The origins of the Polynesian people are addressed in the theories regarding human migration into the Pacific, which began about 3,000 years ago. These are outlined well by Kayser et al. (2000). The most widely accepted theory is that modern Austronesians originated from migrations out of Taiwan between 3000 and 1000 BC; travelling via the Philippines and eastern Indonesia and from the northwest ("Bird's Head") of New Guinea, on to Island Melanesia by roughly 1400 BC, reaching the western Polynesian islands right about 900 BC. However, Soares et al. (2008) have argued for an older pre-HoloceneSundaland origin within Island Southeast Asia (ISEA) based on mitochondrial DNA.
Analysis by Kayser et al. (2008) discovered that only 21% of the Polynesian autosomal gene pool is of Melanesian origin, with the rest (79%) being of East Asian origin. Another study by Friedlaender et al. (2008) also confirmed that Polynesians are closer genetically to Micronesians, Taiwanese Aborigines, and East Asians, than to Melanesians. The study concluded that Polynesians moved through Melanesia fairly rapidly, allowing only limited admixture between Austronesians and Melanesians. Thus the high frequencies of mtDNA B4a1a1 in the Polynesians are the result of drift and represent the descendants of a few East Asian females who mixed with Papuan males. The Polynesian population experienced a founder effect and genetic drift.
A popular theory among scholars and native Royal Polynesian Monarchy (Tongan, Tahitian, Hawaiian; Monarchies) is that the genesis point from which Polynesia was finally populated was through the Polynesian Island archipelagos of Samoa (Sacred Center). The Islands of Samoa are theorized to have been the gestation point from where which the initial roots of Polynesia patiently formulated over time, religion, philosophy, spirituality, language, Arts, culture and then spread forth through eastern Polynesia through the spreading of Samoa's Religion (Aitu, Kahuna, Tafuna). Through their Polynesian Aitu religion, the worship of animal, human deities and a pantheon of Gods and Demi-Gods which would grow exponentially in Eastern Polynesia, with the construction of monolithic Tiki Deities in Tahiti, Rapanui and the spread of the spiritual belief of Mana; a Polynesian spiritual life force which governs all living beings.
The last place to be settled by Polynesians was Aotearoa (New Zealand) estimated at around 1300AD.
The results of research at the Teouma Lapita site (Efate Island, Vanuatu) and the Talasiu Lapita site (near Nuku'alofa, Tonga) published in 2016 supports the 'out of Taiwan' theory although with the qualification that the migration bypassed New Guinea and Island Melanesia. The conclusion from the research published in 2016 is that the initial population of those two sites appears to come directly from Taiwan or the northern Philippines and did not mix with the ‘AustraloPapuans’ of New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. DNA analysis of modern Polynesians indicates that there has been intermarriage that results in a mixed Asian-Papuan ancestry of some Polynesians. The research at the Teouma and Talasiu Lapita sites implies that the migration and intermarriage, which resulted in mixed Asian-Papuan ancestry of some Polynesians, occurred after the first initial migration to Vanuatu and Tonga. The preliminary analysis of skulls found at the Teouma and Talasiu Lapita sites is that the skulls lack Australian or Papuan affinities and instead have affinities to mainland Asian populations.
Female dancers of the Hawaii Islands depicted by Louis Choris, c. 1816
Kava ('ava) makers (aumaga) of Samoa. A woman seated between two men with the round tanoa (or laulau) wooden bowl in front. Standing is a third man, distributor of the 'ava, holding the coconut shell cup (tauau) used for distributing the beverage.
There are an estimated 2 million ethnic Polynesians and people of Polynesian descent worldwide, the majority of whom live in Polynesia, the United States, Australia and New Zealand. The Polynesian peoples are shown below in their distinctive ethnic and cultural groupings (estimates of the larger groups are shown):
Polynesian persons are noted to have, on average, larger bone structure and muscle mass than Caucasian persons, which has implications for BMI (Body Mass Index) comparability in measuring obesity. Polynesians' physical characteristics help them perform well in some physical sports, including American football and rugby union.
^Snowdon, Wendy; Malakellis, Mary; Millar, Lynne; Swinburn, Boyd (2014). "Ability of body mass index and waist circumference to identify risk factors for non-communicable disease in the Pacific Islands". Obesity Research & Clinical Practice. 8 (1): e36–45. doi:10.1016/j.orcp.2012.06.005. PMID24548575.