Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Melanesians (" Black Islanders"), a main division of the Polynesian peoples, who constitute the dark element in the Pacific Ocean, where they are in almost exclusive possession of the Solomon, Santa Cruz, New Hebrides, Loyalty, and New Caledonian groups, from them collectively called Melanesia. They also form the substratum of the population in the western parts of Fiji, and have left traces of their presence in New Zealand, the Marquesas, and other eastern archipelagoes, all of which were occupied by the black race before the arrival of their present brown Indonesian inhabitants. The Melanesians, who number about half a million altogether, do not differ essentially from the aborigines of New Guinea and of the neighbouring islands in the eastern parts of the Malay archipelago, forming with them the Oceanic section of the Negro race collectively classed as Papuans. [Papuans.] Physically they differ altogether from the Eastern Polynesians, being of much smaller stature (rather below the middle size), and of far darker complexion (sooty brown and even black), with black frizzly hair (" mop heads"), and highly dolichocephalic (long) skulls. The crania of the extinct Kai-Colo Melanesians, found in Viti Levu (West Fiji), show this last trait in a higher degree than any other known race; but, notwithstanding the physical differences, the Melanesians greatly resemble the Polynesians (Samoans, Tahitians, Tongans, Maori, Hawaiians) in their usages, traditions, religion, and speech. It is noteworthy that all the Melanesian languages hitherto studied are found to belong to the Malayo-Polynesian linguistic family, and are even of more archaic type than most other members of the group. This is one of the most puzzling phenomena in the whole range of anthropology, though its explanation may lie in the insular character of the Melanesian domain exposing it more easily to contact with the seafaring Polynesians, from whom they may have received their present languages, together with many social usages, at a very remote period. In general, however, they stand at a considerably lower stage of culture, and, although more industrious under European control (hence making good coolies), they are still for the most part mere savages, inveterate head-hunters, and cannibals. Yet some have been brought under Christian influences sufficiently to have abandoned these practices, by several zealous Protestant missionaries, such as Bishop Pattison (murdered in 1871) and Dr. Codrington, first of living Melanesian scholars. (H. C. von der Gabelentz, Bis Melanesiscltcn Sprache, 1873; R. H. Codrington, The Melanesian Languages, 1885.)