Wed, Jun 07, 2017 - Page 4 News List

Raft to explore ancient sea route

Staff writer, with CNA

Taiwanese and Japanese prepare to launch the bamboo raft Ira to test its seaworthiness in Taitung County’s Taimali Township on Monday.

Photo: Huang Ming-tang, Taipei Times, from the Internet

A traditional bamboo raft was on Monday launched in Taitung County’s Taimali Township (太麻里) as part of a Taiwanese-Japanese project to explore a sea route between Taiwan and Okinawa that might have been traveled 30,000 years ago.

Male and female rowers from Taiwan and Japan used paddles made on the island of Yonaguni to test the Amis-style raft in waters off Taiwan’s east coast.

They plan to cross the Kuroshio Current and travel 33km east to Green Island this month and then to Yonaguni, 110km east of Taiwan.

Under the project created by the Taitung-based National Museum of Prehistory and Japan’s National Museum of Nature and Science, Taiwanese and Japanese archeologists will study whether humans traveled between Taiwan and Okinawa on similar vessels during the Paleolithic era.

National Museum of Prehistory director Lee Yu-fen (李玉芬) said Taiwan has been a hub for migration in East Asia since ancient times, adding that the raft voyage would help academics revisit how humans could have defied natural odds to explore the unknown.

The Taiwanese museum said the raft’s maker, Lawai, named it Ira — which means “there” in Amis — hoping it would “arrive at a faraway place.”

Based on that meaning, National Museum of Prehistory deputy director Lin Chih-hsing (林志興) suggested the Chinese name Qian Zhan (前瞻), or “forward-looking.”

According to Japanese archeologists, the early inhabitants of Japan most likely traveled tens of thousands of years ago from eastern Siberia to Hokkaido; from the Korean Peninsula to Kyushu and Honshu; and from Taiwan to the Ryukyu Islands.

Stone tools that were found in Taitung’s Changbin Township (長濱) indicate a human presence there about 50,000 to 5,000 years ago in the late Paleolithic period.

Lin said that since no human remains were found in Changbin, it is difficult to determine if the inhabitants made any sea voyages.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top