New research indicates human colonization of Eastern Polynesia took place much faster and more recently than previously thought, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa anthropologist Terry Hunt reports.
These scholars believe that parts of the tradition of Kumuhonua were invented in the 19th century to conform to Biblical traditions.
However, Randie Kamuela Fong of Kamehameha Schools writes, “after careful review of Fornander’s version of the Kumuhonua tradition, the Hawai‘iloa portion bears no resemblance to any biblical account.
The names, places, and basic settings and plots give us no reason to question their age and authenticity.
In the 19th century, Hawaiian scholars Kamakau and Kepelino attributed the discovery of Hawai‘i to a fisherman named Hawai‘iloa.
He is said to have discovered the islands during a long fishing trip from a homeland in the west called Ka ‘Aina kai melemelea Kane (“Land of the yellow sea of Kane”); the Big Island was named after him while Kaua‘i, O‘ahu, and Maui were named after his children.
Hawai‘iloa’s navigator, Makali‘i, steered in the direction of Iao, the Eastern Star, and hoku‘ula, the red star (perhaps the rising Aldebaran in the constellation of Taurus).
After replenishing his supplies, Hawai‘iloa returned home and brought his wife and his children back to Hawai‘i, again using the fixed stars as guides. Some scholars have questioned the authenticity of the tradition of Hawai‘iloa because of similarities between Biblical stories and stories in the tradition of Kumuhonua, of which the story of Hawai‘iloa is a part.
Improved vessels and favorable winds resulting from frequent El Niño conditions probably contributed to the unusually rapid spread to hundreds of islands across an ocean area the size of North America.
Late and rapid dispersals explain remarkable similarities in artifacts such as fishhooks, adzes and ornaments across the region.