A Cultural Project In Polynesia Has The Power To Teach Us All

Polynesia was colonized by the French and, even today, Polynesians are taught more about French history than their own. A new archaeological project aims to help change that, says Barbara J. King.
This image on a panel along the Archaeological Nature Trail in the 'Opunohu Valley on the island Mo'orea shows a taro farmer at work. Source: Diana Izdebski

When you think of Polynesia, what images first come to mind?

My bet is that canoes and ocean navigation play some part in whatever your brain conjured up in answer to that question. Thanks, in part, to popular culture from Disney's film Moana, released a year ago this month, to long-lasting interest in Thor Heyerdahl's voyage on the Kon-Tiki, many of us tend to associate Polynesian culture with the sea.

And some Polynesians of the past were skilled ocean-going explorers. But the work of , an archaeologist at of which Tahiti is a part, Kahn's work supervising a Tahitian crew has now resulted in reconstruction of a 1,000-year cultural heritage not centered on the sea.

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