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Early Seafaring in the Taiwan Strait and the Search for Austronesian Origins

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image of Journal of East Asian Archaeology

The Neolithic cultures of southeast China and Taiwan take on increased significance when considered in light of current debate over Austronesian origins. Austronesian speakers emerged from a homeland in China or Island Southeast Asia around 6000 years ago. Their descendants, including the Polynesians, effected an extraordinary series of migrations that culminated in the systematic discovery and colonization of remote landfalls as far-flung as Easter Island and Hawai'i. Evidence from archaeology, linguistics, human genetics, and physical anthropology contributes to debate over the location of the Austronesian homeland. One model suggests that Austronesian origins coincided with the emergence of a southeast China interaction sphere spanning the Taiwan Strait. An alternative view is that Austronesian origins more likely centered around eastern Indonesia. The geological sourcing of stone tools offers a new approach to the investigation of early Austronesian seafaring, documenting systematic Neolithic-era contact between Taiwan and the Penghu Islands, over an open-sea crossing of around 65 km. We explore the potential for future research on early seafaring in the Taiwan Strait.


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