Last Chance for Lost Maritime Cultures at Bishop Landmark Exhibition Closes April 15

Ever seen a 7000-year-old canoe paddle! Times running out! Lost Maritime Cultures: China and the Pacific closes at the Bishop Museum April 15.

Bishop Museum scientists have been in search of answers to the question of the origins of the Pacific people and cultures since the inception of the Museum in 1883. They have placed a few more pieces of the puzzle with the world debut of Lost Maritime Cultures: China and the Pacific, a groundbreaking exhibition of international significance. Organized by Bishop Museum, the landmark exhibition explores cultural and anthropological connections between ancient China and Oceania.

Included in the display are the finest examples of prehistoric seafaring civilizations of China, featuring many rare national cultural treasures that have never traveled outside of the country. Most scientists have determined that Southeast China is the original homeland of the Austronesians, a group that includes Polynesians, Melanesians, Micronesians and the indigenous people in Southeastern Asian Archipelagos. Some of the maritime cultures featured in this exhibition are believed to be the ultimate source of the seafaring Austronesian culture that eventually spread out throughout the Pacific, reaching as far as the Hawaiian Islands.

Tianlong Jiao, Bishop Museum’s Chairman of Anthropology and a world-renowned expert in Chinese archaeology, directed this international research project with cooperation from the government of the People’s Republic of China and the support of the Freeman Foundation.

Working with the Chinese State Bureau of Cultural Heritage, the Department of Cultural Affairs of Fujian and Zhejiang Provinces, Jiao arranged for the loan of exciting examples of material culture from a prehistoric past dating from 3000 to 7000 years ago.

Lost Maritime Cultures has stimulated more discussion, more questions, and more reasons to identify what these cultures share in common and make them unique.

Lost Maritime Cultures includes extraordinary archaeological discoveries in Southeast China made over the past half century. The coast area of Southeast China was home to people who had great maritime traditions in prehistory. These maritime civilizations flourished from 7000 to 3000 years ago, but never were recorded in historic texts. It wasn’t until modern archaeology began in China that these cultural finds were unearthed and studied by archeologists.

The exhibition consists of three parts: The Beginning of Maritime Traditions in China, specifically in the Hemudu culture (7000-5000 B.P.); Voyaging on the Pacific Coast, featuring four seafaring societies in prehistoric Southeast China (6000-4000 B.P.); and the Splendor of Coastal Civilizations (5000-3000 B.P.), featuring three complex societies: The Liangzhu, the Huangtulun, and the Fubin.

The Hemudu people were rice farmers and fishermen who developed seafaring which allowed them to migrate southwards along the coast of Southeast China. Many scholars believe the Hemudu Culture was the ultimate source of the proto-Austronesian cultures. Their descendents colonized most of the Pacific Islands. The Hemudu people were also skilled carpenters and craftsmen, manufacturing fabulous ceramics, bone tools, stone adzes, and personal ornaments. Objects found in the Tianluoshan, Zishan, and Hemudu sites will be featured.

The second section of the exhibit looks at four seafaring societies of Southeast China 4000-6000 years ago: Keqiutou, Damoashan, Tanshishan, and Huangguashan. These people that lived along the coast and on the islands of Southeast China at that time were deeply tied to the sea. They were voyagers with a mixed economy of farming and fishing. They lived in small villages, made stone tools, manufactured ceramics, and exchanged goods with one another.

The last section of the exhibition features extraordinary artistic works created by indigenous peoples who lived on the coast of Southeast China from 5000 to 3000 years ago. This society had a high level of complexity of social and political organization. These people are believed to be descendants of the pre-/proto-Austronesians who

continued to live in China during these two millennia. Among the highlights are discoveries of the lost civilizations of the Liangzhu, Huangtulun and Fubin Cultures.

Liangzhu Culture has been called the “civilization of jade,” and is represented by splendid jade works with unparalleled artistic sophistication. The Huangtulun and Fubin Cultures were early Bronze Age civilizations and will be represented by elaborately manufactured ritual stone tools, weapons, and pottery.

The exhibition includes a hardcover, full-color catalogue (approximately 300 pages) published by Bishop Press available for purchase for $49.95 in Shop Pacifica at Bishop Museum. For catalogue ordering information, email or call (808) 848-4135.

For more information about Lost Maritime Cultures: China and the Pacific, call 808.847.3511, or visit the web site at


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