The western Pacific is divided into three anthropological
areas: Melanesia; Micronesia and Polynesia.
Here is a useful article on modern thinking about
the history of this area.
Melanesia (Islands of Blacks) refers to Papua New Guinea,
Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Fiji and neighboring areas. The
peoples of this area were thought to resemble Africans, although
genetic evidence shows they are not closely related.
Polynesia (Many Islands) is inhabited by peoples who are
believed to have come originally from Taiwan (before the arrival
of the Chinese) and South East Asia and spread across the Pacific.
Their dispersal may have been from Borneo or Java and then via
Samoa, known in their legends as "Havaiki, Birthplace of
Lands". Hawaii is named after the place of origin. One of
the Borneo branches went west as far as Madagascar and Africa,
the eastern branch went in the direction of Hawaii (100 CE),
Easter Island - Chile (400) and New Zealand (750). The latest
genetic evidence suggests that at least some of them came from
Vanuatu (2000 BCE).
Micronesia (Small Islands) is a transition area.
Micronesia = Kiribati (Gilberts) Guam, Nauru, Northern
Marianas, Fed. states of Micronesia, (Yap, Pohnpei, Truk, Kosrae
Palau (Belau) Marshall islands.
Languages: Austronesian languages in Nauru, Kiribati,
Marshalls, etc. are mutually unintelligible, Polynesian languages
in Tuvalu (Ellice) and Nukuoro and Kapinga-Marangi have more
in common. English is used throughout.
History: Western Micronesia was formerly believed to
have been settled from Indonesia or Philippines after 1500 BCE.
Estimates are now much earlier (3000 BCE) and it is now believed
that the different societies evolved in the area. The languages
however show signs of common origin across the area from Madagascar
in the west to Easter Island and Hawaii in the east.
(Modern genetic analysis shows that Easter Islanders came from
the west (400 CE), that is they are Polynesians. There is no
evidence that they came from South America. The Kon Tiki expedition only showed that a raft
could have carried people in that direction, not that
it did. If a few people did travel, it would have been culture
they carried, not genes. (Moreover, it is now believed the ancient
Incas did not possess the sails which Heyerdahl used and so could
not have made the voyage.)
Eastern Micronesia was probably settled from Melanesia much earlier
The whole area came under European influence from the 17th century.
Spaniards arrived in 1668. The British, French and Dutch naval forces and commerical ships visited the area. Britain, France, Spain and Germany made colonies in the area. Spain's islands went to Germany, then Japan and finally to the US.
Thor Heyerdahl - Kon Tiki
Heyerdahl proved that a balsa wood raft could make the journey
from Peru to Polynesia, but did not establish that there were
real connections between the two cultural areas. Genetic analysis
has not provided evidence of contact.
Thor Heyerdahl - Kon Tiki
Kon-Tiki: Ein Floß
treibt Über den Pazifik
See Kon Tiki