Astronomical Monuments in Polynesia and Micronesia

  • César Esteban
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-4425-0_9105

The pre‐European inhabitants of the Pacific islands were skillful and frequent inter‐island navigators. The most accurate directional indicators used by the Polynesian and Micronesian islanders – still used today in several parts of Oceania – were the rising and setting positions of stars (Grimble 1931; Goodenough 1953; Akerblom 1968; Gladwin 1970; Lewis 1994). The measurement of stellar positions and their movement over the celestial sphere was an important task for the ancient seafarers. In fact, astronomy was treated as a branch of navigation by the ancient Tongans (Collocott 1922) and, as the Jesuit priest Fr. Cantova reported from castaways from Woleai (Caroline Islands) at Guam in 1721, “The only thing they learn are some vague principles of astronomy to which most apply themselves due to its usefulness in navigation” (Lewis 1994: 112). The navigators defined the sailing directions by the use of “star compasses”, which divide the horizon into a number of parts identified by the...

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  • César Esteban

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