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  • ‘Canoe traffic’ of the Torres Strait and Fly Estuary

    David Russell Lawrence

    Chapter from the book: Siikala, J. 2021. Culture and History in the Pacific.


    This paper concentrates on the material aspects of the interaction between Torres Strait Islanders and the Papuan peoples of the Fly estuary and the southwest coastal region of Papua New Guinea. In spite of the differences in ecology, habitation history and subsistence practices, or perhaps because of them, interaction between peoples of the region has a long history. Such patterns of interaction between linguistic and culturally diverse groups of peoples is well known in the Melanesian region. Historically, one of the most important cultural links between Papuans and Islanders has been regular and sustained contact maintained by voyages in large ocean-going canoes. The interesting aspect of this relationship from an economic point of view has been not only the exchange by canoes, that is, using canoes as a means of exchange, but also exchange in canoes, where the canoe itself has been the principal object of exchange. Exchange relations between Torres Strait Islanders, coastal Papuans and Australian Aboriginal groups at Cape York were facilitated by means of a sophisticated maritime technology and operated within the confines of well established real and fictive kinship ties.

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    Lawrence, D. 2021. ‘Canoe traffic’ of the Torres Strait and Fly Estuary. In: Siikala, J (ed.), Culture and History in the Pacific. Helsinki: Helsinki University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.33134/HUP-12-12

    This chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution + Noncommercial 4.0 license. Copyright is retained by the author(s)

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    Published on Sept. 29, 2021


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