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Southeast Asia and Oceania

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Migrations of early Humans into
Island SE Asia and Melanesia
New Guinea
transition to farming
Kuk Swamp, New Guinea
• Evidence for transition to agriculture from early hunter-gatherer
• forest clearing and possible water management (diversion), ca. 7000
• Early Holocene domestication of taro and banana, together with
some varieties of sugarcane and yams
• More organized agricultural works, including mounding for
cultivation by ca. 5000 BC and grid-like ditching by 2000 BC, with
evidence for more extensive forest clearing related to banana and
taro cultivation
• Recent development of more complex systems related to
introduction of sweet potato (the “Ipomean revolution”); food for
• Foundation for surplus production for exchange rituals in pigs and
shells (called “Big-man” systems)
Early “Vegeculture”
• In the 1950s, geographer Carl Sauer suggested
that early agriculture occurred first in tropical
forest regions of SE Asia
• Based on vegeculture, growing not by seeds by
plant cuttings, of tropical forest plants, most
notably root crops
• Happened along major rivers first, where early
settled villages had emerged based on highly
productive exploitation of rich aquatic resources
The Austronesians
Peter Bellwood
• Earliest Austronesians
• Dabenkeng culture (3000-2000 BC)
• Nanguanli site, waterlogged site dating to 3000-2500
BC, which yielded cord-marked, red-slipped ceramics,
clay spindle whorls, shell knives, carbonized rice and
foxtail millet
• From 3000-900 BC Austronesians spread from Taiwan
through Philippines, eastern Indonesia, Western Pacific
(Micronesia and Island Melanesia), and western
Polynesia (Tonga and Samoa)
• Red-slipped and often cordmarked pottery; outside of
Taiwan developed into circle and punctate stamped
pottery in the Philippines, Micronesia, and Lapita sites in
500 BC-AD 1
1500 BC
AD 700-1250
1350-900 BC
Settlement pauses
relate to development
of watercraft, notaby
outrigger canoes
(pause 1) by 2000 BC
and “double canoe”
in Polynesia
(pause 2)
Outrigger canoe
Double canoe
Lapita Colonization in Melanesia, 1350-900 BC
(Proto-Oceanic Austronesian)
“Tattooed pottery”
Pigs, chickens, yams, dog, taro carried on sailing vessels
Lapita settlements, with sand and crushed shell tempered and decorated pottery, are
rich in diverse artifacts and cultural features, like ovens, hearths, and postholes,
tied to maritime and horticultural economy, which included pigs, fowl, and dogs.
Sites average 1 ha (2.5 acres) with some larger sites (7-8 ha; 18-20 acres).
In malaria-free regions, beyond Vanuatu, populations grew rapidly.
Bone, and
Shell Tools
Tapa (bark cloth)
Polynesian Colonization
• Eastern Polynesia colonized
ca. AD 700-1250
500 BC – AD 1
AD 700-1250
Forms of Social Organization
(Elman Service, 1962)
• Pre-State small-scale and kin-based “simple” societies:
bands and tribes: small-sized (10s to 100s autonomous
social groupings, egalitarian, division of labor and
status based on age, sex, and personal characteristics
or achievements);
• Chiefdoms: medium-sized social formations
(1000s to 10,000s), ranked kin-groups based on
hereditary status (incipient classes), regionallyorganized, integrated (non-autonomous) communities
• State (territory and class-based societies);
Large societies divided into stratified social classes,
with centralized government, a ruling elite class, able to
levy taxes (tribute), amass a standing army, and enforce
The Rise of Social Inequality
and Complexity
• “Rank Revolution”
• What led to the emergence of social stratification
(rise of social classes) and complexity (regional
integration and institutional differentiation within
• How were personal and social autonomy and
egalitarian social structures transformed into
societies in which people were subordinate to
others based on birth and social position, at both
community and regional levels
• simple “two-tiered” hierarchy: people are either elite or
commoner, in part related to hereditary (incipient classes);
• generally based on semi-intensive economies;
• various communities integrated into regional society,
typically showing a “bi-modal” or rank-ordered settlement
pattern: one or a few large (first-order) settlements, with
smaller (second-and third-order) satellite settlements linked
to these;
• formal, even full-time specialists: religious specialists,
warriors, chiefs, artisans;
Ancient Polynesian Society
• The chiefdom was first clearly defined in Polynesia
(Sahlins 1958; Service 1962)
• Societies based not only on reciprocity, but on
redistribution economies: strategic resources were
concentrated in the hands of a few (chiefs) who then
redistributed these to lower ranking community members
• APS has its roots in earlier forms of hierarchical social
organization in Lapita societies, and later diversified as it
spread throughout Polynesia
• In Polynesia, chiefdoms developed complex forms of
terrace fields, canal irrigation fields, and other semiintensive forms of food production (fish ponds, pond
fields), marked warfare and conquest, monumental
architecture, and, in some cases (Hawaii, Tonga), highly
stratified social organization
The Ramage or Conical Clan
• Internally ranked, or
hierarchical, social
organization based
on primogeniture
• Tendency to “ramify,”
that is subordinate
lineages split off main
group to found new
Over time this process
results in long-distance
migrations (island-hopping)
that helps explain colonization
of Polynesia by Austronesians
Trade, Interaction, Alliance
Shell necklace, a component of the
famous Kula trade ring in the Trobriands
Trobriand (Melanesia)
kula trading vessel
The Tui Tonga, the sacred ruler of the 160+ island polity of
Tonga (western Polynesia), for instance, engaged in alliance
marriages with daughters of ruling lineages from Samoa and
Fiji, many hundreds of miles away.
The Navigators
Polynesian ocean map
Colonization: Western Polynesia (Lapita), 1350-900 BC,
and eastern Polynesia, AD 700 to 1250
Diversification: Population, ecology,
and social structure (status rivalry)
As colonizing populations
adapted to the unique
conditions of different islands,
APS groups became increasingly
diversified and distinctive
Marshall Sahlins (1958) proposed that differences in environment
and food production strategies were critical to divergent
cultural development through Polynesia
(big, high islands supported larger groups, with more
Intensive economies and small, low islands less)
High islands, which provided the
richest environments for human
exploitation, are where
the largest and most complex
of the Polynesian chiefdoms emerged;
Atolls were at the opposite extreme
Marae (general term for shrine/temple
in Polynesia)
Fish Weirs
Stone Houses
Langi: coral slabbed earthen
burial mound for Tongan nobles
Mound for Tui Tonga, sacred ruler of Tongan
empire (160 islands), at Tongatapu, the small
sacred capital where the Tui Tonga and related
nobles lived
Latte, stone pillars
(Marianas, Micronesia)
Yap, stone “money”
The stones were made from
imported limestone (most from Palau,
250 miles SW). Very rare and valuable.
Expeditions to get stones led by chiefs
with select a group of brave and
involved great peril, even death.
Nan Madol, Pohnpei
(Caroline Islands, Micronesia)
Built from large
basalt blocks, some
weighing as much
as fifty tons on an
ancient coral reef,
with hundreds of
artificial structures,
intersected by
manmade canals.
Nan Madol
Moai (giant tikis)
Easter Island (Rapa Nui)
first settled ca. AD 900
(or earlier)
Line of maoi on large platform (ahu)
Tallest 11.5 m
(38 ft); built ca.
AD 1100-1650
Contact with
South America?
Competition, Warfare,
Deforestation, and
Societal Collapse
Many moai toppled
during period of intense
“By the time Europeans discovered the island in 18th century it had been
rendered almost treeless, the carving of statues had apparently ceased,
and the inhabitants were described as living a fairly wretched existence”
Written language
First small colonist chiefdoms (AD 700 or earlier); rapid population growth
from AD 1200-1400, led to development of larger,
regionally integrated, and later island wide paramount chiefdoms.
• Originally it was argued that rich wet areas of Hawai’i gave
rise to largest, most powerful chiefdoms, but Patrick Kirch
(1994) argued that in Hawai’i (and Futuna) the most
aggressive and expansive chiefdoms originated in the riskdominated (dry) areas, who came to dominate those
societies in areas of fertile alluvial soils suitable for irrigated
taro cultivation
Pie-shaped distribution of territories (ahupua’a),
corresponding to ecological as well as
social differences.
Hawaiians developed sophisticated technology
to support their large population, as well as
costly chiefly and priestly ritual.
Hawai’i became the
largest and most
complex of the Polynesia
chiefdoms after, Chief
Kamehameha I consolidated
by force the five island polities
into a single multi-island
polity in early 19th century
What is a City? Definitions Vary, and some
quite small.
• “In Germany as a whole in the late middle
ages [1300-1500], 3,000 places were
reckoned to have been granted the status
of cities; their average population was no
more than 400 individuals” (Braudel
• Among largest,
Dresden about
Endeavor (1778-71)
Captain James Cook, died in 1779,
on his third voyage in conflict with
The Fleet of Otaheite, Tahiti, 1774
New Zealand, colonized AD 1250
Maori pa (fortified
earthwork enclosures)
Abel Tasman encounters Maori in 1642
New Zealand is often contrasted with Hawaii, in terms of
social developments toward large, populous chiefdoms,
and aggressive warfare, without marked social
Maori warrior
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