A history of the Pacific Islands by Steven R. Fischer

By Steven R. Fischer

A background of the Pacific Islands lines the human background of approximately one-third of the globe over a 50,000 yr span. this is often historical past on a grand scale, taking the islands of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia from prehistoric tradition to the current day via a skillful interpretation of scholarship within the box. Fischer's familiarity with paintings in archaeology and anthropology in addition to in historical past enriches the textual content, making this a publication with huge allure for college kids and normal readers.

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Isolated from its Sahul parent continent since the filling of Torres Strait around 8000 years ago, New Guinea houses the world's richest treasury of languages within one confined geographical area: over a thousand Papuan and Austronesian tongues. Though one would expect genetic connections with the languages of Australia, whose Aborigines once shared Sahul with their northern neighbours the Archaic Papuans, none with reliable systematic correspondences has ever been found (perhaps because of the profound time depth which thwarts the limited capabilities of historical linguistics).

Using Western scientific methods, practitioners of modern archæology and Page 4 genetic profiling can confirm prehistoric migration paths, particularly through Sahul's northern reaches, which were plied tens of thousands of years ago. The region's tangible archæological record is impressive, and continually deepening. We now know, for example, that one northern site on New Guinea's Huon Peninsula served Archaic Papuans as prolonged shelter as early as 40 000 years ago. The Matenkupkum cave site on New Ireland in the Bismarck Archipelago, northeast of Papua New Guinea, apparently accommodated a small community around 33 000 years ago.

With each square kilometre of land – about 1 300 000 in all – come 130 of ocean. This is the ‘water continent’ that encompasses Pacific Islands (Map 1), a specialist term – based on geographical, biological, historical and ethnic criteria – for a specific Pacific region which excludes the Asian and American islands and archipelagos that are part of the greater Pacific Rim. New Guinea alone claims 70 per cent of Pacific Islands’ land, New Zealand a further 20 per cent. The remaining 10 per cent is made up of small, usually palm-fringed atolls and high islands lying hundreds, sometimes even thousands (as with Rapanui or Easter Island) of kilometres apart.

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