Asian Perspectives, vol. 47, no. 1 (2008): Maritime Migration

Edited by Sue O’Connor and Atholl Anderson

Editors’ Corner, 1


Indo-Pacific Migration and Colonization—Introduction
Atholl Anderson and Sue O’Connor, 2

In this Introduction we comment on issues raised by the present collection of papers as they appear relevant in thinking about the settlement of the Indo-Pacific from the Pleistocene to the late Holocene. Successful maritime migration across this vast region was obviously related to voyaging technology and colonizing behaviors. Here we critique earlier models that indicate simple unidirectional expansion and posit farming, or indeed any other single driver, for maritime expansion in the mid–late Holocene. It now appears that the development of interaction spheres in Wallacea, and perhaps connections with New Guinea, have contributed significantly to late Holocene societies in ISEA and Island Melanesia. Even in Remote Oceania where long-term colonizing success was dependent on a transported tropical horticultural complex, initial settlement strategies are likely to have been highly varied and to have had variable success. Nor is migration restricted to the founding events of island settlement; rather, it continued as a significant component of the formation and re-formation of island cultures up to the historical era and, of course, within the present day. Like the authors represented here we suggest that if we wish to make progress in understanding the motives, sources, mechanisms and results of colonizing migration, there will be greatest reward in exploring the complexity and variability that lie behind it.
Keywords: Maritime migration, Indo-Pacific, Island Southeast Asia, seafaring technology, voyaging strategies, Austronesian colonization, transported landscapes.

Pacific Seascapes, Canoe Performance, and a Review of Lapita Voyaging with Regard to Theories of Migration
Geoffrey Irwin, 12

The first part of this paper establishes in a general kind of way that the domain or seascape that Lapita sailors operated in was more demanding than that of Wallacea and Near Oceania, but markedly less so than that negotiated later by East Polynesians. The second part takes a look at the form and performance of canoes, the possible nature of Lapita craft, and suggests ways to improve modern estimates of prehistoric performance by mechanical and mathematical modeling. The third part considers the practicalities of sailing in the Lapita domain; it argues that the dispersal of Lapita was in a selected direction rather than a random one, and offers a glimpse of how these ambitious but relatively cautious sailors learned to navigate. The final aim of the paper is to summarize three theories of migration, which support each other in some respects, but which differ in others—especially in their views of prehistoric canoe performance.
Keywords: Pacific Ocean, Lapita, seascapes, canoe performance, colonization.

Examining Prehistoric Migration Patterns in the Palauan Archipelago: A Computer Simulated Analysis of Drift Voyaging
Richard Callaghan and Scott M. Fitzpatrick, 28

A number of recent genetic, linguistic, and archaeological studies have attempted to ascertain the origin of settlers to the Palauan archipelago, but it remains a complex and debated issue. To provide additional insight into colonization strategies and settlement patterns, we conducted computer simulations of drift voyages to the Palauan archipelago based on historically recorded winds and currents. Drift voyages were considered here as drifting before the wind when lost, a strategy documented for Pacific Islanders. The simulations suggest that peoples drifting before the wind from the southern Philippines would have had the most success in landfall. This finding supports the current hypothesis of human colonization to the islands of Palau.
Keywords: Computer simulation, drift voyaging, seafaring, colonization, Palau, Micronesia.

Edge-Ground and Waisted Axes in the Western Pacific Islands: Implications for an Example from the Yaeyama Islands, Southernmost Japan
Atholl Anderson and Glenn Summerhayes, 45

A flaked, ground, and waisted axe, discovered on Iriomote Island in the Yaeyama group, southernmost Japan, appears to be a unique find in Japanese prehistory. Its resemblance to waisted, edge-ground axes which, in Australia, are of Pleistocene age, and to similar artifacts of early Holocene age in New Guinea, as well as potential antecedents in the Pleistocene edge-ground axes of Honshu, invites questions about its significance. This is especially so because the Yaeyama Islands are regarded currently as having been first occupied by people during the Shimotabaru phase of Neolithic culture, beginning about 3800 B.P. Comparison with similar western Pacific artifacts, and consideration of the eustatic history of the Yaeyamas, suggest that the Iriomote example might be of early Holocene age, although its origin within the late Holocene cannot be excluded. The find raises questions about the human history of the southern Ryukyu groups that demand further research.
Keywords: Yaeyama Islands, Japan, polished waisted axe, Holocene colonization.

The Pigs of Island Southeast Asia and the Pacific: New Evidence for Taxonomic Status and Human-Mediated Dispersal
Keith Dobney, Thomas Cucchi, and Gregor Larson, 59

This paper undertakes a major survey of the genus Sus from Island Southeast Asia and specifically attempts to re-examine the taxonomic status of the pigs of Wallacea, in order to re-evaluate the complex evidence for human mediated dispersal. This was undertaken using the combined approach of tooth outline and mitochondrial DNA analysis. The data provide clear evidence for three dispersal events: The first involved domesticated pigs, originating from wild Sus scrofa stock in mainland Southeast Asia, being introduced to the Greater and Lesser Sunda Islands, to the Mollucas, New Guinea, and Oceania. Archaeological specimens clearly link these pigs with the Lapita and subsequent Polynesian dispersals. Since the pigs on New Guinea are specifically linked with this dispersal, it follows that the current wild populations of the island must be the feral descendants of introduced domestic pigs from mainland Southeast Asia, which came into New Guinea via the Lesser Sunda Islands. A second dispersal event also involved domesticated pigs (this time from wild Sus scrofa populations from mainland East Asia), introduced to the Philippines and Micronesia, while a third involved the endemic warty pig of Sulawesi (Sus celebensis), which data from Liang Bua cave shows was introduced to Flores perhaps as early as 7000 B.C.

Pacific Bananas: Complex Origins, Multiple Dispersals?
Jean Kennedy, 75

This paper reviews recent genetic evidence for the origins of the traditional cultivated bananas of the Pacific, and shows that they are unexpectedly complex. Current assumption of their prevailing west-to-east spread from Southeast Asia into the Pacific thus needs modification. Although bananas are widely assumed to have been part of the set of crops transported to Polynesia at first settlement, the linguistic evidence on which this is based underestimates the diversity of bananas in the New Guinea region and is suspect. Archaeological evidence of bananas is so far very tenuous. Recent genetic evidence of the parentage of most groups of cultivated bananas shows that the primary step toward edibility occurred in the Philippines–New Guinea region. Early movements westward across Island Southeast Asia must have occurred, and the complexity of hybrids makes regionally dispersed development likely. There is no demonstrable link with Taiwan or the adjacent coast of China. There is no evidence that the genetically distinct lineages of bananas found in Polynesia were brought together in the putatively ancestral Lapita crop assemblage of the northern New Guinea region. The complex phylogeny of the cultivated Pacific bananas may thus suggest multiple prehistoric introductions of bananas to Polynesia. If bananas were part of the founding set of crops of Remote Oceania, the question “which bananas?” is currently unanswered.
Keywords: Indo-Pacific migration and colonization; banana domestication, taxonomy, and genetics; Pacific plantains, Fe‘i bananas, New Guinea archaeobotany, banana phytoliths.

Northern Vanuatu as a Pacific Crossroads: The Archaeology of Discovery, Interaction, and the Emergence of the “Ethnographic Present”
Stuart Bedford and Matthew Spriggs, 95

Northern Vanuatu is a significant crossroads region of the Southwest Pacific. This paper outlines current archaeological research being undertaken in the area, focusing on defining initial human settlement there some 3000 years ago and subsequent cultural transformations which led to the establishment of the ethnographic present. The study to date has contributed to a more detailed picture of inter- and intra-archipelago interaction, settlement pattern, subsistence, and cultural differentiation. The research contributes to regional debates on human colonization, patterns of social interaction, and the drivers of social change in island contexts.
Keywords: Northern Vanuatu, interaction, contact and exchange, cultural transformation.

Ongoing Archaeological Research on Fais Island, Micronesia
Michiko Intoh, 121

The third season of archaeological research was carried out on Fais Island in the Caroline Islands at the end of 2005. A deep cultural deposit (more than 3.3 meters) was excavated along the southern coastal deposit from which a number of potsherds, shell artifacts, bone artifacts, and various kinds of natural remains were found. The constant recovery of artifactual remains supports the previous supposition that the island was continuously inhabited since the time of the first colonization. Pigs and dogs (and possibly chickens) have definitely existed on the island since about A.D. 400 afterward. Two charcoal samples obtained from the earliest cultural deposit were securely dated as A.D. 230–410 (Beta-21306) and A.D. 240–420 (Beta-213061). These are the earliest dates obtained for the coral islands in the central Caroline Islands. The continuous appearance of potsherds and natural food remains throughout the culture sequence indicates that Fais was permanently settled for the last 1700 years and was not just occupied for a short period of time. On the basis of introduced pottery and domesticated animals, maintaining cultural contacts with high islands could have been a significant way to survive on such small coral islands with limited resources.

The Changing Role of Irrigated Colocasia esculenta (Taro) on Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands: From an Essential Element of Colonization to an Important Risk-Reduction Strategy
David J. Addison, 139

This paper proposes that, on the Marquesan island of Nuku Hiva, wet cultivation of Colocasia taro was important in initial colonization because it was the most energy-efficient and fastest-producing crop. In later periods its caloric contribution was eclipsed by breadfruit, but irrigated taro played an important risk-reduction role.
Keywords: Agriculture, archaeology, intensification, risk-reduction, irrigation, Polynesia.

Excavation in Peva Valley, Rurutu, Austral Islands (East Polynesia)
Robert Bollt, 156

The Peva dune site on Rurutu, Austral Islands, excavated in 2003, has yielded a rich archaeological assemblage containing artifacts and both vertebrate and invertebrate fauna from two distinct stratigraphic layers. The lower layer dates from the East Polynesian Archaic period (c. A.D. 1000–1450), and the upper layer from the Classic period (c. eighteenth and nineteenth centuries A.D.), during which time the site was a ceremonial marae. The two layers are entirely distinct, separated by a thick deposit of sterile beach sand. This article analyzes the major temporal trends in Rurutu’s artifact and faunal assemblages, and discusses them in terms of both the general efflorescence of East Polynesian culture, and the more specific emergence of a uniquely Austral culture, which impressed early European visitors as being quite unique.
Keywords: East Polynesia, Austral Islands, Cook Islands, Rurutu, colonization.