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The Cognitive and Cultural Dynamics of Taumako Navigation

A Preliminary Report by Dr. Marianne “Mimi” George Prepared for the National Science Foundation 2009

In the eight sections of this report are some detailed outlines of the data with some illustrations and photos provided in sections I, III, and VI. More general descriptions of data are provided for sections II, IV, V, VII, and VIII. In conclusion section IX offers observations as to how the data might prove or disprove our four hypotheses.

General Hypotheses:

  1. Taumako navigation constitutes a system of knowledge, practice, and material technology that demonstrates internal consistency and external adaptations to the environmental contexts of sailing in the region of Taumako voyaging.

  2. Taumako voyaging involves an orientation system for navigating at sea that is consonant with land based strategies for spatial arrangements of cultural significance such as district or village locations, positioning references for individuals vis-a-vis each other or environmental landmarks, and directional strategies for travel from place to place on land.

Specific Hypotheses:

  1. The Taumako wind-compass is abstract representation of wind position and behavior comparable to the abstract Carolinian star compass, and navigators refer to actual star, wind, wave, and swell bearings to keep on course.

  2. Taumako navigators dead reckoned in a way functionally analogous to Carolinian DR, but keyed to a wind compass, as opposed to a star compass.


This research was made possible by support from the National Science Foundation.


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