Societies of Oceania



Australians interacted with people from neighboring societies

Because Australia is so ecologically diverse, people enjoyed the access to food and other resources unknown to others they have encountered

Trade goods passed from one community to another until they came to a stop in regions far away from their origins

Pearly oyster shells were one of the most popular trade items. They were made into jewelry

Cultural and religious traditions

Cultural traditions of Australian people mostly did not diffuse beyond the regions inhabited by individual societies

Rocks, mountains, and forests were crucial for aboriginal peoples survival. They had stories about these geographical features.

They had religious observances in hopes of ensuring continuing supplies of other animals, plants, and water

Their cultural and religious traditions did not appeal to other regions because they had a deep concern with their immediate environment

Pacific Island Societies

Trade between Island groups

In central and western regions of the pacific , mariners linked Islam societies because there we're several clusters of islands that were relatively close to each other

Trade networks exchanged goods such as axes and pottery

Regional trade within individual island groups helped with social, political, and economic functions because it helped ruling elites establish and maintain harmonious relations

There were some cases where long distance trade occurred linking different island groups. An example is the tonga, Somoa, and Fiji islands trading mats and canoes.

In other places in Polynesia, vast stretches of water prevented travel between different island groups and the organization of trade networks. In the Hawaiian islands and New Zealand they changed goods amongst themselves but they didn't communicate with the surrounding islands of Tahiti, Somoa, or Tonga.

Population Growth

Polynesians of the eastern pacific and New Zealand built their societies in isolation.

They cultivated yams, sweet potatoes, and bananas and kept pigs and dogs. They also ate a lot fish which they caught by spear and hook.

After their population grew in the fourteenth century, the Hawai`i people built fish ponds that allowed small fry to swim from the ocean through narrow gates and rock enclosed spaces, but keep big fish trapped in. These ponds allowed Hawaiians to harvest large quantities of fish which contributed to islander food supplies. Agricultural and fishing societies contributed to a rapid population growth in all the large pacific islands

Development of social classes

Populations promoted Pacific Islanders to develop increasingly complex societies and political structures

Workers became more specialized. Some cultivated certain crops while others fished, produced axes, or constructed canoes

Ruling elites decided the course of public affairs in their societies

Tonga, Tahiti, and Hawai`i had great distinctions between classes of high chiefs, lesser chiefs, and commoners

The formation of chiefly states

In Polynesia, ruling chiefs oversaw public affairs in portions of an island sometimes the entire island or several islands close to each other

Tonga and Hawai`i high chiefs launched campaigns to bring more islands under their control and create centralized states. However, they were never able to overcome geographical and logistical difficulties and realize their ambitions before the nineteenth century

Chiefs gave land to families, mobilized labor for construction projects, and organized men into military forces

They had a huge respect in their societies (ate the best food, wore cloaks with tons of bright red and yellow bird feathers)

Polynesian Religion

Gods of war and agriculture were common throughout the pacific islands, but individual islands recognized deities that applied to their own region

Tonga and Somoa had places of worship made of timber and thatched roofs, where priests and gods communicated

Unlike Tonga and Somoa, in eastern Polynesia they has ceremonies in open-air courtyards

Pacific Islanders exploited their environments, established productive agricultural economies, built well organized societies, and engaged in trade with neighbors whenever possible

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