The presence of man in Polynesia triggers several hypothesis:
- for some, it is the remaining population of an ancient disappeared continent
- other hypothesis advanced in particular by Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl tried to prove the South American origin of these people (Kon Tiki expedition in 1949 leaving Peru to reach the Tuamotu)
- However the origin of the Polynesian people is today determined without question by archeology (Lapita cultural complex, Lapita pottery was traded among Oceania people from 1600 to 500 B.C), by botanic (all food plants originate from Southeast Asia or New Gunea), by linguistics (The Polynesiand speak a language of Asian origin).
Polynesia was therefore populated by skillful navigators from Taiwan and the Philippines, and later New Guinea making their way through the islands of Salomon, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Tahiti, Easter Island.
One of the retained hypotheses suggests that the central archipelagos: Cook Islands, Society Islands and the Marquesas, were populated at the same time by groups coming from Tonga and Samoa around 300 B.C.. From these islands, the Hawaiian Islands (300-400 A.D.), Easter Island (400-500 A.D.), and finally New Zealand (700-800 A.D.) were colonized.
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Many groups from various continents joined this original population: Europeans, Africans, Filipinos, Asians, hence the great human diversity in the Pacific Islands. The local natives however still have common ethnic characteristics and a language similar to that in the Polynesian Triangle (Hawaii, Easter Island, New Zealand). Polynesian languages all belong to the Malay-Polynesian family.