The Polynesian Triangle

Author: Hunter Vagt

Editor: Brandon Zarzecki

When people mention the concept of an oceanic triangle, most tend to think of the popular Bermuda Triangle, the area in the Pacific famous for so many boat and airplane disappearances. But in this piece, I want to look at a different triangle on the opposite side of the world called the Polynesian Triangle. Now the Polynesian Triangle is a massive grouping of over one-thousand islands that stretch over eight-hundred thousand square miles. They also form the shape of a triangle, hence the name. Each corner of the triangle has a large and very popular island in it, which are Hawaii in the North, Easter Island in the East and New Zealand in the West.

Based off archaeological evidence the first island to be settled was Samoa roughly in eight-hundred BCE. The natives then dispersed and settled New Zealand, Hawaii, Rapa Nui and many other islands between 1190 and 1290 BCE. The people who inhabit these islands now can trace their ancestry to modern day Taiwan, to the Lapita people, the ones who sailed to and colonized the Polynesian islands.

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As people expanded through  the islands and established new nations, one would eventually rise up above the others and create a Polynesian empire that would last for centuries, and that is the Tongan empire originating from the island of Tonga. Evidence of this can attributed to the many artifacts found on Tonga that hail from distant island nations. These were likely used as status symbols by Tongan elites. This empire held power for roughly eight hundred years beginning n the 950’s CE, but gradually lost power and influence in the mid first millennium due to internal conflicts and wars with neighboring islands, like the Samoans.


This is just the tip of the ice berg in terms of Polynesian history and culture. Polynesian tribal history spans centuries and thousands of square miles and these four paragraphs are not doing polynesia culture justice, but I hope to expand on it further in more blog posts.

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