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Myths and the Formation of Niue Island, Central South Pacific

Patrick D. Nunn
The Journal of Pacific History
Vol. 39, No. 1 (Jun., 2004), pp. 99-108
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25169674
Page Count: 10
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Myths and the Formation of Niue Island, Central South Pacific
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Abstract

Niue Island is a 70-m high emerged atoll, 275 km east of the Tonga-Kermadec Trench axis. The island has been rising for approximately the last 500,000 years, but there is little information available about the nature of uplift. Several (groups of) myths concerning the origin and early human colonisation of Niue can be interpreted as recalling uplift of the island, or alternatively uplift of those islands where early Niueans (or their ancestors) once lived. Owing to the inclusion in Niuean myths of details suggesting coseismic uplift, which is considered unlikely to affect Niue, it is concluded that an early (the first?) group of Niueans came from the limestone islands of Tonga. Coseismic uplift is a common myth motif here and well documented in geological studies of these islands. It is concluded that the early Niueans who developed the myths concerning the formation of Niue incorporated details derived from observations of coseismic uplift in the limestone islands of Tonga because of the similarities in form between these islands and Niue. This study demonstrates the potential importance of myth in reconstructing the geological history of Pacific Islands.

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