His name was Gusney, and according to legend, he was the first to send humans to the island of Wa’ab. Long before time was recorded, the srory goes, Gusney, and four other supernatural Spirits sprang into being from a freshwater well located in the area now known as Tho’long, Colonia.
One day, Gusney left his netherworldly companions on the island of Wa’ab (now known as Yap) and headed for unexplored lands. He sailed on a simple log canoe, propelled only by his hands, the wind, and die endless flow of the Pacific’s waves. Many moons passed and Gusney came upon a human family from an ancient place called Malaya. He liked them and sent them on to Wa’ab to let the other Spirits know of his whereabouts.
Later he met another couple form India and sent them to Wa’ab as well. This couple, named Wan and Rayina, and Ruylia, one of the daughters from the first family to arrive on the island, made Wa’ab their permanent home and, according to legend, are the ancient forbearers of the Yapese people.
Anthropological theories about Yap’s settlement are not all that inconsistent with local legends. The most reliable estimates suggest that Yap was settled over 3,500 years ago by seagoing voyagers migrating eastward, in primitive loglike canoes, from either Indonesia or the Philippines.
The ancient Yapese empire was a large, powerful and highly organized society. At the empire’s peak, the central islands of Wa’ab may have had a population of 50,000. Huge meeting houses, stone amphitheaters, and men’s houses dotted the shorelines. Inland, majestic family houses sat atop raised stone platforms called “clayif” and their thatched peak roofs jutted out Between coconut palms over an intricate winding network of stone paths.
Surrounding everything – family houses, pathways and meeting houses were hundreds of glistening discs of stone currency. Further form the sea were rows of carefully tended gardens where women toiled daily to harvest the taro, yams and other hearty foods that complemented each day’s catch of reef fish. Just a little farther back were ceremonial Women’s Houses where young women came of age and were instructed in the art of Beauty and taught the stories and dances of earlier generations.
The village was the basic political unit of the Yapese Empire and was highly stratified. Rules of behavior were strictly governed by rank, dass, gender, occupation and age.