THE SOUTH SEAS AND AUSTRALIA
THE ART OF THE SOUTH SEAS SHOWS AN EXTRAORDINARY VARIETY AND EXTRAVAGANCE OF INVENTION.
For fantastic elaboration and weird combinations the figures and masks of the Sepik River tribes in New Guinea hold first place, but they have their rivals in the uli figures and malagan figures of New Britain and New Ireland. This variety becomes even more impressive if we consider the whole Pacific area; and the many variations represented by the local styles of each island or region.
Of the innumerable islands, 2,650 have been listed as main islands. They may be divided into groups and for our purpose we shall use the familiar classification, based upon the distribution of native populations as they exist today, of Micronesia (from the Greek micro, small, and nesos, island), Melanesia (melas, black) and Polynesia (poly, many). We also touch upon the East Indies or Indonesia to the west of New Guinea and upon Australia to the south. In both these regions man has had a long history, suggested by the fossil bones, remains of one of the earliest and most primitive type of man, found in Java and considered by many scientists to be the progenitor of man. The aboriginal culture of Australia is also very old. Though the material culture of the aboriginal Australians is meager-they are hunters and food-gatherers, rather than raisers of food-it is recognized today that their culture as a whole is not on a uniformly low level, as formerly believed.
The migrations, which gradually populated the Pacific Islands, go back to an early date when the Indonesians came over from southern Asia. The Australians belong to an even earlier period. Migrations continued eastward and penetrated Melanesia. Out of Indonesia came the Micronesians and the Polynesians in an earlier and a later wave. Thus the Polynesians were the most recent of the prehistoric colonists of the Pacific, and they spread the farthest. It is believed that by the tenth century the
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Publication information: Book title: Primitive Art. Contributors: Erwin O. Christensen - Author. Publisher: Thomas Y. Crowell. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1955. Page number: 265.