The Prehistoric Exploration and Colonisation of the Pacific

Author(s): 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.

Product Information

'... one of the most innovative and interesting works on Polynesian prehistory in many years ... this work will fundamentally change Pacific archaeology, redirecting our questions and reshaping our ideas about the past.' Man

1. An introduction to the Pacific and the theory of its settlement; 2. Pleistocene voyaging and the settlement of Greater Australia and its Near Oceanic neighbours; 3. Issues in Lapita studies and the background to Oceanic colonisation; 4. Against, across and down the wind: a case for the systematic exploration of the remote Pacific; 5. The colonisation of Eastern Melanesia, West Polynesia and Central East Polynesia; 6. The colonisation of Hawaii, New Zealand and their neighbours; 7. Issues in the colonisation of Micronesia; 8. Voyaging by computer: experiments in the exploration of the remote Pacific Ocean; 9. Voyaging after colonisation and the study of culture change; 10. The rediscovery of Pacific exploration; Bibliography; Index.

General Fields

  • : 9780521476515
  • : Cambridge University Press
  • : Cambridge University Press
  • : June 1994
  • : 247mm X 174mm X 14mm
  • : United Kingdom
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Geoffrey Irwin
  • : Paperback
  • : English
  • : very good
  • : 260
  • : 83 b/w illus. 22 tables