University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Origin of Oceania and Tradition
The Origin and the navigational techniques used by islanders to travel over large Open Ocean has given question to academic writers, on how the islanders are able to travel and settle in this remote part of the earth. Pacific Islanders used traditional navigational knowledge to travel against storms and current on Pacific Ocean over past centauries, by using canoes. This essay will discuss the two theory of migration with archaeological evidence of origin, the traditional techniques of navigation shared by Steve, and it will state, why and how the ancient navigation is more favored than modern navigation.
There are theories that explain how Pacific islanders had settled over the years by people who came to our region at various times. One classical example of such theory is by Andrew Sharp, who stated through his hypotheses that Hawaiian were settled by voyagers on a drifting canoe blown of its course while sailing between closed spaced islands (unit 2 Arrival). However, some of the debated theories has been disapproved due to archaeological evidence and traditional navigational knowledge.
The two wave of migration was later believed to be true into Pacific, when it was proven with evidence by archeologist Roger Green. It was stated that ancient theory of migration was occurred around 40,000 years ago and the second wave of migration in the pacific was occurred around 3000 to 4000 years ago (unit 2 Arrival). The first theory of migration refers to the group that entered the Pacific and settled at Huon Peninsula and the high lands of New Guinea and later migrate to bigger Islands in the Pacific such as the Solomon, the Bismarck and Vanuatu.
They were named as “Near Oceania”. This ancient migration is supported by the slow boat model of migration where Near Oceania mingled, this can be seen through, intermarriage of islanders and they are widely populated. The second wave of migration, was occurred around 3000-4000 years ago which it was believed that they were originated from Southeast Asia.
According to Gibbons, Beellwoods argues that archaeological evidence has trace the uniqueness of pottery that are seen in Vanuatu and New Caledonia, and later in Fiji around 300 years ago and they believed that these people then migrate far east with the red -slipped pottery decorated with geometric pattern to Tonga and other Islands (Gibbons, 2001). From these two migration theories, archaeological evidence and the DNA of Y chromosomes of the Pacific islanders, it had proven that the inhabitants of the Pacific, had
Originated from south east Asia. Furthermore, Oral knowledge is equally valid as written knowledge, by looking at how early inhabited Islanders had travel the open Ocean, using various navigational techniques. Steve from Ulithi of Federated state of Micronesia has discussed the ideas of traditional navigational skills that are pass down by their ancestors through chants and oral histories. Steve explained navigational techniques, by displaying seven shells on a mat as a teaching venue in which, it represents stars and islands.
As Steve had stated, a navigator should know the names, the position of the stars in terms of direction and which star for an islands (unit 2 Arrival). Navigational chants help navigators to memories directions when they are confused or meet storms that move them from their position of the destination. Weather condition and the sky itself also give suitable time to travel as well as when to travel within a year. As a navigator, it is important to know the bearing by using land reference as a guide line to and from where the destination is heading until the island disappears from the horizon.
However, when unfavorable weather approaches, sailors have to put down sail, roll it up, adjust mast to be straight, secure up ropes, and balance the canoe to keep it afloat on the water (unit 2 Arrival). Additionally, when a storm approaches a navigator should know where the wind is heading or come from, and observe the current of waves in order to locate the right direction. According to Andrade, a navigator is like an eye of the canoe, by keeping the vessel on the course, using the appearance of the heavenly bodies such as the moon, planet and the sun through oral knowledge.
Assessing the two sailing techniques, the modern way and the ancient way of navigation, the ancient navigational technology is more preferred than the modern technology. This is because; ancient way of navigation doesn’t need technical people or qualification to travel the open ocean as compared to modern way. For instance, early islanders equip with chants, oral knowledge and navigational skills to search far distance Islands in the Pacific Ocean with food, water, animal and other important plants.
Most importantly, preserving and learning the techniques of ancient navigational techniques is the matter of concern, in order for the Islanders to pass this knowledge from one generation to another. Additionally, ancient navigation helps native Islanders to know natural things around them through observing, the color of sky, the movement of waves and the wind and the position of the stars. To conclude, there are debated theories of how the Islanders had settled in the Pacific over the past years.
Through archeological evidence and DNA tests, it has known that the early Pacific islanders had settled in the Pacific through two wave of migration. Steve from Ulithi had shared important techniques of navigation through understanding the nature such as the stars, the sky and the waves in order to navigate the open ocean. Thus, many Pacific Islands relied on oral knowledge and beliefs in terms of chants, history and myths, which are equally valid as written knowledge. As a result, the ancient navigation techniques are more favored than the modern navigation technique.