Volume 32 1923 > Volume 32, No. 126 > The Racial diversity of the Polynesian peoples, by Louis R. Sullivan, p 79-84
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- 79

THE relation, origin and relationships of the Polynesians have been the subject of much speculation and discussion. Earlier students of anthropology emphasized not only their uniformity in culture and language, but also used them as a standard example of a remarkable uniformity of physical type extending over a greatly diversified habitat. They are described as being almost identical in physical appearance from Hawaii to New Zealand and from Samoa to Easter Island. But the more intensive work of recent years has led to a modification of the statements maintaining a uniformity of culture and language. Several major and couutless minor migrations have been hypothesized to account for differences or similarities in culture and language. In the main, these migrations have been attributed to different groups of the same race. There is, however, a growing tendency to regard the Polynesians as a mixed people. But here again a majority of the students seem to feel that the mixture has taken place outside of Polynesia and before migration into Polynesia. There has also been a great diversity of opinion as to what are the elements entering into the mixture. Melanesian, Negrito, Indonesian, Proto-Armenoid, Alpine, Malay and Australoid mixtures have been suggested as the possible causes of diversity of physical type in Polynesia. But, in the main, these explanations must be regarded as suggestions. To hold an opinion, even if it be a correct one, does not advance science. It is only when the basis of that opinion is analysed and demonstrated to one's colleagues that that opinion becomes a contribution to science.

Of those who believe that the Polynesians are a mixed people there are few who have taken the trouble to publish the evidence which converted them to that view. The most noteworthy contribution of those who have made a detailed study and analysis of the available data on Polynesia is that of Professor Dixon of Havard - 80 University. On the basis of the published craniometric data he proposes four types which he names in terms of their characteristic brain case and nasal opening forms: a brachycephalic, hypsicephalic, and platyrrhine type; a dolichocephalic, hypsicephalic and platy-rrhine type; a dolichocephalic, hypsicephalic, and leptorrhine type; and a brachycephalic, hypsicephalic and leptorrhine type. All of these types have high brain cases (are hypsicephalic). Two are longheaded and two are shortheaded. One of each of the longheaded and shortheaded types is narrow-nosed; the other is wide-nosed. These types are tentatively identified as Negrito, Melanesian, Caucasian and Malay.

Now while there was and is some doubt that these types as named are all to be found in Polynesia in sufficiently large numbers to be regarded as factors in the history or prehistory of Polynesia, there is no doubt of the physical diversity that their proposal implies. Professor Dixon does not claim that these elements or types entered Polynesia as pure types, or by separate migrations. He does not say which type is the true Polynesian, and makes no effort to identify any of his types with specific migrations. He has made it clear that much more data were needed to throw light on these phases of the problem. At the time of his publication there existed very few detailed studies on the living Polynesians. Through the generosity of Bayard Dominick, the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum of Honolulu has been enabled to help remedy this deficiency. These Dominick Expeditions have supplied data from Samoa, Tonga, Marquesas, Rapa and Hawaii. E. W. Gifford and W. C. McKern made the studies in Samoa and Tonga, E. S. Handy and Ralph Linton made the studies in the Marquesas, and J. F. G. Stokes and R. F. Aitken made the studies in Rapa. The American Museum of Natural History was invited to assist in the planning and carrying out of these expeditions. The Department of Anthropology of this Museum has been responsible for the somatological part of these surveys, and donated my services to make a study of the Hawaiian people and to analyse all the anthropometric data contributed by the anthropologists above named. The physical anthropology of this project has been throughout a co-operative study. Each of these men has generously turned over to me his field notes on this phase of the subject in the hope that uniformity in analysis and interpretation might result in a contribution of greater value to Polynesian anthropology than would a series of independent and uncorrelated efforts.

The records from Samoa, Tonga, Marquesas and in part those from Hawaii, have been analysed. So far I have succeeded in isolating two Physical types, each of which is still represented by - 81 large numbers of individuals. I have tentatively called these types Polynesian and Indonesian.

They are characterised as follows:—

1. Light brown skin colour. 1. Medium to dark brown skin.
2. Wavy hair of medium texture. 2. Wavy hair.
3. Medium beard development. 3. Scant beard development.
4. Medium body hair development. 4. Scant body hair development.
5. Moderate frequency of incisor rim. 5. Incisor rim absent.
6. Lips of average thickness. 6. Lips above average in thickness.
7. Moderately long heads, average cephalic index 77 to 78. 7. Short heads. Av. cephalic index about 81-82.
8. Tall. Average stature 171 cms. 8. Shorter stature. Average uncertain.
9. Very high and moderately high faces. Av. facial index about 90. 9. Very low, broad faces. Average facial index about 80.
10. Very high but very broad noses. Av. nasal index about 75. 10. Very low and very broad noses. Av. nasal index about 87-88.
11. Nostrils oblique. 11. Nostrils transverse.
12. Nasal bridge elevated more than av. 12. Nasal bridge low.
13. Chin fairly well developed. 13. Chin somewhat below average.
14. Eye fold absent. 14. Incipient eye fold.
15. Often lean and lank when unmixed. 15. Heavy with short necks.
16. Platymeric (shaft of femur flat). 16. Skeletal characters uncertain
17. Platycnemic (shaft of tibia flat). 17. but not so flat as
18. Platolenic (shaft of ulna flat). 18. Polynesians.

The unsuspected presence in large numbers of this Indonesian type in Polynesia explains the often expressed opinion that the Polynesians and Indonesians are closely related types. An unfortunate confusion in terminology has done much to keep this opinion alive. One group of anthropologists has called a type in Indonesia, which resembles the Polynesians, Indonesian. The other group has called a type in Polynesia, which resembled the Indonesians, Polynesians. On any other basis than this there can be no reason for assuming a close relationship between the two types. From the characteristics listed above, it will be seen that the Indonesian is the antithesis of the Polynesian in nearly every detail.

The Polynesian is usually described by students of Polynesia as Caucasian in origin. It must be admitted that when the Indonesian traits are removed, the Polynesian is strikingly Caucasoid in appearance. If this is merely a parallelism in development, as some imply, it is most certainly a remarkable parallelism. At this time it is impossible to determine their exact place in the human family. The available data seem to indicate that the Polynesian is a type intermediate between Caucasians and Mongols. At present I am inclined to believe that they are an offshoot from the primitive Mongoloid stem close to where the Caucasian stock arose. Egotistically they may be regarded as somewhat unsuccessful attempts of - 82 Nature to produce a Caucasian type. That they are closely related to the Caucasoid stock there can be no doubt. Some such type as this must have given rise to the Caucasian stock. Descendants of this or a closely related stock pass for Caucasians in Europe to-day. Their final classification is somewhat dependent upon the systematic position of certain American Indian groups, the Ainu, and certain other Caucasoid or pseudo-Caucasian types in Malaysia and Asia. Their relationship to the Ainu is pretty clearly indicated.

The affinities of the Indonesian element in Polynesia are also somewhat uncertain. The Indonesian is usually looked upon as Mongoloid but in this study its Negroid characters are emphasized. Although its hair is only moderately waved, it has a very low broad nose with transverse nostrils, a very low broad face, thick lips and dark glabrous skin. Tentatively it may be accepted as a somewhat doubtful Mongoloid type diverging strongly in the direction of the Negro or Negrito. It is possible that this type is identical with that described by Professor Dixon as Negrito. This is by no means certain. But, if not, there are two brachycephalic, platyrrhine types in Polynesia. This type has often been mistaken for Melanesian and Negrito not only in Polynesia, but also in Indonesia. This is true not only of skeletal remains but of living individuals as well.

The Polynesian type is distributed throughout Polynesia. The distribution of the Indonesian type is not so well known. It occurs in Samoa, but is pretty well mixed up so that it is difficult to determine what proportion of the population it forms. In Tonga it is very important and less mixed. It is more concentrated in Haeno of the Haapai group than in the southern islands of this archipelago. In the Marquesas it is a very important element in the population, but is confined for the most part to the north-western islands of Uahuku, Nukuhiva, and Uapou. In Hawaii it is important but pretty thoroughly mixed up with the Polynesian element as well as the modern immigrant population of these islands.

From the frequency and distribution of these two quite distinct physical types in Polynesia, it is clear that they must have entered the Pacific at different times and possibly by different routes. Certainly they must have had different languages and cultures. The next problem in Polynesian anthropology is to associate these two physical types with their proper linguistic and cultural elements, to determine what each has contributed to the past and present cultures of Polynesia, and to determine which type was the predecessor in Polynesia. At first glance this seems simple enough, but further study makes it evident that no generalisations can be made at present. In the Marquesas, Dr. Handy has found differences in language and culture which correspond roughly to the distribution of the two physical types. It may also turn out that the first type to - 83 enter Polynesia was not necessarily the first type throughout the whole of Polynesia. The present distribution of the two types, so far as I can determine it, lends itself to two interpretations. The Polynesians are to be found in all parts of Polynesia. The Indonesians are not at present to be found in all parts of Polynesia, nor indeed in all parts of the island groups in which they occur. Are the Indonesians late arrivals, not yet spread throughout the whole of Polynesia or were they the first comers to the islands in which they are now found? Are the Indonesian groups in Polynesia to be regarded as a part of a recent and uncompleted migration to Polynesia or as the remnant of an older and earlier population? Physical Anthropology alone cannot answer these questions. It will need the corroborative evidence of archæology and ethnology. The fact that the Indonesian element is so poorly represented in the skeletal remains to which I have had access makes me inclined to regard them as recent arrivals. Yet, it is possible that they were the first arrivals in Polynesia or at least in certain parts of Polynesia. The Indonesian rather than the Melanesian may be the short, dark predecessors of Polynesian tradition. The order of arrival may vary from group to group. This then is a question for the future.

In addition to these two types there is a Melanesian element in certain parts of Polynesia. Melanesian influence is naturally strongest in the south and west of Polynesia. It is present to some extent in Tonga and has also been described in New Zealand and Easter Island. On the whole the Melanesian element in Polynesia has perhaps been slightly exaggerated. The influence of the Polynesians in Melanesia has been greater than the influence of the Melanesians in Polynesia.

None of these types account for the extreme degree of brachy-cephaly or short-headedness characteristic of certain parts of modern Polynesia, notably Tonga, Samoa, Tahiti and nearby groups, Hawaii, and, to a lesser extent, the Marquesas. The Indonesians are only very moderately brachycephalic. But in the groups named, indices of 90 and above are frequent, It is to this element of the Polynesian population that Professor G. Elliot Smith has referred as Proto-Armenoid. It corresponds to Dixon's brachycephalic, hypsecephalic, leptorrhine type. This element of the population has also been described as the true Polynesians, other students have referred to it as Indonesian. So far I have not been able to associate a sufficiently large number of distinctive characters with this undoubtedly artificially shortened head to warrant its isolation as a separate type. I account for it myself by calling it a Polynesian type with an artificially flattened occiput. This is still an open question and further research may prove it to be indeed a distinct type. Strangely enough it is not an important element in the skeletal material. - 84 Again, this leads me to believe that it is either a new custom or a recently arrived type in Polynesia. Only in the Tongan skeletal remains is it a dominant element.

So far then these studies confirm the impression that the Polynesians are a mixed people. In addition to any Melanesian element that may occur, there is the Polynesian type which approaches the Caucasian type and the Indonesian type which approaches the Negro or Negrito type. Both may be divergent Mongols. As yet it is uncertain whether the extremely short-headed types are Polynesians with artificially deformed heads or another element in the population of Polynesia. It is certain that the short-heads are due to some extent to artificial deformation.

In brief, like Professor Dixon, I recognise four elements in the population of Polynesia. Unlike him I do not call them Negrito, Melanesian, Caucasian, and Malay, but Indonesian, Melanesian, Polynesian, and Polynesian with deformed heads. The Polynesian and Indonesian types are by far the most numerous and important elements of the population. The sequence of all of these types is yet to be determined. There is still much to be learned about the physical characteristics, racial origins, and affinities of the population of Polynesia. 1

1   Detailed reports on the physical anthropology, archæology, and ethnology of the Polynesians will be found in the current publications of the Bernice P. Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii. Dr. Dixon's article appeared in the proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. IX., No. 4, 1920, p. 261. Te Rangi Hiroa (Doctor P. H. Buck) himself a Maori, is publishing serially an important somatological study of his race in the Journal of the Polynesian Society, Vol. XXXI., 1922. In addition to the standard and approved anthropometric results. Dr. Buck discusses the linguistic and traditional evidences or explanations of diversity in physical types.