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Title: A Long-Standing Debate
Contributor(s): Jones, Terry L (author); Storey, Alice  (author)
Publication Date: 2010
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Abstract: While it may come as a surprise to many scholars of the 21st century, arguments for Polynesian contact with the Americas were advanced regularly during the 19th and early 20th centuries. This began with the posthumous publication of Captain Cook's journals (1784), which spawned a great deal of interest in the remote islands of the Pacific, particularly in the extent of Polynesian voyages and the point of their origin. Much of this writing was hopelessly ill-informed and some of it was decidedly racist - one of the reasons why it was never carried forward or embraced by later scientists. By far, most attention was focused on the question of Polynesian origins with three basic alternatives considered: an Asiatic origin, an American origin, or an autochthonous origin. These theories had at their basis the same rudiments of diffusionary thinking that would continue with later writing in the 20th century scholars weighed the relative similarity of different cultural elements across these three regions and made cases for connections between one region or another. The perceived similarities between the Americas and Polynesia, used to support the notion of an American homeland for both, have some relevance to the case for Polynesian contact. Mythologies, cultural traditions, religious beliefs, and limited linguistic data were the empirical evidence most heavily relied upon in the 19th century to support alternative views. Physical characteristics also figured prominently in these discussions as Polynesians were considered to be a distinct, separate race (see Fornander 1878). In tandem, these sources allowed for fairly wild-eyed speculation. ... For the most part, scholarship has tended to focus exclusively on possible contacts in South or North America so the historical discussion offered below is organized partially on the basis of that geographic distinction. General perceptions and the direction of future academic research related to Polynesian contacts was also affected dramatically by the work of Thor Heyerdahl in the 1950s thus discussion is also framed in terms of the pre- and post-Heyerdahl eras.
Publication Type: Book Chapter
Source of Publication: Polynesians in America: Pre-Columbian Contacts with the New World, p. 37-70
Publisher: AltaMira Press
Place of Publication: California, United States of America
ISBN: 9780759120044
Field of Research (FOR): 210106 Archaeology of New Guinea and Pacific Islands (excl New Zealand)
160104 Social and Cultural Anthropology
200209 Multicultural, Intercultural and Cross-cultural Studies
Socio-Economic Outcome Codes: 950599 Understanding Past Societies not elsewhere classified
970121 Expanding Knowledge in History and Archaeology
950506 Understanding the Past of the Americas
HERDC Category Description: B1 Chapter in a Scholarly Book
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