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Descripción de editorial
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.
In this artfully written book, Thompson (Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All) ably elucidates changing understandings of the ancient Polynesian migrations. This story, she tells readers, "is not so much what happened as a story about how we know." Since "we" here refers to Westerners, the narrative begins not with the prehistoric Polynesians but with Europeans' first journeys into the Pacific, most notably those of Capt. James Cook, the first European to recognize that the distantly dispersed islands he visited were all populated by related peoples. Thompson looks at the contributions to knowledge of the migrations of Polynesian oral tradition (first shared with Cook by Tahitian "man of knowledge" Tupaia, a master of various fields including navigation, medicine, and genealogy), ethnographers (including Maori anthropologist Te Rangi Hiroa), linguists, archaeologists, mathematicians, and latter-day experimental voyagers who recreated Polynesian sea journeys (including Nainoa Thompson, president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society; no relation to the author). Thompson does not hesitate to point out erroneous thinking, such as Thor Heyerdahl's unfounded claims that Polynesians migrated westward from South America. Along the way, she writes with infectious awe and appreciation about Polynesian culture and with sharp intelligence about the blind spots of those investigating it at different times. This fascinating work could prove to be the standard on the subject for some time to come.