September 27, 2007—
Early Polynesians were skillful sailors who traveled thousands of miles for trade and exploration, suggests a new analysis of stone woodworking tools like the one above. (Read the full story
Australian researchers studied 19 of the tools, called adzes, which were collected in the early 1900s on several islands in the Tuamotu Group, about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) southeast of Tahiti in eastern Polynesia.
The adzes are made of basalt, a volcanic rock not native to the Tuamotus—which means the tools must have arrived with pre-European explorers or traders, experts say.
One adze was hewn from a fine-grained basalt known as hawaiite, a rock unique to the Hawaiian
island of Kaho'olawe—some 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers) away.
"Until our discovery, there was no object found in southeast Polynesia that we could link back to a source in Hawaii," said study author Kenneth Collerson of the University of Queensland.
"That's the real magic of this discovery."
More Photos in the News
Today's 15 Most Read Stories
Free Email Newsletter: Focus on Photography
Image courtesy of Jane Willcock/Anthropology Museum/The University of Queensland/Science