How Ancient Humans Reached Remote South Pacific Islands

Nov 6, 2016

By Nicholas St. Fleur

Some 3,400 years ago, before the Iron Age or the rise of Ancient Greece, people on the Solomon Islands left their white sandy shores for the cerulean seas of the South Pacific. Their adventures brought humanity to the most remote reaches of Oceania, like the tropical islands of Hawaii, Tonga and Fiji.

“The first ones were traveling into the unknown,” said Alvaro Montenegro, a geographer and climatologist from Ohio State University. “They would leave the coast, and it would disappear behind them.”

Archaeological evidence suggests that after setting sail from the Solomon Islands, people crossed more than 2,000 miles of open ocean to colonize islands like Tonga and Samoa. But after 300 years of island hopping, they halted their expansion for 2,000 years more before continuing — a period known as the Long Pause that represents an intriguing puzzle for researchers of the cultures of the South Pacific.

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