An Introduction to the Tongan Archipelago Located in Polynesia

An Introduction to the Tongan Archipelago Located in Polynesia

Document details
Category: Geography Essay
Subcategory: Human Geographies
Words: 2326
Pages: 5

Tongan ChiefdomsThe Tongan archipelago, located in Polynesia, extends to about 300 kilometers and includes from 150 to 200 islands. The largest islands within the group are Tongatapu, Eua, and Vava'u. Only three other islands are inhabited Eva, Niuafo'ou, and Niuatoputapu (Goldman 1970 281).Tonga is on the western side of the international date line. Radioactive carbon dating of a Tongan specimen gave us a date going back to about the 5th century B.C. This date is the oldest of all of Polynesia (Lieb 1972 79). Among the Polynesian chiefdoms, Tonga is unique because of its level of political development and extensive travel and exchange (Kirch 1984 217). The entire archipelago was controlled by a pair of sacred and secular paramount chiefs. The placing of the islands in a south- west to north-east position made traveling easy. During the trade-wind season traveling up and down the chain of islands was easy (Kirch 1984 219).Despite the lost coral islets and atolls, the islands have extremely fertile soil. However, certain conditions do affect development. The islands are small with fixed boundaries and are occupied by tens of thousands of people. Irrigation is not possible, limiting their agricultural capabilities to dryland field systems. Being in the middle of the ocean leaves them susceptible to natural disasters such as cyclones and droughts (Kirch 1984 221). The rainfall is about 1500 mm to 1800 mm a year which made the islands flourish. Animal husbandry was well developed as was agriculture. The Tongans used swidden agriculture raise yams, aroids, and bananas. Although the land was not allowed to lay fallow for very long, it was kept fertile through mulching. There was also an emphasis on land division. The intensity of Tongan agriculture is well documented by European explorers as being a fertile flourishing land (Kirch 1984 221).Socio-Political StructureTonga is the most stratified form of the western Polynesian status system (Goldman 280). It is also one of the oldest. The archeological evidence for political...

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