Abstract: Incredible Journeys: The Settlement of the Pacific


The Pacific Ocean spans a third of the globe and includes over 25,000 islands. The discovery and colonization of these islands by people in prehistory has resulted in a range of cultural adaptations to specific environments. Often regarded as “Gardens of Eden” the first settlers encountered pristine island environments but did not live in an island paradise where all their needs were met. Considerable work went into the discovery and colonization of islands including the introduction of suites of plants, animals and technologies as well as large interaction spheres which meant help was available from neighbors. Through these innovations and contacts the vast Pacific Ocean was settled from west to east. The persistent eastward expansion also led to periodic contacts with the Americas. In this lecture I will discuss sailing techniques, the transplant and possible manipulation of plant resources, the intentional introduction animals and long distance interaction networks. I will also discuss the evidence from skeletal populations to reconstruct the lives of these ancient and intrepid explorers who first colonized the Pacific.


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

Finney, Ben, 1994    Voyage of Rediscovery: A Cultural Odyssey through Polynesia. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Jones, Terry L., Alice A. Storey, Elizabeth A. Matisoo-Smith and José Miguel Ramírez-Aliaga (editors), 2011  Polynesians In America: Pre-Columbian Contacts with the New World. Altamira Press, California

Kirch, Patrick Vinton, 2000    On the Road of the Winds: An Archaeological History of the Pacific Islands before European Contact. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Matisoo-Smith, Elizabeth, 2007    Animal translocations, genetic variation and the human settlement of the Pacific. In Genes, Language and Culture History in the Southwest Pacific. J.S. Friedlaender, ed. Pp. 157-170: Oxford University Press.

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