Polynesian Resource Center

Dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Polynesian Art and Culture

Book Review: The Discovery of Aotearoa by Jeff Evans, 1998 revised copy supplied

Polynesian Resource Center

This little book is one of the clearest explanations of Polynesian Navigation, especially if like me the finer principles of navigation made your head ache. It also includes a description of Greg Whakataka-Brightwell's building and sailing of the traditional double hulled waka; Hawaiki-nui from Tahiti to New Zealand in 1985. Loads of good simple drawings and clear explainations help the reader to come to grips with what can be a complicated and difficult subject. My only quibble is the sections relating to Maori Lore for descriptions of the earliest discoveries of New Zealand. I am afraid these myths, (because that is what they are), do not impress me. Any one with an interest in history and modern archaeology could drive a truck through every one of these tales, but all European writers since Percy Smith continue to publish them with an attempt at a straight face and add nothing to their credibility as a consequence. For example Jeff Evans repeats the old legend of Kupe's voyage around the South Island with the usual obligatory description of Kupe's discovery of the Arahura River, the famous source for poumanu; the greenstone nephrite jade from which so many beautiful Maori stone weapons and jewellery were made. Unfortunately the archaeological record of the earliest grave sites reveals that evidence of greenstone amongst burial remains is completely absent for at least a couple of centuries. Now this of course does not mean there was no Kupe, just as there may have been a historical Jesus. But if Kupe found the Arahura the chance he also found the greenstone was about as likely as Jesus feeding the five thousand with those five loaves and two fish.

However, forgive my drift off into the pedantic and read Jeff Evans little book, if that is you can find an old copy on Amazon.

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