The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) is a research center for ethnology and cultural anthropology.

Maritime networks in the Asia-Pacific region in the past 50,000 years

Joint Research Coordinator ONO Rintaro

Reserch Theme List


maritime networks, Asia-Pacific region, resource use


Modern humans emerged on the African continent. Around 50,000 years ago they spread to Asia and the islands of Oceania. They crossed the oceans repeatedly to trade natural resources or processed goods and via this trade build vast networks. Throughout Asia and Oceania we find evidence of livelihoods based on maritime networks.
The purpose of this research is to explore from the perspective of the history of humanity, the universal and local character of these networks as reflected in material culture and the use of natural resources and their distribution through space and time. From a temporal perspective, we have archeological evidence spanning 50,000 years and ethnographic evidence spanning a century. From a spatial perspective, we will compare evidence from East Asia including Japan, Southeast Asia, and Oceania. The participating researchers will be a cross section of primarily archaeologists and cultural anthropologists. Through the comparative analysis described above, we will construct a model of humanity’s marine ecology that spans Asia and Oceania, with the goal of producing a book tentatively titled The Human History of Maritime Networks.