Migrations were accomplished in successive steps made over several centuries. The first wave of immigrants in the Pacific islands took place during the last ice-age period (110,000 – 8,000 BC).
It is believed that Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea would have received the first Papuan-language migrations from southeast Asia around 53,000 to 35,000 BC. Then around 4,000 BC, autroneasian-language people from Taiwan region got mixed with the previous ones. This mix evolved to what is known as the “lapita” culture. This lapita culture is characterized by a particular type of finely decorated ceramics.
From 1600-1500 BC, this people started to spread in Micronesia (Marianne, Marshall archipelagos …) then in Melanesia (Papua – New Guinea, Salomon islands) until it reached occidental Polynesia (Fiji, Tonga, Samoa) around 1,000 BC. One more century will be necessary to reach the rest of Polynesia. Scientists believe today that all central archipelagos (Cook, Marquesas, Society) were populated at the same time. Though it is in the Marquesas islands that were discovered the oldest vestiges of this civilization dated 150 BC by R.C. SUGGS. Marquesas islands are still considered today as the starting point for eastern Polynesia settlements.
From these archipelagos, a new migration wave started, settling the Hawaiian islands (USA) around 300-400 AD, Easter Island (Chile) from 400-500 AD, and finally New Zealand from 700-800 AD.
The Austral archipelago was colonized around year 950 AD while Tuamotu and Gambier migrations are dated around the 12th century (tests made with Carbon 14).