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Presentation

Abstract

The purpose of this presentation is to examine a specific case study in place identity, environmental knowledge systems, and cultural modification amongst humans to illustrate how oral folklore can encode the practical knowledge of environmental adaptation. Specifically, we will examine how traditional Polynesian myth-motifs and astronomical observation cumulatively predicted seasonal change, allowing for successul long-distance navigation and the manipulation of marine ecosystems for harvest of foodstuffs.

Reflecting the growing prominence of interdisciplinary approaches to human ecology, my wholly qualitative research was conducted as a survey of diverse literature; thus, the project was largely confined to the library. My methodological approach involved a survey of three realms: (1) historic botanical cultivation and details of food harvest were cited to establish trends in subsistence and environmental change; (2) ethnographic publications were utilized to establish key attributes of regional mythology; and (3) archaeogical reports of excavation at ancient observatories and contemporary firsthand accounts of navigation were used to explore resiliency of environmental adaptation.

The professional work of Dr. Jeffrey A. Gritzner, which articulates aspects of human ecology from a multidisciplinary perspective, has influenced both my approach to research and its written presentation. The extensive expertise of Patrick V. Kirch invaluably contributes to our discussion; additionally, regional expert Dr. David Lewis has regularly drawn correlations between oral folklore and environmental competency. I submit that my work is original because I propose that Polynesian mythology reflects an awareness of Earth as an interconnected system in the “modern sense,” a consideration that suggests Polynesian astronomers were relatively more “correct” about the functioning of ecosystems than previously assumed. Thus, the second half of this presentation situates environmental knowledge in a contemporary setting and addresses the perseverance of Polynesian navigation skills into modern times, reflecting the value and reliability of folkloric tradition as a means of environmental adaptation.

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Humanities

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Apr 11th, 11:00 AM Apr 11th, 11:20 AM

Ocean Around, Ocean Above: Intersections of Archaeoastronomy and Wayfinding in Oceanian Folklore and the Evolution of Environmental Knowledge Across Polynesian History and Place

The purpose of this presentation is to examine a specific case study in place identity, environmental knowledge systems, and cultural modification amongst humans to illustrate how oral folklore can encode the practical knowledge of environmental adaptation. Specifically, we will examine how traditional Polynesian myth-motifs and astronomical observation cumulatively predicted seasonal change, allowing for successul long-distance navigation and the manipulation of marine ecosystems for harvest of foodstuffs.

Reflecting the growing prominence of interdisciplinary approaches to human ecology, my wholly qualitative research was conducted as a survey of diverse literature; thus, the project was largely confined to the library. My methodological approach involved a survey of three realms: (1) historic botanical cultivation and details of food harvest were cited to establish trends in subsistence and environmental change; (2) ethnographic publications were utilized to establish key attributes of regional mythology; and (3) archaeogical reports of excavation at ancient observatories and contemporary firsthand accounts of navigation were used to explore resiliency of environmental adaptation.

The professional work of Dr. Jeffrey A. Gritzner, which articulates aspects of human ecology from a multidisciplinary perspective, has influenced both my approach to research and its written presentation. The extensive expertise of Patrick V. Kirch invaluably contributes to our discussion; additionally, regional expert Dr. David Lewis has regularly drawn correlations between oral folklore and environmental competency. I submit that my work is original because I propose that Polynesian mythology reflects an awareness of Earth as an interconnected system in the “modern sense,” a consideration that suggests Polynesian astronomers were relatively more “correct” about the functioning of ecosystems than previously assumed. Thus, the second half of this presentation situates environmental knowledge in a contemporary setting and addresses the perseverance of Polynesian navigation skills into modern times, reflecting the value and reliability of folkloric tradition as a means of environmental adaptation.