Humans are the most adaptable species on Earth having occupied nearly every ecological niche on the planet. One of the most fascinating areas in which to study the evolution of human groups is Oceania, a watery world encompassing about one-third of the globe.
When and how did people arrive on the shores of thousands of pristine islands spread across 10,000 km of sea between Asia and South America? How did people adapt their technology to accommodate the variety of landscapes from small islands less than 1 km across and barely 2 m above sea level, to large continental landmasses such as New Caledonia and New Zealand.
Oceania witnessed one of the greatest maritime migrations in human history and it is here that we find some of the oldest evidence for horticulture found anywhere in the world, the farthest movement of humanly-transported artefacts in any ancient trading system, and impressive monumental architecture of great variability.
This lecture will introduce students to the pre-history and archaeology of one of the three culture areas of Oceania with focus on Polynesia which makes up the eastern half of this region.
We will investigate the voyaging and exploration strategies that made it possible to colonise all the Pacific islands. From a small founding population numbering perhaps a few dozen, why did Hawaii develop into the most highly stratified chiefdom in Oceania? Colonised barely a thousand years ago, why did the isolated outpost of Easter Island support a society that built such colossal stone statues, only to fall victim to an environmental catastrophe of epic proportions? What lessons from past societies can help us improve our own?
Each lecture period will have ample time for discussion. Students are encouraged to ask questions and participate in discussions.
Suitable for students 12 years and above.