Sur des milliers d’années La présence du genre homo dans la partie occidentale de l’Océanie est ancienne. homo erectus a en effet atteint cette partie du monde il y a… 1 million d'années. Ces humains archaïques ayant su traverser des bras de mer pour peupler des îles proches du continent asiatique. Profitant de la baisse du niveau des mers et d’une extension du plateau continental asiatique, les premières migrations d'humains modernes remonteraient à -60  000 ans, notamment en direction de l’Australie. Mais c’est seulement il y a environ 6 000 ans (soit 4 000 av. notre ère) que des habitants du littoral de la Chine du Sud, parlant des langues austronésiennes, commencent à traverser le détroit pour s'installer à Taïwan. Mille cinq cent ans plus tard, des migrations ont lieu de Taïwan vers les Philippines. D’autres mouvements s’en suivent dont l’un vers 1 500 av. J.-C., qui mène de l'Indonésie vers la Mélanésie, et encore plus tard, au-delà, en direction des îles du Pacifique, notamment Fidji qui, d’un point de vue génétique, semble avoir joué un rôle crucial dans l'histoire du peuplement de la Polynésie, via Samoa et Tonga, (entre 1000 et 500 av. J.-C.).

Over the Span of Thousands of Years The species homo has been present in the western part of oceania since ancient times. homo erectus reached this area of the world about 1 million years ago. These archaic human beings managed to make their way across small bodies of water to populate the islands close to the asian continent. Taking advantage of the lowering of the sea-level and the extension of the Asian continental plate, the earliest modern human migrations took place around 60 000 years ago, notably in the direction of australia. Nevertheless it was “only” about 6000 years ago (4000 B.C.E) that the inhabitants of the coastal areas in Southern china—people who spoke austronesian languages—began to cross the strait and settle in Taiwan. 1500 years later, the migrations continued from Taiwan toward the Philippines. later yet other migrations took place, such as the migration from Indonesia toward Melanesia around 1500 B.C.E followed by the migration toward the Pacific Islands, such as Fiji. genetically speaking it appears that Fiji played a crucial role in the history of the settlement of Polynesia, by way of Samoa and Tonga (between 1000 and 500 B.C.E.).

Last Area of the Globe to Become Populated The central Pacific Islands —and more particularly those of the West Pacific—were different than the continental islands of the east, because they were so-called “hot spot island chains” that grew out of the ocean following underwater volcanic eruptions. These islands were isolated and small in size and were the last areas on the globe to become populated by humans. While it is becoming clearer how the migrations began and took place, there are several points continue to that cloud the issue such as the question of the mixing of the numerous genetic, linguistic and cultural heritages in the Pacific. It could be that the lapita culture wasn’t the only common ancestor and source of migration at the very beginning of our era, and that the migration was completed with people from micronesia, who migrated to atolls that had previously been uninhabitable, such as Kiribati and Tuvalu. Which of the Pacific archipelagoes that became populated first remains a mystery. It is thought that the Society Islands and more particularly the island of raiatea—often called the “Sacred Island”—in the leeward archipelago (which is still sometimes called by its ancient name havai’i) was a hub of further migration and diffusion of people throughout the “Polynesian triangle,” which comprises hawaii, the easter Islands and New Zealand. Archeological findings dating from 150 B.C.E suggested that the marquesas archipelago may have become populated earlier than was previously thought, a point that would strengthen the “orthodox” hypothesis that was the predominant theory up until the 1980s. Nevertheless, this hypothesis is also being put into question these days as archeologists are reevaluating whether the dating of those finds was precise. Unless more ancient archeological findings are unearthed proving otherwise, no site in French Polynesia dates back further than 800 to 1000 A.D, making it one of the youngest inhabited territories on the scale of the history of humanity.

La piste de l'Amérique du sud... Les Polynésiens proviendraient-ils du continent américain, ayant suivi les courants et les vents qui se dirigent presque toute l’année vers l'Ouest ? C’est la théorie supposée par le Norvégien Thor Heyerdahl qui, pour le prouver, fit construire un radeau en balsa construit sur le modèle d'anciennes embarcations péruviennes. En 1947, un équipage de six hommes embarqua sur ce radeau à Callao, au Pérou, pour atteindre l'île de Raroia, dans l’archipel des Tuamotu, après 101 jours de mer et… plus de 6.000 km de distance. Le documentaire tiré de cette expédition gagna un Oscar en 1951 et l’ouvrage qui la relate, ‘’L’Expédition du Kon Tiki’’, fut traduit en plus de 66 langues. Un musée a aussi été construit dans les environs d’Oslo. Un argument botanique plaide en faveur de cette thèse : la patate douce, qui fait partie des plantes utiles sélectionnées par les Polynésiens, est originaire d’Amérique du Sud. Autre argument, les alizés dominants dans le Pacifique vont de l’est vers l’ouest.

The South American Route Is it possible that the Polynesian peoples came from the American continent having followed the currents and winds that blow almost year- round in the direction of the west? That was the theory proposed by Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl who built a balsa raft inspired by the ancient Peruvian rafts in order to prove his hypothesis. In 1947 a crew of six men set sail from the harbor of Callao in Peru and after 101 days at sea they arrived at the island of Raroia in the Tuamotu archipelago after having covered more than 6 000 km of open ocean. A documentary movie about the expedition won an Oscar in 1951 and Heyerdahl’s book about the journey “The Kon-Tiki Expedition” became an international bestseller and was translated into 66 languages. A museum dedicated to Kon Tiki was established in Oslo. A botanical argument seems to support Heyerdahl’s theory: the sweet potato— which was one of the plants the ancient Polynesian peoples used a lot—is of South American origin. Another point that supports Heyerdahl’s theory is the fact that the dominant trade winds in the Pacific blow from the east to the west.

NUKU HIVA AUx MARqUISES, ARCHIPEL D'Où S'éLANCèRENT LES POLyNéSIENS POUR PEUPLER HAWAII nuku hiva in the marquesas archipelago which from rush the polynesians to populate hawaii

Taaoa, le PlUS graND SITe archéologIqUe De PolYNéSIe, à hIVa oa aUx marqUISeS / hiva oa, marquesas archipelago, taaoa, the largest archaeological site in polynesia.56

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photos : philippe bacchet