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Total population
over 1,500,000
Regions with significant populations
 New Zealand 350,000[1]
 USA 300,000
 Australia 150,000
Polynesian languages (Tahitian, Samoan, Tongan, Māori, Hawaiian and others)

Polynesian mythology

  1. ^ [1] Population movement in the Pacific: A perspective on future prospects.
Kava ('ava) makers (aumaga) of Samoa. A woman seated between two men with the round tanoa (or laulau) wooden bowl in front. Standing is a third man, distributor of the 'ava, holding the coconut shell cup (tauau) used for distributing the beverage.

The Polynesian people consists of various ethnic groups that speak Polynesian languages, a branch of the Oceanic languages within the Austronesian languages, and inhabit Polynesia. They number over 1,500,000 people.


The spread of the Polynesian group, as referred to by Anthropologist Ruth Benedict in the 1934 book "Patterns of Culture".
Polynesian warrior canoes
Female dancers of the Hawaii Islands depicted by Louis Choris, c. 1816
A portrait of Māori man, by Gottfried Lindauer.

According to the "Out of Sundaland" model, the population migrations were most likely to have been caused by climate change.[dubious ] The drowning of a huge ancient peninsula called Sundaland extended the Asian landmass as far as Borneo and Java 15,000 to 7,000 years ago, following the last Ice Age.[relevant? ] Oppenheimer outlines how rising sea levels in three massive pulses caused flooding and the submergence of the Sunda Peninsula, creating the Java and South China Seas and the thousands of islands that make up Indonesia and the Philippines today.[1][relevant? ]

Recent genetic findings[edit]

Recent maternal mitochondrial DNA analysis suggests that Polynesians, including Samoans, Tongans, Niueans, Cook Islanders, Tahitians, Hawaiians, Marquesans and Māori, are genetically linked to indigenous peoples of parts of Southeast Asia including those of Taiwan. This DNA evidence is supported by linguistic and archaeological evidence. Melton et al. (1995, 1998) have suggested a Taiwanese origin for the Polynesians, on the basis of mtDNA variation, but Richards et al. (1998) have argued that an East Indonesian (Flores, Sumba, Lembata, Alor, Timor, Sulawesi, Moluccas) origin is more likely.[2][3][4]

Recent investigations into paternal Y chromosome analysis show that Polynesians are also genetically linked to peoples of Melanesia.[5]

However, the "out of Taiwan model" has been recently challenged by a study from Leeds University and published in Molecular Biology and Evolution. Examination of mitochondrial DNA lineages shows that they have been evolving within Island Southeast Asia (ISEA) for a longer period than previously believed. Polynesians arrived in the Bismarck Archipelago of Papua New Guinea at least 6,000 to 8,000 years ago, and modern Polynesians are the result of a few Austronesian seafarers mixing with Melanesians.[6][dubious ]


The Polynesian peoples include (populations of the larger groups are shown):

Rotuma, Fitilevu, and other parts of Fiji have significant Polynesian populations due to lineal and historical connections. Fijians have always been considered by most people of the Pacific, especially Polynesians, as bloodline relatives.[citation needed] Modern science recently verified this connection with DNA sampling. The historical significance of who settled the Fiji Islands first is not as important, at least to Polynesians, as the Fijians' lineal connections to other Pacific Islanders.

  • Total population: 1.4 million to 2.2 million

population estimates are based on estimates in articles of cooresponding ethnic groups, which are referenced

    • *Niue's population is separately estimated based on its corresponding article's population listing for Niue and the referenced point in the article that claims 90-95% of Niueans live in New Zealand
    • **The "Samoans" population figure come from the combined figures from the article on Samoa and American Samoa, which are referenced therein

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Oppenheimer, Stephen (1998). Eden in the east: the drowned continent. London: Weidenfield & Nicholson. ISBN 0-297-81816-3. 
  2. ^ Cristian Capelli, James F. Wilson, Martin Richards, Michael P. H. Stumpf, Fiona Gratrix, Stephen Oppenheimer, Peter Underhill, Vincenzo L. Pascali, Tsang-Ming Ko, & David B. Goldstein (2001). "A Predominantly Indigenous Paternal Heritage for the Austronesian-Speaking Peoples of Insular Southeast Asia and Oceania". American Journal of Human Genetics 68 (2): 432–443. doi:10.1086/318205. PMC 1235276. 
  3. ^ For a discussion of the origins of Eastern Polynesians, particularly the Māori of New Zealand, see: Douglas G. Sutton, ed., The Origins of the First New Zealanders (Auckland, New Zealand: Auckland, 1994).
  4. ^ Major East–West Division Underlies Y Chromosome Stratification across Indonesia, Mol Biol Evol (2010) 27 (8): 1833-1844.doi: 10.1093/molbev/msq063
  5. ^ M. Kayser, S. Brauer, G. Weiss, P.A. Underhill, L. Roewer, W. Schiefenhövel, and M. Stoneking, "Melanesian origin of Polynesian Y chromosomes," Current Biology, vol. 10, no. 20, pages 1237-1246 (19 Oct. 2000). See also correction in: Current Biology, vol. 11, no. 2, pages 141-142 (23 Jan. 2001).
  6. ^ Dr. Martin Richards. "Climate Change and Postglacial Human Dispersals in Southeast Asia". Oxford Journals. Retrieved 2010. 

External links[edit]