The Chilean craft sends us back to the chicken bones sourced to Tonga and Samoa. Is it another link in the voyaging history of the Polynesians? For there is no doubt that the sewn-plank canoe was important in Polynesian life and the world of their ancestors. It’s an exported technology, a very special form of boat building that goes back to the Philippines and beyond and is found in island after island between. The list is endless — Guam, the Marianas, Carolines, New Hebrides, Tonga, Samoa, Tahiti, Tuamotu, the Marquesas and Easter Island, are but a few.
However, borrowing from a totally unrelated language has its difficulties; they often lack corresponding sounds. For instance it’s impossible to bring the Zulu ‘click’ sound, that’s made in the back of the throat, into English. It’s very difficult to carry some English sounds into German, Chinese and Japanese because of the difficulty they have with ‘w’ and ‘v’. We speak of borrowed words, taken into English, as being anglicised, changed to suit the English tongue, modified to suit the speaker’s ability to best make that sound. So, linguistics is about words moving through time and different cultures, and how they change. It’s about the original sound for an object shifting, in subtle, but recognisable ways, to become comfortable in its adopted home.
Hawaii and California are 3,360 kilometres or 2,112 miles apart. That’s about 150 kilometres less than a voyage from Easter Island to Chile, the assumed place of departure for those who carried the famous chickens to the shores of South America some 700 years ago.
I love these words by Anais Nin… ‘We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.’ When we probed the old knowledge from the past, what do we make of it? Sometimes good history and sometimes farce!