Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia – Christina Thompson

The unique thing about Thompson’s Sea People isn’t that it’s a history of Polynesia but that it is a history of the search to figure out who Polynesians were. Ever since Ferdinand Magellan first crossed the Pacific Europeans have been trying to figure out where the people who lived on the islands of the Pacific came from and how they got to those islands.

Thompson expertly weaves the story of Polynesia with the story of how we think we know what we know about Polynesia. Traveling forward in time from first contact between Polynesians and Europeans to the sequencing of the human genome she traces Europeans/American/Polynesian efforts to figure out who the Polynesians are. This includes everything theories that they originated in central Asia to that they came from the Andes. All the while telling the story of Polynesia as it develops.

This is both a informative history of Polynesia and a fascinating look at how history, anthropology and science in general has evolved along with the question of where Polynesians came from.  Its an interesting book but it is a long one.