The Prehistoric Exploration and Colonisation of the Pacific


Geoffrey Irwin


The exploration and colonisation of the Pacific is a remarkable episode of human prehistory. Early sea-going explorers had no prior knowledge of Pacific geography, no documents to record their route, no metal, no instruments for measuring time and none for exploration. Forty years of modern archaeology, experimental voyages in rafts, and computer simulations of voyages have produced an enormous range of literature on this controversial and mysterious subject. This book represents a major advance in knowledge of the settlement of the Pacific by suggesting that exploration was rapid and purposeful, undertaken systematically, and that navigation methods progressively improved. Using an innovative model to establish a detailed theory of navigation, Geoffrey Irwin claims that rather than sailing randomly downwind in search of the unknown, Pacific Islanders expanded settlement by the cautious strategy of exploring upwind, so as to ease their safe return. The author has tested this hypothesis against the chronological data from archaeological investigation, with a computer simulation of demographic and exploration patterns and by sailing throughout the region himself.

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