Plants and Animals

The wet side of Viti Levu. Photo L Marsh

It has been suggested that the existence of SE Asian plants and animals in Polynesia, is compelling proof that the Polynesians came from SE Asia direct. That assumption is totally incorrect. What this does suggest is that the Polynesians had contact with people that had come from SE Asia, that is - the Fijians.

Sir Peter Buck, author of 'Vikings of the Sunrise' has this to say:

"The importance of Fiji as a trade centre cannot be overestimated. The western triangle of Samoa, Tonga and Fiji became an important area for exchange and diffusion. Commercial relationships were favoured by intermarriage, and Fijian customs that were of use to the Polynesians were readily adopted. Intermixture took place between chiefly families and as a result a higher Fijian culture that absorbed certain Polynesian elements was developed at the places of contact. (The Lau group, which is a classic example where both Fijian and Samoan cultures have blended together)."

"A Samoan legend tells of first contact with the Fijians; A Samoan voyager visited Fiji and was feasted on pork. He naturally desired to take pigs back with him to his own country. The Fijians, however, refused to allow any live pigs to leave their shores, but they raised no objection to dead pigs being taken as food for the voyage. The Samoans thereupon procured two very large pigs, which they killed and dressed. Unknown to their hosts, they stole some young ones and concealed them in the abdominal cavities of the dressed animals which they covered with leaves. Carrying the dead pigs on poles, they successfully eluded the vigilance of the Fijian "customs officers", and so pigs were introduced to Samoa."

"The mixed culture in Eastern Fiji was marked by patrilineal descent, powerful chiefs (e.g.; King Cakabou), and much elaborate ceremony which contrasted with the earlier Melanesian culture in those parts of Fiji that did not come under Polynesian trade influence. The Samoans and Tongans incorporated some of the Fijian customs, such as the power of the mother's brother and brother-sister avoidance into their culture. The business methods acquired in dealing with Fijians affected the psychology of the western Polynesians, for cloak it with ceremony as they may, they have a keenness to acquire goods and a hard commercial instinct that is absent in the rest of Polynesia. The cultural changes that took place in the western triangle were initiated primarily by exchange and barter for food plants and domesticated animals. Communication was continued, for both Samoans and Tongans desired red feathers from Fijian parrots to adorn their fine mats and ornaments, and the Tongans required big timber for their canoes and sandalwood to burn as incense to their dead."

"The plants and animals were carried throughout Polynesia, but the Fijian customs remained in the west. Voyagers during the tenth to the fourteenth century carried all the plants and animals to Hawaii. Everything except the dog reached the Marquesas, all the plants arrived at Mangareva, but the fowl dropped out and the pig gained only a temporary foothold. In far off Easter Island, the breadfruit and coconut are lacking and of the three animals, only the fowl survived. South and Southeast, the Australs had all the plants and all three animals, but in southern Rapa, the breadfruit would not grow, the coconut did not bear, and the animals were absent. Southwest in the Cook Islands, all the plants are present. The pig being present on Rarotonga, Atiu, Mauke and Mitiaro, but was absent in Aitutaki and Mangaia. In New Zealand, the taro, yam and small gourd obtained a footing, but of the three animals, only the dog was present at the time of first European contact."

Fiji Kava ceremony, using Piper mythisticum a South American custom.

West of Fiji Betel nut, Daitura and Toddy were the drugs of choice.

"The paper mulberry reached all the volcanic islands including Hawai'i, Easter Island and New Zealand". This was used in the making of Tapa cloth, a technique of fabric making that was common to almost all Pacific Islands as well as Central America and S.E. Asia. "The spread of plants and animals to all parts of Polynesia indicates clearly that though the earliest scouting parties may have reached islands by lucky chance, they were followed up by more deliberate voyages bringing settlers and more fragile cargo, such as live animals, paper mulberry, banana and breadfruit suckers".


Gourds, from Hawaii

When we look at other plants on the islands, the American connection cannot be ignored.

A large gourd or calabash (Cucurbita maxima) is cultivated in Hawaii and is used for; storage, water containers and ceremonial helmets. It is a North American plant. The plaiting of nets around the gourds was done in almost exactly the same manner by Californian tribes who made fish hooks and sewn planked canoes in a similar manner to Hawai'ians.

Wild 26 chromozome cotton is found throughout the Pacific - 13 chromozomes originating from America and and 13 from Africa, yet despite its wide trans Pacific distribution, Pacific islanders of today do not use it for making rope or fabric. It was most likely spread during an earlier period of global seafaring between three and ten thousand years ago.

Geneticists may one day be able to put a date on its arrival in the Pacific.

The Kumara or sweet potato (Ipomoea Batatas) is a South American plant. The Kechua dialect of north Peru name for sweet potato is Kumar. As the general name for the plant is Kumara throughout the Pacific, the tuber must have been obtained from an area that used the name Kumar. More recent studies indicate that another variety of sweet potato arrived from Central America and was different to the Peruvian variety.

A small but tasty pineapple as well as a tastless paw paw (both S. American plants) is found amongst ruins in the Marquesas. Incidentally, skulls found in burial mounds as seen by Thor Heyerdahl in the Marquesas were distinctly Caucasian, suggesting their origins were from people related to the red haired Paracas mummies of Peru and not rocker jawed individuals from Taiwan via Canada.

The totora reed of Lake Titicaca is used for raft building, this same reed is also found growing in abundance in the crater lake Rano Raraku on Rapa nui. There is a legend that the God Ure brought it there.

Is it mere coincidence that Maori also make their canoes out of the Totora tree? It appears to be so named because of its importance as a boat building material.

Nandrou village Highlands Viti Levu. Moli (Mandarines), Moli Kana (Pomelos) and Kavika (Syzigium)

were found growing wild in this region. This is fruit that ancestral Fijians have brought from S.E.Asia.

The varieties of Pacific citrus fruits (often superior in size and flavour) show significant variation

to the ancestral fruit of Asia, indicating a separation of a few thousand years.

A Palynologist Looks at the Colonization of the Pacific 
John Flenley Massey University, New Zealand 
Here is a summary of his paper investigatng pollen sample dates in New Zealans, Easter Island and the Cook Islands;

The date of colonization of Aotearoa is the subject of fierce argument, regarding both the archaeological and the palynological evidence. 
The Short Chronology for the colonization of Aotearoa (starting c. 800 BP) no longer seems satisfactory for various reasons.
The pollen record shows at numerous sample sites burning and deforestation with replacement of forest by the bracken fern Pteridium esculentum. This species has come to be regarded as a key indicator of human activity, since its maintenance requires regularly and frequently repeated burning. As McGlone and Wilmshurst (1999) wrote: “the persistence of short-lived seral vegetation that can only be maintained by fire disturbance (for instance, bracken, Coriaria and some grasslands) is a good indicator of regularly and frequently repeated fire. We can be confident that the widespread destruction of rainforest by fire is highly unlikely without human intervention. If destruction of any forest type is accompanied by repeated fire and the spread and persistence of short-lived seral vegetation, human agency is virtually a certainty.”
Chester found evidence of intermittent Pteridium peaks, with charcoal, some even before the Taupo tephra, dated to c. 1718 BP (see Figure 11). There was even a hint of human-related bacterial DNA present (Matisoo-Smith et al. 2008). 
Further north, in the Northland peninsula, Elliot et al. (1998) found in Lake Tauanui, oscillations of tree pollen back to c. 3000 BP. Although attributed to storm damage at first, it now seems more likely that these oscillations represent shifting agriculture similar to that recorded in pollen records from Sumatra (Newsome and Flenley 1988; Flenley and Butler 2001). 
Similar oscillations, accompanied by charcoal but not by Pteridium, were found at Tiniroto Lakes near Gisborne by Li et al. around a date of 2300 BP. The absence of Pteridium is concordant with the idea that shifting cultivation was being practised. The largest site available is the sea, and an offshore core obtained east of Hawke’s Bay Elliot et al. (2003) showed a continuous curve for Pteridium and charcoal from at least 2500 BP.


There are three good crater swamp/lakes on the island the upper deposits in two of them are disturbed so that the details of human impact are, at least partially, obscured. The third site, Rano Kau, appears to be less disturbed, however. It is the largest site of the three, a circular lake 1km in diameter, largely covered with floating mats of vegetation. The crater in which it sits is a steep-sided caldera affording a micro-environment
very protected from the wind (cf. van Steenis 1935), and therefore possibly favoured by early settlers bringing tropical crops. Terraced slopes were reported there by Heyerdahl and Ferdon (1961). Coring near the centre of the lake has yielded a 20.63m core (KA02), consisting of a 3m floating mat, above an 8m water gap, with lake sediment beneath from 11m to 20.63m. From about 14m depth (c. 1900 BP calibrated) there is a great increase in herbs (grasses), accompanied by charcoal. There is also a large decline of trees, with an increase of shrubs, which may well include Broussonetia papyrifera (paper mulberry, formerly cultivated according to Métraux 1940). The most striking tree disappearance is that of Palmae, apparently the tree Paschalococos disperta which was related to the Chilean wine palm, Jubaea chilensis. These changes coincide with a massive increase in sedimentation rate to c. 1m in 170 years, which probably represents an increase in productivity of the lake as a result of eutrophication caused by the blowing in of wood ash from forest fires. It is quite difficult to explain these changes in any other way than by human activity, possibly accompanied by the activities of the introduced rats. These dates conflict seriously with archaeological dates for colonization of c. AD 1200, proposed by Hunt and Lipo (2006). Their dates come, however, from three separate localities, which seems to suggest established and dispersed settlement rather than first colonization. Earlier archaeological dates for colonization are proposed by Flenley and Bahn (2003), Orliac and Orliac (2005) and Martinsson-Wallin and Crockford (2001) and Vargas et al. (2006)

Several islands in the Cook group have been investigated palynologically. They include Rarotonga, Atiu and Mangaia. 
On Rarotonga, Karekare Swamp, an infilled lagoon on the north east coast, was cored to 9 m depth, representing over 8000 years of deposits. The pollen diagram from borehole KK4 (Peters, 1994) showed a sharp rise in particulate charcoal and Pandanus in the topmost zone, at a level dated (calibrated) to 2730 (2353) 2157B.P. 
From the island of Atiu a core was obtained from a small lake, Te Roto. At a zone boundary dated to 1420 ± 45 BP, there is a sudden and dramatic replacement of Cocos nucifera by Gleichenia linearis, Cyperaceae and Gramineae, along with Casuarina equisetifolia. Even The pollen of Ipomoea batatas (sweet potato), which rarely preserves, was present in one sample. As the date is reasonably concordant with others in the sequence, it may be accepted as indicating the start of forest clearance of Atiu. Earlier changes in the diagram are considered to be natural.
An earlier date for human impact is revealed by the work on Mangaia. Mangaia is (like Atiu) one of the ‘makatea’ islands in which uplifted coral limestone surrounds an ancient volcanic core. Between the two are extensive swamps, and even a lake, Lake Tiriara. Lake coring yielded a 15m core dating back to 5810 ± 100 BP. Five other dates were concordant with this, suggesting no inwash of old carbon, and the C13 values did not suggest that ancient carbon from the coral limestone was incorporated into the sediment. The decline of trees had begun from a date of 2450 ± 80 BP. Marginal cores confirmed that soil inwash had begun by 2400 BP, but material did not appear to have contaminated the lake core dates. A subsequent investigation by Joanna Ellison (Kirch and Ellison 1994) involved coring other swamps around the island. Those showed the regular inwash of soil materials from the basalt, as well as the presence of particulate carbon, all within the last 2400 years. Interestingly, particulate carbon was absent before that date, suggesting that natural fires had not occurred on the island during the mid-Holocene. Palynology and charcoal records indicate the age of initial human colonization of Mangaia, which may therefore be taken as c. 2400 BP.


Tahitian Vanilla Orchid

Pesach Lubinsky used genetics to identify the progenitors of the French Polynesian orchid Vanilla tahitensis which grows wild in Tahiti. It is a hybrid of two Central American orchids, V. odorata and V. planiform. These two species were deliberately crossbred by the Mayans to form a commercial crop ~1,500 years ago. The most likely time of arrival in Tahiti of the Vanilla Orchid would have been about 1,000 years ago when trans-Pacific trade was at its peak.



This variety of sweet potato (Oxalis tuberosa) is a traditional food in New Zealand and is of Central/South American origin.

Two depictions of the Polynesian Kumera God from Easter Island and New Zealand

two varieties of Ipomoea batatas, more commonly known as Kumera, which are found throughout Central and South America as well as the Pacific.

Samoan Cocoa

To date, no one has been able place the time of arrival of Cocoa to Samoa, so until some genetic testing is done, the jury is still out on this one. Samoa was at a crossroads of cultures. People from the Micronesian islands to the north would come there to trade, it was the most Easterly islands inhabited by the Lapita people and was well placed for trade with the Fijian islands. It was also a hub for people coming from the East - possibly travelling through to S.E. Asia. Samoan culture has exhibited an interesting variety of cultural traits. Margaret Mead saw the promiscous Polynesian lifestyle, But later the much more chaste lifestyle similar to the Kiribati culture took hold. There once existed a culture based on human sacrifice, cannibalism and pyramid building which was ended by a Polynesian Chief Savea in the 13th Century. What relics can we find from these cultures? Samoans have houses with curved ends almost identical in design to Mayan houses. They grow Cocoa and eat it with Chilli - also a very Mayan thing to do. Are these relics from past cultural contact? In all probability, I would say yes.

Chilli tree of Hawai'i

Should we be looking more seriously for connections between Polynesia and the Americas?

Read the following letter from an Hawai'ian. Judge for yourself.

Dear Peter,


"Hawaiian traditions are full of stories which suggest vibrant cross cultural exchanges across the Pacific by competent seafaring peoples, not just to and from the South and East, but also the West and North and the Indian Ocean as well as Atlantic Ocean. All of this was occurring well before our modern era (16th century forward). I sometimes wonder why there is resistance at all to this obvious fact.


Here's an interesting fragment for you that connects Hawaii and South America.


My great great grandfather the High Chief Solomon Peleioholani preserved the knowledge that a high priest named Haunakamaahala built the heiau (temple) of Pakaalana at Waipio, Hamakua on the island of Hawaii. The temple was a place celebrated for its red pepper tree known as the "Nioi wela o Paakalana" (The burning Nioi of Pakaalana). The temple was built during the era of famous travels conducted by the chiefs living on the O'ahu and “Kahiki” (Tahiti). Red peppers normally do not grow in Hawaii. Also, it had been growing there long enough to be called a tree and given a name.


I have a feeling there was certainly a lot of cross Pacific travel during this era (1100 to 1300 AD) since it seems to be the last era of Hawaiian active navigation across the Pacific. After that, we know the islands remained more or less isolated except for the occasional shipwreck and the occasional visitor from Tahiti until Cook opened up the islands to the Europeans and Americans.


The red pepper tree at the Paakalana temple, which was famous, makes me wonder about South America.


One day it will probably be possible to locate preserved fragments of the tree, or even pollen samples, since the location of the temple in Waipio Valley (which is where my family still has land) is also well known. Of course, the temple itself is gone, lost during of of the battles during Kamehameha's war of consolidation. This was the temple where he received custody of the feathered war god Ku-Kailimoku, which brought him triumph. One of the kings he was seeking to conquer (Kahekili, King of Maui) raided Waipio Valley and destroyed the temple.


Waipio Valley is on the North Eastern side of Hawaii facing the Americas. Hawaii is as you know is also the southernmost of the islands.


Thought you might like that little bit of information about the red pepper tree, which is HIGHLY RELIABLE.


Aloha Dean


Are you certain the heiau was built after 1,100 AD? Paakalana sounds a bit like Pacal - a Mayan king around 600AD.


Dear Peter


I am certain the heiau was built after 1100 A.D., since that era is not mythical but reliably historic and the genealogies all more or less agree about the succession of kings and high chiefs on the various islands even as far back 800 A.D..


Haunakamaahala I believe to be a Kanaka Maoli person (ancestry from Canada). I think the temple was built in a certain monumental fashion (what archeologist Ross Cordy calls the "national temple" style) that already existed in the islands, influenced

from previous contacts with other cultures, including South America and Meso America, perhaps Asian cultures as well.


Nonetheless, I think there was opportunities for direct contact with South America with the builders of Paakalana. Waipio Valley was the Manhattan of its time, the most densely populated area of the Hawaiian Islands. It was

the seat of the king of Hawaii Island for many generations, and a place where frequent visitors from other kingdoms would have had cultural influence. All official off-island visitors would have progressed to Waipio Valley to be presented to the king (Ali'i Nui). So I would think that travelers from South America would have been brought to Waipio for

presentation to the king of Hawaii. Also, things from South America would have been brough first to Waipio Valley during this period of Hawaiian history, when the kings of Hawaii Island had their seat at Waipio Valley (beginning with at least Liloa)."

Dean P. Kekoolani


Is it not time that we showed Polynesian history a little more respect by doing follow up scientific studies to verify these stories? Thor Heyerdahl was able to confirm that archaeology agreed with the oral histories of the Marquesas, Ra ivavae, Rurutu, Rapa iti and Rapa nui - that there was a South American element in their culture. Why has every effort been made to discredit him, and why have scientists stopped listening to the stories of the people?

More South American Plants in the Pacific

Notes from Yuri Kuchinsky


Abundant evidence exists for the hypothesis that there were contacts between the Easter Island and the South American mainland in earliest times. This evidence is so plentiful that it is hard to believe that this hypothesis will not be accepted by now by our academic mainstream. And yet it is not. We can only speculate why this may be so.


Not only this, but there's also very good evidence that the earliest settlers on Easter Island came from S. America. As archaeological evidence demonstrates, the culture of the earliest Easter Island peoples shows so much affinity with the pre-Inca Tiahuanaco civilization that this matter should have been settled by now. Also, the oral narratives of the native

Easter Islanders just happen to be saying the very same thing. Detailed traditional narratives exist telling us that the first Easter Islanders came from the East, i.e. from S. America.


So what is the problem? Why are our scholars so reluctant to accept all this? Who can tell...


In any case, let's look at the case of the Manioc (Manihot), (also known as Cassava in Fiji and Central America), a very useful crop plant native to S. America. It is a tropical tuber propagated by stem cuttings, and it was domesticated by Amerindians in ancient times and is used throughout the Pacific as a food crop.


First, a little about history. As far as we know, Easter Island was first visited by the Europeans on Easter Day 1722, by the Dutch. It seems that the native society was flourishing at that time. The population was large, seemingly multiracial, and peaceful. Although the Dutch only spent one day on the island, they managed to get into some sort of trouble and shoot a few natives before they left.


The next visit came by the Spanish nearly 50 years later, in 1770. The viceroy of Peru, Don Manuel de Amat, sent out an expedition of two ships under the command of Felipe Gonzalez y Haedo to look for the mysterious island reported by the Dutch. Gonzalez claimed the island for Spain. His expedition spent 6 days on the island, and they left detailed records of what they found there.


Earliest European visitors noticed that the fishing in the area was very poor. The islanders were not fishermen, and their sustenance came for the most part from agriculture, in which they were very skillful. Among a

number of other food crops, Gonzalez told us, the islanders cultivated yuka. The word yuka is the term for manioc in various indigenous languages of Peru and other Central and South American countries, and this plant was surely known to Gonzalez very well.


This is what Thor Heyerdahl writes in his EASTER ISLAND: THE MYSTERY

SOLVED, 1989:


"When the documents of the Gonzalez expedition were translated into English and published by the prominent British scholar Bolton G. Corney in 1908, he was so dumbfounded at finding a reference to S. American yuca on

Easter Island prior to European influence, that he concealed or obfuscated the evidence of manioc. In one instance he rendered the word yuca erroneously as "taro"; in three others he left it untranslated, adding erroneous footnotes confusing the readers. Not until 1986 did a Spanish scholar Francisco Mellen Blanco revise and bring together all the

documents from the Gonzalez expedition, and in 1988 Robert Langdon of the Australian National University caused a sensation in the scientific world by publishing in THE GEOGRAPHIC JOURNAL a paper entitled MANIOC: A

LONG-CONCEALED KEY TO THE ENIGMA OF EASTER ISLAND [Geogr. Journ. 154, # 3(Nov. 1988), pp. 324-336, London]. According to Langdon, Corney in his translation acted as he did because, in the climate of his times, he

simply could not believe that manioc could have reached Easter Island prior to European influence. Langdon's conclusion was that the fact that manioc was clearly reported as cultivated on that Polynesian island in 1770 'greatly strengthens the case for prehistoric American Indian influence on Easter Island and other islands of eastern Polynesia'". (p. 31)


To me, this seems like undeniable historical evidence. Who would like to deny it, and why?


And furthermore, manioc certainly doesn't stand alone in this case. Other cultivated plants described by first European visitors, such as the sweet potato, the main crop on Easter Island from ancient times, add to the near certainty that Easter island was visited, and probably first settled, by ancient South Americans.



But let's go on. Now I would like to cite further evidence for such plants based on the work of the botanist F.B.H. Brown. This is what Heyerdahl writes,


     The flora of the Marquesas group was thoroughly studied by F.B.H. Brown and published in a three-volume report by the Bernice P. Bishop Museum in 1931-35. (p. 228) Brown described a number of Fijian plants on the Marquesas. He was led on purely botanical grounds to challenge current thought in anthropology by arguing that other plants in the Marquesan flora with equal certainty revealed human voyages from South America in pre-European time. (p. 228)

Here's what Brown wrote about pineapple. Heyerdahl says, "Brown extended the New World list with the pineapple,

Ananas sativus, a strictly American plant with a small fruited form growing spontaneously from Brazil to the Andean

highlands. He argued that its pre-Columbian growth in the Marquesas group implies an early crossing of the East Pacific by native craft: [Brown quote:] "A native of tropical America, it is evidently of ancient aboriginal introduction in the Marquesas, where it is to be found in all inhabited valleys. A few plants occur here and there at low altitudes, but it seems to have been planted more commonly in the arid uplands." (p. 229).

Paw Paw (Papaya)

But here's more new information about yet another early important American crop in Polynesia, the Papaya. This also comes from Brown via Heyerdahl. Heyerdahl writes, "The papaya (Carica Papaya) is another fruit incapable of propagation by sea. It belongs to the genus Carica, native of tropical America, with a smaller, less tasty variety from Colombia to Peru, where it was often modelled by the pre-Inca pottery makers on the coast. Brown writes: "Carica papaya ... At least two varieties are present in the Marquesas: vi inana (vi inata), recognised by the   Marquesans as one of their ancient food plants, is doubtless of aboriginal [i.e. pre-European] introduction. Its fruit is smaller and less palatable than the vi Oahu which is claimed by the natives to have been introduced from Hawaii by the early missionaries. ... The native name of the species is vi inana, vi inata, or vi Oahu in the Marquesas; ita in Tahiti; ninita in Rarotonga; eita in Rimatara; and hei in Hawaii." (pp. 229-30)

Much more information is found in this book further about the very same unusual pre-European pineapple variety also in Hawaii. I've already given information about this same pineapple on Easter Island, as described by Thomson.

Here are the LISTS OF NATIVE AMERICAN PLANTS that were brought in ancient times from America to various places around the Pacific. There are 36 ITEMS here altogether.


Native American Plants Found In Polynesia.


Chili pepper (Capsicum)

Cotton (Gossypium)

Husk-tomato (Physalis peruviana, Cape gooseberry, Haw. poha)

Manioc (Cassava)



Small tomato (Solanum Zycopersicum/Lycopersicon esculentum)

Sweet potato (Ipomoea)

Taro (Xanthosoma atrovirens)


Yam-bean (Pachyrrhizus)



Ageratum (used for ornaments)

Argemone (medicinal plant)

Aristida (used for head-ornaments)

Bottle gourd (Lagenaria)

Cashew (Anacardium)

Chili pepper (Capsicum)



Cotton (Gossypium) (Afro-American hybrid)

Cyperus vegetus (edible roots)

Heliconia (fibre plant)

Husk-tomato (Physalis peruviana, Cape gooseberry, Haw. poha)

Lycium carolinianum (edible berries)

Maho (Hibiscus tiliaceus)





Polygonum acuminatum (fresh-water medicinal plant).

Small tomato (Solanum Zycopersicum/Lycopersicon esculentum)

Soapberry (Sapindus saponaria)

Soursop (Annona muricata)

Sweet potato (Ipomoea)

Taro (Xanthosoma atrovirens)


Vanilla Orchid

Yam (Dioscorea; this one is still disputed)

Yam-bean (Pachyrrhizus)



Arrowroot (this one was discussed, but evidence may be insufficient)

Frangipani (Plumeria acuminata, perfume and medicinal)


Lab-lab beans

Mimosa pudica (medicinal)


attested in precolumbian period as far as China and India (7 items):

Custard apple (Annona reticulata)


Grain amaranth (Thompson:135)

Hibiscus Rosa Sinensis

Jack-bean, or sword-bean (Canavalia sp., possibly also attested in Polynesia)

Lima-bean (P. lunatus)



This is a very broad range of American plants, all of which are desirable to humans. I find it highly unlikely that the arrogant (shoot first ask questions later) Spanish and Portuguese had the foresight to fill their ships with all of the above plants and trade them with the Pacific Islanders. Let us give credit where credit is due.


"The mainstream excercise in dumbing down Polynesia still continues... These "big scholars" will bend themselves into hoops rather than admit the great creativity and competence of Native South Americans who were certainly capable of reaching Easter Island in their sophisticated ocean craft. These Learned Professors are really trying to finish off the work of the brutal Spanish Conquistadores who destroyed this pround chapter in Native History. Now the Professors are just trying, in a big hurry, to bury the few pieces left over from what the Conquistadores destroyed".

Yuri Kuchinski

Rattus exulans

Geneticist Lisa Matissoo-Smith has been studying Rattus Exulans as a means of tracing the movements of Pacific colonizers by the gene tree of a domestic rat which appears to have stowed away on boats voyaging into the Pacific. To everyones' surprise it shows a startling movement in the opposite direction to what was expected.

The graph below shows that Rattus Exulans has a cousin, known as the 'small spiny rice field rat' on Halmahera - an Indonesian island close to where the famous Bugis and Toraja seafarers come from. According to the genes extracted from bones of rats unearthed on numerous islands, the first colonization of these rat colonies was not in Vanuatu, New Caledonia or Fiji as would be expected, but in New Zealand. The date of initial colonization of New Zealand by this rat was between 2,500 and 2,000 years ago. From there the species began colonizing islands to the north.

The rat must have stowed away on boats, and did not arrive through more natural means, firstly because it cannot swim more than 10m without drowning and because ocean currents flow in the opposite direction to colonization, ruling out the possibility of it hitching a ride on a floating log. Therefore their dispersal reflects the colonization pattern of one group of people who undoubtedly contributed to the cultures of the Pacific. So who were these people? I would like to remind the reader at this point that Rattus exulans is people specific, not Polynesian specific, and therefore cannot necessarily be used as a marker to determine Polynesian migration routes.

As you can see from this line of descent diagram, the earliest branch of Rattus in the Pacific is from New Zealand (NZ34)

which arrived between 2,500 and 2,000 years ago. The second branch is also from New Zealand (NZ 29,30,31,32), with one branch in the Societies. The third branch finally spreads northwards to the Kermadecs, then back to New Zealand, then northwards again to the Society Islands, then south again to the Cook Islands and back to New Zealand. This certainly looks like progressive exploration from New Zealand - not the reverse as is commonly believed. After this initial period of colonization it appears that voyages to the Chatham Islands, Fiji, the Marquesas and Hawaii soon followed with numerous back migrations.
How could it be that New Zealand was the dispersal point of this rat?

If one looks at the easiest sea route to New Zealand, it is via the Southern Ocean using favourable winds and currents from The Indian Ocean. Sea trade in the Indian Ocean has gone on for thousands of years and would be the most logical place of origin for ships arriving in New Zealand, either accidentally or on purpose. This southern route from the Indian Ocean into the Pacific would be the most logical route taken by someone attempting to circumnavigate the world (voyage of Mawi and Rata) or by someone with a partially disabled ship, from a broken mast or broken rudder. Sea traders returning from South America via the Cape of Good Hope would often take advantage of the westerlies in the 30-40 degree lattitudes to take them across the Indian Ocean before travelling North to India or the Spice Islands, utilizing the S.E. Trade winds. This route was favoured by the Dutch who would travel from Rio De Janiero with the Westerlies around the Cape of Good Hope, then hopefully before hitting Australia, would head north to the Spice Islands. Semi disabled ships could end up on the dry uninviting West Australian coast, South Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand and the Chatham Islands. Confirming this possibility, Phoenician/Egyptian writing has been found in South Australia and Tasmania and Berber writing has been found in New Zealand and the Chatham Islands. Pre Maori irrigation channels, the Kaimanawa wall and pre-Maori circular fortifications near Taranaki along with numerous tall Caucasian skeletons found in caves throughout New Zealand all suggest the presence of people in New Zealand before the main colonization period by the Polynesians. The Kaimanawa wall is buried in volcanic ash from the eruption of Lake Toupu in 180AD, helping to establish a timeframe for this period of colonization and a possible reason for the demise of these people.

Kaimanua wall New Zealand, is this natural or is it man made? Matching joints look suspiciously natural, but other sections look distinctly man made.

It may be a natural feature that was enhanced.

Ancient walls Rapa nui        Ha amonga a Maui                                     Lapaha, Mua, Tonga 

To help understand the arrival of these megalithic cultures in the Pacific, one needs also to look at Egyptian history which curiously, has a navigator called Mawi (Maui) who with Captain Rata and a fleet of ships, attempted to circumnavigate the world in 232 BC under the guidance of scientist Eratosthenes who had calculated the circumference of the Earth and wanted verification of his results. Barry Fell identified petroglyphs in the Pacific attributed to Mawi and so was able to trace his voyage to Chile, Pitcairn Island and New Guinea.

According to Maori legend Maui discovered many islands in the Pacific - in particular, New Zealand.

Maori legend has it that Rata was on a mission to avenge the killing of his parents/ancestors. As the Lapita/Obsidian sea traders had suffered an unexplained demise just prior to the voyage of Maui and Rata, was Captain Rata in search of the killers of the Lapita people?

If this Egyptian fleet had attempted to circumnavigate the world via the southern route, logically they would have initially travelled Eastwards to a familiar trading port in Southern Sumatra to reprovision their ships, taking on board Rattus exulans. As the N.E. and S.E. Trade winds of the Pacific make it exceedingly difficult to travel Eastwards, their logical passage would have been to travel south, utilizing the Easterlies which blow off Australia until they reached the Westerly wind belt. New Zealand would logically have been their first stop. Petroglyphs by Mawi claiming what is now Chile for Egypt (at about 35 degrees south) found by Barry Fell depicts another important milestone on his voyage. It appears Maui travelled North once he had touched on the South American Coastline in search of a passage through to the Atlantic. Unwilling to venture far enough south to round the formidable Cape Horn, Mawi must have seen the American coastline as an insurmountable barrier. According to petroglyphs on Pitcairn Island, it appears that Mawi returned with the S.E. Trade winds across the Pacific. Petroglyphs indicate Mawi viewed a Lunar Eclipse on Pitcairn Island. The celestially aligned Ha'amonga a Maui (The burden of Maui) suggests a stopover in Tonga Tapu to do some accurate solar observations. The megalithic stone pyramids of Lapaha nearby also suggest the handiwork of Egyptian stonemasons, suggesting that they attempted to set up a colony. The early walls of Rapa Nui (see above) and the Kaimanua wall of New Zealand also suggest Egyptian stonemasonry technology. Petroglyphs in Irian Jaya's 'cave of the navigators', marks Mawi's return to familiar waters, where he described the navigational device - the Tanawa, which he used on the voyage to find longitude. It is interesting that Polynesians wear the Taniwha to ensure a safe ocean voyage and successful landfall. Although it is a dragon motif, not an instrument, it is said that angles and holes on a genuine pendant helped one navigate by the stars.

This is the most plausiblel route Mawi would have taken in his attempt to sail around the world. Coming up against the barrier of North and South America, he must have decided to return home.This route utilizies a known trade route to S.E. Asia, then logically he would have sailed South to catch the Westerlies. Returning home, he would have taken advantage of the S.E. Trade Winds.

Polynesians also attribute the discovery of Tahiti, Tuamotus, Marquesas and Hawaii to Maui. These are all places where there is an early appearance of Rattus exulans. So was the rat brought by Maui, Rata and their fleet of ships? The other possibility is that the rat was brought by other wayward trading vessels from the Indian Ocean, but a chance colonization in New Zealand from shipwrecked sailors would hardly have produced such a rapid and deliberate expansion of this rat northwards into the rest of Polynesia. As the chronology of the rat matches with Maui's voyage of 232BC, I believe that the rat was brought by a fleet of ships on a tour of discovery led by navigator Maui and Captain Rata who both appear in the history books of Egypt and also in the oral history of the Polynesians. With a little more research, this may hopefully be verified.

It should be pointed out that Mawi and Rata were certainly not the only voyagers who entered the Pacific realm. The cast iron Tamil Nadu bell found on the North Island of New Zealand is proof that voyagers had arrived from India either deliberately or accidentally. The seafaring abilities of the Toraja and Bugis from the Celebes may have also have had an influence in the Pacific across to South America judging from similarities in technologies and culture between the Karajia and Toraja peoples' cliff cemetries. The existence of Ficus Religiosa (Bodhi tree) amongst ruins in the Marquesas also suggests the extent of attempted colonization in the Pacific of either Hindu or Buddhist travellers. In Pohnpei, the famous Nan Madol/Matal ruins suggest that this was an important reprovisioning port for trans-Pacific traders, the name for provincial governor is Nahn mwarki. In Egyptian language it is Nam marche, once again suggesting Middle Eastern influences in the Pacific.