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A blend of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel and Simon Winchester's Pacific, a thrilling intellectual detective story that looks deep into the past to uncover who first settled the islands of the remote Pacific, where they came from, how they got there, and how we know.
For more than a millennium, Polynesians have occupied the remotest islands in the Pacific Ocean, a vast triangle stretching from Hawaii to New Zealand to Easter Island. Until the arrival of European explorers they were the only people to have ever lived there. Both the most closely related and the most widely dispersed people in the world before the era of mass migration, Polynesians can trace their roots to a group of epic voyagers who ventured out into the unknown in one of the greatest adventures in human history.
How did the earliest Polynesians find and colonize these far-flung islands? How did a people without writing or metal tools conquer the largest ocean in the world? This conundrum, which came to be known as the Problem of Polynesian Origins, emerged in the eighteenth century as one of the great geographical mysteries of mankind.
For Christina Thompson, this mystery is personal: her Maori husband and their sons descend directly from these ancient navigators. In Sea People, Thompson explores the fascinating story of these ancestors, as well as those of the many sailors, linguists, archaeologists, folklorists, biologists, and geographers who have puzzled over this history for three hundred years. A masterful mix of history, geography, anthropology, and the science of navigation, Sea People combines the thrill of exploration with the drama of discovery in a vivid tour of one of the most captivating regions in the world.
Sea People includes an 8-page photo insert, illustrations throughout, and 2 endpaper maps.
- ISBN-13: 9780062060877
- ISBN-10: 0062060872
- Publisher: Harper
- Publish Date: March 2019
- Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
- Page Count: 384
The isolated islands of the Polynesian Triangle have been a source of fascination since European explorers first sailed into their harbors in the 16th century and discovered thriving communities previously unknown to the rest of the world. But much of their lore still remains a mystery. Where did these people come from, when did they arrive, and how on earth did they manage to traverse the mighty Pacific and settle these remote locales?
In Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia, Harvard Review editor Christina Thompson weaves together history, science, folklore and the islands’ ancient oral traditions, archeology and genealogy, creating a mesmerizing, page-turning account of Polynesia. Thompson includes an intriguing cast of characters ranging from Captain James Cook and Tupaia, the Tahitian navigator he befriended, to modern explorers such as anthropologist Ben Finney and his Micronesian master navigator, Mau Piailug, who together sailed from Maui to Tahiti in 1976 in a traditional 60-foot canoe using only ancient navigation tools to prove it could be done.
Thompson’s personal interest in the subject was piqued by her Maori husband and sons, who are direct descendants of Polynesians. This deep curiosity shines through in the meticulous background and details she provides such as diary entries, maps, Polynesian chronologies, geological topographies and weather patterns.
While much of the Polynesian puzzle is still a mystery (and may never be completely solved), Thompson’s book sheds light on a fascinating region. Sea People is a revelatory summation of this vast area steeped in culture and tradition.