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Oceania

» Long Ago and Far Away

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The Pacific Ocean is the largest geographic feature on earth, more so than all the land areas of the world combined. The fact that the islands of Oceania spread out over a large portion of the Pacific has long made scholars question how those islands could have been populated. Most agree that, like other areas of the earth, Oceania was populated by people migrating in search of food and later, farmland. There is strong support for the theory that people arrived on the islands in canoes or rafts.

One reason this is thought to be the case is because languages throughout the region are similar, belonging to a language family known as Austronesian. Though the languages differ, many words are similar. Their words for rice, yams, taro, and sugarcane suggest that the early island settlers ate many of the same things. Since their words for dogs, chickens, and pigs are much the same, it is believed they brought these animals to the islands.

Similarities are also found in the pottery people use. A style called lapita pottery found across Oceania is also found in mainland China, suggesting that some early people migrated by boat from there. Local stories also serve to support this idea. For example, people in Hawaii and other islands tell of early fisherman who caught islands, not fish.

So how could people travel across such a vast ocean in simple canoes or rafts? That question may have been answered, at least in part, in 1947 by the explorer Thor Heyerdahl. Heyerdahl built a balsa wood raft (pictured below) and sailed 4,300 miles in 101 days from Peru to reach the Tuamoto Archipelago, proving that small, ancient rafts could in fact have made such a journey from the east.

heyerdahl-boat

Answer the following questions from the reading.

Which statement is supported by the passage?

Experts agree that early Oceanic settlers came from China.
It is likely that most early island settlers arrived by water.
All Pacific people came from the same area of the world.
Most early island settlers arrived in rafts from the east.

Lapita pottery supports the idea that

early settlers arrived with animals.
Austronesians came from China.
islanders used balsa wood rafts.
many settlers came from Peru.

A synonym for the word theory would be

fact.
science.
thought.
conjecture.

All of these adjectives could describe Thor Heyerdahl EXCEPT

brave.
determined.
ancient.
creative.