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French Polynesia is located in the Polynesian triangle, delimited by an imaginary line connecting three points: Hawaii, Easter Island and New Zealand.

For a long time, ethnologists have proposed various hypotheses about the origin of settlements in the South Pacific. The two main theories suggest either a South American or Asian origin.

Currently, a consensus appears to have been reached, although it is possible that the accepted theory is incomplete.

The first theory to attract attention was that of American origin, mainly defended by the Norwegian Thor Heyerdhal. In 1947, on the Kon-Tiki raft, he demonstrated the possibility of sailing from East to West thanks to the prevailing trade winds on balsa boats. To support his thesis, he cited numerous similarities between Polynesian and Latin American civilizations, including physical similarities, oral traditions and the presence of the sweet potato native to America.

However, this theory has since been abandoned in favor of the arrival of migrations from the West, from Taiwan, supported by the geographical distribution of Lapita pottery. This decorated pottery has been found in various archipelagos between Asia and Polynesia.

Whatever the direction of the migrations, it is certain that the first Polynesians crossed vast expanses of ocean aboard large double canoes, carrying with them provisions and live animals, and gradually colonized the islands.