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Bamboo raft launched to explore 30,000-year-old historical sea route

A traditional bamboo raft was launched in Taimali in Taitung County on Monday as part of a Taiwan-Japan project to explore a sea route between Taiwan and Okinawa that may have been traveled 30,000 years ago.

Bamboo raft launched to explore 30,000-year-old historical sea route
Launch of the traditional bamboo raft [Credit: National Museum of Prehistory]
Male and female rowers from Taiwan and Japan used paddles made in Yonaguni in Okinawa Prefecture to test the Amis style raft in waters off Taiwan's east coast.

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

Under the project crafted by the National Museum of Prehistory in Taitung and Japan's National Museum of Nature and Science, archeologists of the two countries will study whether humans traveled between Taiwan and Okinawa, Japan on similar vessels in the Paleolithic Period.

Lee Yu-fen (李玉芬), director of the Taiwanese museum, said Taiwan has been a hub for migration in East Asia since ancient times, and the raft voyage will help scholars revisit how humans could have defied natural odds to explore the unknown.

The museum said the raft's maker, Lawai, named it Ira, which in Amis means "there" -- hoping it will "arrive at a faraway place." Based on the meaning, the museum's deputy director Lin Chih-hsing (林志興) suggested a Chinese name for it -- "Qian Zhan" or "forward-looking."

According to Japanese archaeologists, 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 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.

Authors: Lee Hsien-feng and S.C. Chang | Source: Focus Taiwan [June 06, 2017]

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