In an effort to solve the riddle of whether humans made the long journey from Taiwan to Okinawa in Japan more than 30,000 years ago, Japan’s National Museum of Nature and Science announced on May 24 a joint study with Taiwan’s National Museum of Prehistory to make a test journey in mid June in the seas approximately 30 km off the coast of Taiwan in a bamboo raft.
Human bones dating to the Palaeolithic discovered in Okinawa have DNA characteristic of people from Southeast Asia. It is therefore thought that these people possibly originated from the south. Some archaeologists believe that prehistoric humans made the trip across the sea to Okinawa from Taiwan, which was joined at the time to the Asian mainland.
Last July the research team made a test journey between Okinawa’s Yonaguni and Iriomote-jima islands, traveling roughly 70 km in a thatched boat. The trip was originally set for 2019, to travel between Yonaguni Island and Taiwan — a journey of 110km at the shortest point — but it was decided to first make a short trial journey to carry out tests, including for the influence of the Kuroshio Current en route.
Since Taiwan cannot grow reeds suitable for making thatched rafts, next month’s trial journey will be carried out in a raft, approximately 10 meters long, 80 cms wide and able to hold five people, made of bamboo grown in Taiwan. The plan is to set off in the bamboo raft from Taiwan’s southeast coast to a point 30 kms offshore, which is expected to take at least 10 hours.
In addition to testing the influence of the Kuroshio Current, this trial bamboo raft journey is also designed to test the raft’s durability and stability, as well as capacity, in terms of how many people and how much food it can hold.
According to Yousuke Kaifu, who is leading the research team, “We want to see what the buoyancy and speed of the bamboo raft is like. People 30,000 years ago would not have had many tools, and we would really like to find out from this trial journey how exactly they would have been able to cross the Kuroshio.”
The research team will use the data obtained from June’s test journey to decide the route and details of the plan for the 2019 journey.
Source article: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/lang/archives/2017/05/28/2003671407