Precarious landscapes: prehistoric settlement of the Marshall Islands

Citation metadata

Date: Mar. 2001
From: Antiquity(Vol. 75, Issue 287)
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Document Type: Brief article
Length: 712 words

Document controls

Main content

Article Preview :

Low coral atolls are the most precarious landscapes for human habitation since they have limited land area, humus-poor, undeveloped coralline soils and potable subterranean water restricted to the largest islets of an atoll. Since most atolls are scarcely more than 2 or 3 m above sea level and are frequently inundated by surge and seasonal typhoons, the long-term prehistoric occupation of atolls is all the more amazing (FIGURE 1). Since 1993, a multi-disciplinary project has been examining the human colonization of these small, dispersed landmasses, the cultural and economic adaptations to these unique islands and the historical transformations of atoll societies.

Situated just north of the equator and about 4000 km southwest of Hawai'i, the Marshall Islands consist of 29 atolls spread over nearly 1 million sq. km of ocean in a roughly linear arrangement traversing a rainfall gradient from 1500 mm in the dry north to more than 3000 mm in the wet south. Ecologists have demonstrated a significant relationship between modern population size and environment by examining atoll area and rainfall in the Marshall Islands. The...

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|A72501110