Program 2023-2024

Events for the spring of 2023 (Jan-Jun)

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3rd of June


Modern human maritime migration and fishing in Island SEA and Oceania: A view from zoo-archaeological and ethno-archaeological studies

with Rintaro Ono, National Museum of Ethnology of Japan

Homo Sapiens or modern human are so far the only human species succeed to migrate into most of remote area including islands in the world. For the migration into remote islands, we need sea crossing technologies and skills including vessels and navigation. Currently, the human migration into Sahul land (Australia and New Guinea) from Wallacea archipelago is known as the oldest long-distance voyaging and maritime migration by modern human, which can be back to over 50,000 to 45,000 years ago. The recent archaeological excavations in Timor and adjacent islands in Wallacea have found traces of early modern human maritime adaption such as pelagic fish bones and shell made hooks back to the Pleistocene time. For example, our findings of the world oldest traces of tuna fishing in Jerimalai (or Asitaukuru) site in East Timor dated to 42,000 BP show that early modern human in Wallacea developed the skills of catching such fast swimming fish species possibly in off-shore fishing grounds. In this presentation, I talk some more details about our zoo-archaeological study of the excavated fish bones from Jerimalai site and early modern human fishing in Wallacea.

In Island Southeast Asia and Oceania, the second epoch of maritime human migration occurred in the Neolithic times during the middle Holocene around 4000 BP. This is the Austronesian migration possibly originated from southern Chinese coasts and Taiwan into Island Southeast Asia and Oceania. In Oceania, islands in Micronesia and Polynesia as well as western Melanesia beyond the Solomon Islands were all settled firstly by these Austronesian people as most of these islands are remote islands. For examples, the migration from the nearest Philippine islands to the Mariana Islands in Micronesia needs over 2000 km voyaging and the migration into Hawaii Islands, Rapa Nui (Easter Island), and New Zealand also need over 4000 km voyage from any nearest island in Polynesia. For the success of such maritime migration, Austronesian or the Neolithic people also might develop their maritime skills and technologies including long-distant voyages and vessels. Here, based on my zoo-archaeological analysis of fish remains and fishing tools from these Neolithic sites in Island Southeast Asia and Oceania, I introduce the strategies and development of fishing technologies by the early Austronesian people. For further discussion, I also would like to compare the archaeological results with my ethno-archaeological data of the contemporaneous fishing by Sama-Bajau people known as maritime Austronesian people in Island Southeast Asia.

Rintaro Ono is Professor at the National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka, Japan. He received his M.A. (2000) and Ph.D

. (2006) in Area Studies (Southeast Asian Studies) at Sophia University, Japan. His research is focused on Maritime Archaeology and Anthropology, and specifically human maritime adaptation process, human migration into Island Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, human maritime exploitation history, and maritime trade history. He has been involved in many research projects in Japan (Okinawa), Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, and Micronesia. He has been a visiting researcher or collaborator with some national and international laboratories and universities. He has published over 100 academic papers and book chapters both in Japanese and English, and he is the co-editor of the books Prehistoric Marine Resource Use in the Indo-Pacific Regions (ANU E Press, 2013), Pleistocene Archaeology: Migration, Technology and Adaptation (IntechOpen, 2020; co-editing with Alfred Pawlik), and The Prehistory of Human Migration – Human Expansion, Resource Use, and Mortuary Practice in Maritime Asia (IntechOpen, in press; co-editing with Alfred Pawlik), all of which are available for free in open access. Rintaro is currently the head of MAPS (Maritime Asia and Pacific Studies) project at the NIHU (National Institutes for the Humanities) in Japan since 2023. The web site of this project is