Polynesian Stick Charts

The peoples of the Polynesian islands traveled to and colonized the islands of the Pacific centuries ago, and maintained a common culture by traveling between islands on canoes. How did these peoples manage to depart the safe shores and travel between the many islands safely?

It turns out that simple yet accurate charts made of sticks have long been used by the Polynesians to map islands, currents, and sea swells. These charts came in different types, and the information was closely guarded as secrets. Although the maps appear primitive, the stick charts are a significant contribution to the history of cartography because they represent the first system of mapping ocean swells.

stick-chart

You can read more information here, here and here. Most interestingly, this article explains how the maps can be read.

About Curzon

Lord George Nathaniel Curzon (1859 - 1925) entered the British House of Commons as a Conservative MP in 1886, where he served as undersecretary of India and Foreign Affairs. He was appointed Viceroy of India at the turn of the 20th century where he delineated the North West Frontier Province, ordered a military expedition to Tibet, and unsuccessfully tried to partition the province of Bengal during his six-year tenure. Curzon served as Leader of the House of Lords in Prime Minister Lloyd George's War Cabinet and became Foreign Secretary in January 1919, where his most famous act was the drawing of the Curzon Line between a new Polish state and Russia. His publications include Russia in Central Asia (1889) and Persia and the Persian Question (1892). In real life, "Curzon" is a US citizen from the East Coast who has been a financial analyst, freelance translator, and university professor; he is currently on assignment in Tokyo.
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6 Responses to Polynesian Stick Charts

  1. J0okwe says:

    Not Polynesian, Micronesian. Note that all of your sources talk about the Marshallese, who aren’t Polynesian.

  2. Curzon says:

    Blame thenonist.com, the primary source of the article:
    http://thenonist.com/index.php/thenonist/permalink/stick_charts/

  3. Aceface says:

    Nope.Curzon is correct.There’s a concept called “Polynesian Outliers” and that is the concept of certain polynesian culture and linguistics had splattered and left isolated in certain parts of Micronesia and Melanesia.Navigational knowledge in Micronesia is believed to be the legacy of Polynesian influence in the region.

  4. Roy Berman says:

    It reminds me a bit of the Incan quipo, an information recording media composed of knotted string. While many thousands of quipo survive, the Spanish did such a thorough job of wiping out their culture that nobody in the world has any idea how to read them, or what kind of information they encode.

  5. Aceface says:

    Roy.There were many Inca aristocracy who joined Pissaro and the conquistadors after the Spanish takeover.Quipう didn’t just died out unlike Maya and Aztec characters Actually it was used along with Spanish papers to keep the record of the colony.

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