The Pacific Ocean covers one-third of the earth's surface and encompasses many thousands of islands, the home to numerous human societies and cultures. Among these indigenous Oceanic cultures are the intrepid Polynesian double-hulled canoe navigators, the atoll dwellers of Micronesia, the statue carvers of remote Easter Island, and the famed traders of Melanesia. Recent archaeological excavations, combined with allied research in historical linguistics, biological anthropology, and comparative ethnography, have begun to reveal much new information about the long-term history of these Pacific Island societies and cultures. On the Road of the Winds synthesizes the grand sweep of human history in the Pacific Islands, beginning with the movement of early people out from Asia more than 40,000 years ago, and tracing the development of myriad indigenous cultures up to the time of European contact in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries.
Questions that scholars have posed and puzzled over for two centuries or more are illuminated here: Where did the Pacific Islanders come from? How did they discover and settle the thousands of islands? Why did they build great monuments like Nan Madol on Pohnpei Island in Micronesia or the famous Easter Island statues? This book provides an up-to-date synthesis of archaeological and historical anthropological knowledge of these fascinating indigenous cultures.
In particular, Kirch focuses on human ecology and island adaptations, the complexities of island trading and exchange systems, voyaging technology and skills, and the development of intensive economic systems linked to the growth of large populations. He also draws on his own original field research conducted on many islands, ranging from the Solomons to Hawai'i, as he takes us on an intellectual voyage into the Oceanic past.
Patrick Vinton Kirch is Class of 1954 Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of seven books including The Evolution of the Polynesian Chiefdoms and Anahulu: The Anthropology of History in the Kingdom of Hawaii (with Marshall Sahlins, 1992).
"Pat Kirch summarizes the extraordinary explosion of the last two decades in our knowledge of Pacific prehistory, an explosion to which he has contributed more than anyone. His synthesis brings together results from all of the subfields of anthropology--ethnography, archaeology, biological anthropology, and linguistics.. . . No one knows this material as well or can present it in such an effective manner. This book should stand for a generation as the major synthesis of Oceanic prehistory."—Timothy Earle, author of How Chiefs Come to Power
"After nearly four decades of teaching the culture history of Oceania, I can say this is the only up-to-date work that gives a balanced and detailed account of Polynesia, Micronesia, Island Melanesia, and Papua-New Guinea. Moreover, Kirch is one of the more engaging writers of general books about the Pacific. This is the first book to which scholars and general readers will go to pursue any topic relating to Pacific archaeology."—Roger C. Green, Emeritus Professor, University of Auckland
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