La piste de l’Asie du sud-Est... Ainsi, après plus de 250 ans d’hypothèses et de recherches qui ont associé plusieurs disciplines : archéologie, génétique, histoire, botanique, linguistique… l’on pense que l’odyssée de peuplement du Pacifique oriental, et donc de la Polynésie, a fait suite à la lente migration préhistorique - sur des dizaines de milliers d’années - de peuples de chasseurs- cueilleurs devenus navigateurs et horticulteurs, au fur et à mesure de leurs pérégrinations le long du littoral asiatique et des îles continentales de la région. Puis vint ensuite pour ces peuples, l’aventure de la navigation hauturière en direction du soleil levant, à partir de l’Asie du Sud-Est. Cette hypothèse a toutefois évolué au fil des décennies et l’on ne parle plus aujourd’hui d’un mouvement migratoire unique, les éléments s’accumulant pour postuler plusieurs trajets, au début de notre ère. Plusieurs solides arguments plaident en faveur de cette thèse. Les langues de la famille austronésiennes, dont font partie les différentes langues polynésiennes (marquisien, tahitien…) indiquent toutes une origine commune et donnent une image des routes de migration suivies.

Avec les Alizés En dehors de la patate douce, originaire d’Amérique du sud, toutes les plantes utiles (taro, arbre à pain, canne à sucre…) et animaux domestiques ou nourris par l'hommes (cochons, poulets, chiens…), transportés par les Polynésiens lors de leurs migrations sont originaires d’Asie du sud est, de l’Insulinde (Brunei, Indonésie, Philippines et Timor-Oriental et Malaisie Orientale) ou des îles continentales comme la Papouasie nouvelle- guinée. Des données d'origines génétiques suggèrent par ailleurs un passage des Austronésiens par les îles de la Mélanésie, un élément qui serait également confirmé par la présence de poteries spécifiques, dites Lapita, entre 3500 et 1000 ans avant JC sur les îles intermédiaires entre l’Asie du Sud-Est et la Polynésie orientale tout au long du parcours des Austronésiens – ancêtres des Polynésiens… avant la grande aventure vers l’Est. Autre indication retenue : les vents marins du Pacifique soufflant le plus fréquemment d'Est en Ouest sont favorables à des explorations se faisant contre les alizés. Cela permettait en effet aux navigateurs de revenir plus rapidement et d'être sûrs d'avoir assez de vivres. Il ne faut pas oublier que le Pacifique, immensité océane, est le dernier endroit de la planète à avoir été colonisé par les humains. Par ailleurs, les vents s'inversent pendant quelques semaines à une certaine période de l'année, soufflant alors d'ouest en est. Les migrations se faisaient certainement à cette époque, ce qui pouvait raccourcir les temps de navigation.

The Route from Southeast Asia More than 250 years of hypotheses and research joining various disciplines—archeology, genetics, history, botany, linguistics and more—have led to the conclusion that it is most likely that the odyssey to, and settlement of, the oriental Pacific, and with it French Polynesia, came primarily from the shores of asia and the continental islands of the region. The migration to the Pacific Islands has its roots in the early beginnings of the prehistoric migrations that happened over the span of thousands of years, as humans evolved from hunter-gatherers into navigators and farmers and roamed along the entire asian coastline and the continental islands of the region. The adventures and navigation of the high seas followed next, and these early seafarers left southeast asia in the direction of the rising sun…This hypothesis evolved over the span of decades and nowadays no one speaks of a singular migration anymore, rather it appears that there were several migrations that took place at the beginning of our era. There are many solid arguments to back this theory. The family of austronesian languages, which the various Polynesian languages belong to (marquesan, Tahitian etc.,) all indicate a common origin and can help us in the endeavor to trace the various routes of migration.

With the Trade Winds With the exception of the sweet potato, which is of South American origin, all the eatable plants (taro root, breadfruit, sugar cane and so on) as well as all the domesticated animals (pigs, chicken, dogs etc.,) are of Southeast asian origin (mainland Southeast asia: cambodia, laos, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam and peninsular malaysia, or so-called maritime Southeast asia which comprises Brunei, Indonesia, Philippines, east-Timor, east-malaysia, and Singapore) or from the continental islands such as Papua New guinea. genetic findings suggests that there may also have been an austronesian passage through the melanesian islands, an element which is backed by the presence of a specific type of pottery—called Lapita, which dates from 3500 to 1000 B.C.E—in the islands that are located between Southeast asia and oriental Polynesia, long before the great adventures toward the east. The austronesians are thought to be the Polynesian peoples’ ancestors, and the findings of the lapita pottery all along the route taken by the austronesians supports this hypothesis. another clue to the mystery is the fact that the predominant ocean winds in the Pacific are the trade winds that blow from east to west. These winds would have made for ocean-voyages that went up against the wind, which meant that navigators could return to their departure point faster and more easily plan to have enough supplies aboard. one must not forget that the Pacific ocean is immense and was the last ocean to have been colonized by humans. another element that supports this theory is the fact that for a few weeks every year, the trade winds shift and the winds blow in the opposite direction, from the west to the east. It is likely that the migrations happened during these periods in order to shorten the duration of the journey across the vast sea.

A People of “Ocean Nomads” The settlement of the Oriental Pacific Islands by the Polynesian peoples would not have been possible had it not been for their exceptional navigational skills. In order to make their way to these virgin and isolated territories they had to create boats that were stable and big enough to endure the toll of the oceans and winds, and that had the capacity to carry passengers over

long distances. Big double-hulled canoes—some as big as 30meters long—could be loaded up with dozens of people, vegetables, animals, fresh water and other objects necessary to survive on these long-distance open ocean voyages. These peoples of ocean nomads had great knowledge of the sky and of the natural elements, enabling them to navigate by the stars — without modern instruments—thereby making their way across the vast Pacific Ocean.

FaaFaITe, PIrogUe DoUBle De VoYage INSPIrée DeS emBarcaTIoNS TraDITIoNNelleS faafaite, a polynesian outrigger canoe inspired by the traditional polynesian boat

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