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Human Adaptation to the Sea

Anthropology 430
Fall 1997


Instructor: Dr Ben Finney
Department of Anthropology
University of Hawai'i at Manoa
2424 Maile Way, Porteus 346
Honolulu, HI 96822

Most anthropology is terrestrial, oriented toward how humans have evolved and spread over the continents, learned to cultivate the earth and then developed land-based civilizations. This course looks instead to the sea, exploring the ways in various peoples around the globe have adapted to the ocean—the other 70 percent of the earth's surface—using it as a highway for migration. trade and conquest as well as for food, recreation and inspiration. In particular, this course focuses on three contrasting approaches to the sea: Polynesian, European and Chinese.

Polynesia: Some 3,500 or more years ago years ago seafarers originally from Southeast Asia were developing canoes and ways of navigating them which they and their descendants then used to expand far into the oceanic world we now call Polynesia. Using myths and legends, archaeology and ethnography and the voyaging experiments conducted aboard the reconstructed canoes Hokule'a and Hawai‘iloa, we will examine how the Polynesians were able to discover and settle all the inhabitable islands to be found in the vast region bounded by Hawai'i, Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and Aotearoa (New Zealand), and inquire into the degree of inter-archipelago communication they maintained over their oceanic domain.

Europe: Whereas the ancestral Polynesians sailed over the ocean to find uninhabited islands on which to settle, European oceanic expansion was mostly for trade and conquest. After examining seafaring in the ancient Mediterranean, and briefly glancing at the Viking expansion in the North Atlantic, we will inquire into the European breakout during the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries—when ships from Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands and Britain sailed around Africa to Asia, across the Atlantic to the so-called New World and then around the world in an oceanic expansion that brought wealth to Europe and death and enslavement to others, but which also shaped the world as we know it today.

China: Although China is not generally thought of as having been a great sea power, the Chinese developed the compass, compartmentalized ship construction and other crucial maritime innovations. Furthermore, early in the 15th century they sailed the biggest ships and greatest fleets ever seen on the ocean to Southeast Asia, into the Indian Ocean and as far as East Africa. Yet, a century later when European ships began to sail into Asian waters, no Chinese ships were to be seen. We will examine the reasons for this brief maritime expansion and consider the consequences for world history of China's withdrawal from the sea as Europe expanded over the global ocean.

Required Books Available to UH Bookstore

l) Ben Finney et al: Voyage of Rediscovery: A Cultural Odyssey through Polynesia. University of California Press, Berkeley (1994) Hardcover—but at the paperback price of $15.00, a special deal which I have negotiated with the publishers. But to buy the book at this price you must get it from the Anthro 430 textbook section of the UH bookstore. If you get it from the trade book section, or from another bookstore, it will be $35.00.

2) Lionel Casson: The Ancient Mariners: Seafarers and Sea Fighters of the Mediterranean in Ancient Times. Second edition. Princeton University Press, Princeton (1991). Paperback.

3) Louise Levathes: When China Ruled the Seas: The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne, 1405-1433. Oxford University Press, New York (1996). Paperback.

Articles and Chapters on Reserve at Sinclair Library

In addition to these three books, the required readings include the following articles on reserve at Sinclair:

l) Irwin, Geoffrey: "Pleistocene Voyaging and the Settlement of Greater Australia and its Near Oceanic Neighbours" (Chapter two of his book: The Prehistoric Exploration and Colonization of the Pacific. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 18-30 (1992).

2) Blust, Robert: "The Austronesian Homeland: A Linguistic Perspective." Asian Perspectives. Vol. 26, No. 1:46-67 (1984-1985).

3) Finney, Ben: "The Prince and the Eunuch" Chapter 12, pp. 196-208 of Interstellar Migration and the Human Experience. Ben Finney and Eric Jones (eds.), University of California Press, Berkeley (1985).

4) Parry, J. H.: The Discovery of the Sea. University Or California Press, Berkeley (1981) (Excerpts: pp. xi-41 (Introduction; Chapter 1: A Reliable Ship; Chapter 2: Finding the Way at Sea).

5) Parry, J. H.: The Discovery of the Sea. University of California Press, Berkeley (1981) Excerpts: pp. 234-261 (Chapters: The Pacific Crossing and the World Encompassed and Epilogue).

6) Goetzman, William: "The Cosmic Voyagers" Chapter 1, pp. 19-52 in Goetzman's book, New Lands. New Men. Viking, New York (1986).

7) Finney, Ben: "James Cook and the European Discovery of Polynesia." Ben Finney. In Maps and Metaphors. Robin Frazer and Hugh Johnston (eds.), University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver, Canada, 19-34.

Unfortunately, because of reproduction restrictions I was only able to put on reserve 3 copies of each of the book excerpts, chapters and articles listed above. For those of you who do not have the time to read these at Sinclair, I suggest that when you check out an item, you immediately use it to make a xerox copy for later study, and then return the original to the reserve room so that others can do the same.

READING ASSIGNMENTS The lectures and the readings are organized into three blocks.

Block 1: Polynesia. From 25 August to 17 October

l) Finney: Voyage of Rediscovery: read all

Supplementary reading for first week (August 25-29):

l) Irwin: "Pleistocene Voyaging and the Settlement of Greater Australia and its Near Oceanic Neighbours" (on reserve)

2) Blust: "The Austronesian Homeland: A Linguistic Perspective." (on reserve)

Block 2: Ancient Mediterranean From 20 October to 7 November

Casson: The Ancient Mariners: read all

Block 3: Ming China and the European Age(s) of Discovery
From 10 November to 11 December

l) Finney: "The Prince and the Eunuch" Chapter 12, pp. 196-208 of Interstellar Migration and the Human Experience. (on reserve)

2) Parry: The Discovery of the Sea. All excerpts, pp. xi-41; 234261 (on reserve)

3) Goetzman: "The Cosmic Voyagers" Chapter 1, pp. 19-52 of New Lands, New Men. (on reserve)

4) Finney: "James Cook and the European Discovery of Polynesia." Chapter 1, pp. 19-34 of Maps and Metaphors. (on reserve)

Approximately 40 % of the course grade

Approximately 60% of the course grade

[Subject: Anthropology; Pacific/Comparative]


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