed to South America before the discovery of the New World by Europeans.

Speculation that Polynesians may have settled in South America, however, is not grounded.


Genetic studies of modern South Americans have not uncovered any signs of Polynesian ancestry. But this is not surprising, says Matisoo-Smith. Ancient Polynesians were great explorers, but tended to settle only in uninhabited islands.

This discovery may tie in to the longstanding question of how sweet potato, which originated in South America, found a new home in Polynesia. If Polynesians brought chickens to South America, why wouldn't they bring back the sweet potato — the only Polynesian starch or vegetable that did not originate in Asia. This article was written in 2004.

BBC: The Mystery of the Sweet Potato

The islands of Polynesia have long been a source of mystery and speculation for armchair scientists. The origin of the Easter Island statues, the abandonment of the so-called 'Mystery Islands' and the ultimate origins of the Polynesian people are some of the more well-known. However, perhaps the greatest mystery of them all is that of the sweet potato.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Tao tribesmen take back the ocean

I hear much about migration in Polynesia. But what about Southeast Asia? Even the general region of "Asia" conjures up images of Japan to most westerners. Even a good friend of mine refers to Japan as Asia, and I had to remind him that Asia covers the mass of land from west of India all the way to Nihon. Yes, it's easy to forget something like that here in Hawaii, where our main Asian influences come from Japan, China and Korea, and more so in recent decades, the Philippines.

Yes, the P.I. are part of Asia. (I know a lot of folks who refuse to see it that way, and most of those doubters have roots in East Asia.)

It's also important to remember that Austronesians, the predecessors of the Polynesians, set down their roots in places we don't think of as "native." Try Taiwan, where aborigines have lived for thousands of years. One tribe, the Tao, are trying to reconnect with their relatives in the northern part of the Philippines.

Ipanga na and tails and tales of Flying Fish

[Tao] tribesmen constructed a traditional boat (ipanga na; they haven’t built one in over 100 yrs) and made a voyage from Lanyu (Orchid Island) to [Taitung] … in preparation for their voyage back to Batanes [the northernmost and the smallest province of the Philippines] in order to keep [a] tradition from completely dying. … [No] one alive has ever made the trip, but some of the elders still have the oceanic knowledge of the “black current” that runs between Taiwan and [the Philippines] (which is how them used to travel between the 2 islands!) So this journey is very important for them in order to keep the connections alive!

Truly exciting stuff here. It appears, in my limited reading about the native people of Taiwan, that there is fairly good relationship between tribes and the recent invasion of mainland Chinese. How far did the Tao and their cousins in the Austronesean circle travel a thousand, 10,000 years ago? Did they travel further north?

There are some keen similarities in art and ceremonial clothing when you observe the natives of Southeast Asia and the native North Americans. It boggles the imagination.

Carbon dating in Polynesia

Searching for an online map of the South Pacific, I came across this nice piece about recent findings regarding migration.

Jan TenBruggencate: Researcher say east Polynesia settled later

Polynesia migration map

For me, learning about Polynesian migration is something that began back in elementary school. But the deeper question still arise: Before they left New Guinea and the Solomons, where did Polynesia's ancestors hail from?

Anyone who tells me that they came from Asia may be right. The original settlers of East Asia were darker-skinned. Call them Ainu or whatnot, but they roamed through Taiwan, Okinawa and Japan. So where did they originate from? The aborigines of Australia. Can anyone honestly say they aren't, in all probability, African in heritage?

Some folks don't like to hear it, as I find, but the truth is that the evidence is becoming clearer that we all have a common ancestor from Africa. Look at the people of Fiji, New Guinea and East Africa. Listen to the rhythms and harmonies in song of Samoa and Africa. Look at the art and food. There are too many similarities to discount the root connection. As researchers find more and more evidence through carbon dating, I believe we will find more and more proof that it all goes back to Africa.