Pub. date: 2006 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952453 | Print ISBN: 9780761930297 | Online ISBN: 9781412952453| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Scott M. Fitzpatrick
Polynesia (“many islands”) is one of the three major cultural areas or regions in the Pacific Ocean, the others being Micronesia (“small islands”) and Melanesia (dark or “black islands”). It was Dumont d'Urville who first subdivided Oceanic peoples into these groups based primarily on cultural traits, but these regions also have geographical boundaries, some of which overlap culturally, biologically, and linguistically. Polynesian societies are generally found within the “Polynesian Triangle” whose points are New Zealand, Hawai'i, and Easter Island (Rapa Nui); however, this is not a clear distinction: Numerous societies that speak Polynesian languages or have similar cultural traits are found west of the triangle in Melanesia and Micronesia and are known as Polynesian Outliers. These outliers include Tikopia, Anuta, Nukuoro, and Kapingamarangi, among others. Scholars generally agree now that the ancestors of Polynesian people, who made a distinctive type of pottery called Lapita, migrated from insular Melanesia around 3500–3400 ...