National Lecture Program

AIA Lecturer: Scott M. Fitzpatrick

Affiliation: University of Oregon

Dr. Scott M. Fitzpatrick is a Professor of Anthropology and Associate Director at the Museum of Natural and Cultural History at the University of Oregon. He is an archaeologist who specializes in the archaeology and historical ecology of island and coastal regions, particularly in the Pacific and Caribbean. Much of his research focuses on colonization events, seafaring strategies, adaptive strategies on smaller islands, exchange systems, chronometric techniques, and human impacts on ancient environments. He has active field projects in western Micronesia, the southern Caribbean, the Florida Keys, and the Oregon Coast. Dr. Fitzpatrick is the founding Co-Editor of the Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology (Routledge/Taylor & Francis), Associate Editor for Archaeology in Oceania, and serves on the editorial boards for three other journals. Recent publications have appeared in Antiquity, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, Environmental Archaeology, Radiocarbon, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He also has edited several special issues of journals and volumes, including Voyages of Discovery: the Archaeology of Islands (Praeger, 2004), Island Shores, Distant Pasts: Archaeological and Biological Perspectives on the Pre-Columbian Settlement of the Caribbean (University Press of Florida, 2010), and Ancient Psychoactive Substances (University Press of Florida, 2018). His research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, National Geographic, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation (Japan), among others.


On 28 November 1520, Ferdinand Magellan and his depleted fleet sailed around the tip of South America. After a tumultuous 38-day attempt to pass through the straits that now bear his name, Magellan gazed out into the vast sea and called it Mare Pacifico or ‘calm sea’ which was appropriate (although misleading) considering what they had just endured. The passage through the Straits was notable for a number of reasons, not the least because it was the first time Europeans had sailed to the other side of the Americas through a westerly route, ultimately leading to what would become the first successful circumnavigation of the globe. But why did he encounter such benign weather conditions when leaving the Straits and entering the Pacific? Most who followed him either through the Straits or via Cape Horn encountered inclement weather off the southern coast of Chile. Second, why did he travel considerably north of the equator — when his goal, the Moluccas, was known by him to lie along the equator — and cross the doldrums in a crippled ship with a starving crew? Third, why did he only see two uninhabited islands after crossing such a vast distance of ocean? Here I investigate these questions using computer simulations coupled with archaeological research and

Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Scott M. Fitzpatrick and Richard Callaghan

2008      Magellan’s Crossing of the Pacific: Using Computer Simulations to Examine how Oceanographic Conditions Influenced One of the World’s Greatest Voyages. Journal of Pacific History 48(2):145-165.

Alvaro Montenegro, Richard Callaghan, and Scott M. Fitzpatrick

2016      Using Seafaring Simulations and “Shortest Hop” Trajectories to Model the Prehistoric Colonization of Remote Oceania. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113(45):12685–12690.

For centuries, peoples from the island of Yap in the western Pacific voyaged southward to the Palauan archipelago to quarry their famous stone money in limestone caves. The carving and transport of stone money by Yapese Islanders, however, remains one of the most archaeologically dramatic, but least understood instances of “portable” artifact exchange in the Pacific. These limestone disks (also referred to as rai or fei) up to 4.5 m in diameter and weighing over eight metric tons, were carved almost exclusively in the “Rock Islands” of Palau and then transported by ocean-going canoes or European trading ships sailing back to Yap Island almost 400 km away. The production of these exotic valuables is known, in part, from European explorers who participated in the transport of these disks back to Yap in the 1800s as well as a rich collection of ethnographic data and oral traditions. Archaeological research in Palau adds a new dimension to the understanding of how these megaliths were quarried and moved over jagged karst terrain and across the sea, highlighting the importance that stone money had in Micronesian interisland exchange systems.

Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Scott M. Fitzpatrick

2016    Yap’s Famous Stone Money. In The Archaeology of Money (C. Haselgrove and S. Krmnicek, eds.): 43-65. Leicester Archaeology Monographs 24. Leicester: School of Archaeology & Ancient History, University of Leicester.

2004    Banking on Stone Money. Archaeology 57(2):18-23.

2001    Archaeological Investigation of Omis Cave: A Yapese Stone Money Quarry in Palau. Archaeology in Oceania 36:153-162.

For many island societies worldwide, the acquisition and exchange of prized resources was fundamental to developing and maintaining social, political, and economic relationships. The patchiness of resources like stone, clay, tempering agents, shell, and animals often led to differential access which then helped to fuel the rise of social complexity.  This presentation considers questions of resource acquisition as mediated by oceanographic and wind conditions, comparing results from archaeological projects in the Pacific and the Caribbean.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Scott M. Fitzpatrick and Richard Callaghan, 2013. Estimating Trajectories of Colonization to the Mariana Islands, Western Pacific. Antiquity 87:840-853.

Scott M. Fitzpatrick, 2013. Seafaring Capabilities in the Pre-Columbian Caribbean. Journal of Maritime Archaeology 8(1):101-138.

Scott M. Fitzpatrick, 2013. The Southward Route Hypothesis. In The Oxford Handbook of Caribbean Archaeology (W. Keegan, C. Hofman, and R. Rodgriguez Ramos, eds.):198-204. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Scott M. Fitzpatrick and Richard Callaghan (invited), 2008.  Seafaring Simulations and the Origin of Prehistoric Settlers to Madagascar. In Islands of Inquiry: Papers in Honour of Atholl Anderson (G. Clark and S. O’Connor, eds.): 55-66. Australian National University Press, Canberra. Terra Australis 29.

For millennia, humans have been inextricably linked to the sea. The coastal zone—less of a boundary than a malleable interface between two distinct biospheres—holds vital clues for understanding not only the roots of our ancient past, but the ways in which we have chosen to protect (or neglect) these material remains. It is well documented that the world’s coastlines are under increasing threat from the fluid realm for which we have had such important historical connections and dependency. The great irony, however—manifested as a burgeoning leviathan comprising sea level rise, catastrophic storms, erosion, development, and many other natural and cultural processes—is that our species’ short-sightedness is now leading to modern events which are erasing evidence of our own existence from the archaeological record. In this paper I use several case studies to highlight how the desire for intensive marine resource use and occupation of littoral zones across deep time to the present-day has greatly influenced both our success and decline as a species.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic (for lay reader):

Scott M. Fitzpatrick, Torben Rick, and Jon Erlandson 2015 Recent Progress, Trends, and Developments in Island and Coastal Archaeology. The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology 10(1):3-27.

Torben C. Rick, Patrick V. Kirch, Jon M. Erlandson, and Scott M. Fitzpatrick 2013 Archaeology, Deep History, and the Human Transformation of Island Ecosystems. Anthropocene 1(4):33-45.

Scott M. Fitzpatrick 2012 On the Shoals of Giants: Natural Catastrophes and the Overall Destruction of the Caribbean’s Archaeological Record. Journal of Coastal Conservation 16:173-186.

Jon M. Erlandson and Scott M. Fitzpatrick 2006 Oceans, Islands, and Coasts: Current Perspectives on the Role of the Sea in Human Prehistory. Journal of Island & Coastal Archaeology 1(1):5-32.

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