Friday, May 17, 2013

Polynesians and the natural world

Excerpt from the book The Wayfinders by Wade Davis

As in any culture, there were more mundane motivations. Inheritance of Polynesia was based on primogeniture, and the social structure was fiercely hierarchical. The only way for a second or third son, or the scion of a lowly family or clan, to achieve wealth and status was to find a new world. Ecological imperatives and crises, both natural and man-made, also drove discovery. The pollen record on Rapa Nui, or Easter Island, suggests that until the arrival of Polynesians the island was densely covered in subtropical forest. By the time of European contact the landscape had been completely modified, with many local species driven to extinction  and much of the wealth of the soil exhausted. The flightless birds of New Zealand disappeared within a generation of settlement. Polynesians were fully capable of over-exploiting the natural world, and when their populations exceeded the carrying capacity of the land, they had no choice but to move on. This implied heading out to sea. 

oh! well... the story begins.

Interesting part is that Polynesians followed oral traditions, with all knowledge stored in memory, transmitted generation to generation. They left no written records.


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