Peopling the Pacific
The islands of the Pacific - lying in the largest body of water on earth - became colonized by peoples originally from Southeast Asia. These initial settlers moved eastward to Indonesia and the Philippines, then settled the island groups of Samoa and Tonga around 1,500 or 2,000BC. By the time of Christ, these wayfarers had continued farther east and populated the Marquesas and Tahiti. From there, they voyaged to the farthest reaches of the Pacific, settling Rapa Nui (Easter Island) circa 500AD, Hawai`i circa 600AD, and Aotearoa (New Zealand) circa 750AD. A later era of voyaging and exchange between Hawai`i and Tahiti took place around 1,000-1,250AD and continued for several hundred years. This newer wave of immigrants to Hawai`i brought different political and religious hierarchies and practices with them, reshaping Hawaiian culture.
Land mass in the Pacific - an ocean the size of the Western Hemisphere - is notably small with water dominating land by a ratio of 2:1,000. With navigational skills, this forbidding barrier of water became a thoroughfare instead, leading to new and different lands. By the end of their explorations, Polynesians had the most geographically dispersed culture on the planet with populations on every habitable island in the Pacific.
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