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Open Access Indigenous concepts of orientation of South Sulawesian sailors

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Indigenous concepts of orientation of South Sulawesian sailors

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This article presents some initial results of ongoing research on concepts of orientation of some maritime-orientated ethnic groups of South Sulawesi. I will not discuss the technicalities of indigenous navigation, but focus on the underlying concepts and categories of spatial orientation. I approach this through an analysis of the expressions and terms used by contemporary ‘traditional’ sailors and navigators to indicate a destination or direction. After outlining the problem and giving examples of spatial terminology used by South Sulawesian fishermen, sailors, and inter-island traders, in the second section I explain in detail the directional terms employed by the sailor-traders of Bira as an example of the complexity and sophistication of these patterns. The third and fourth sections place the discussion in the wider context of migration and settlement of insular Southeast Asia.

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