Essays on the Marshallese Past

Traditional Material Culture

Traditional Skills

The environment and the raw materials available forced the Marshallese to develop skills and technologies adapted to the atolls. These skills range from gardening and fishing, to household skills such as weaving and food preparation. These skills ensured that the daily needs could be met and that this could be sustained over a long period of time. Land and food management skills, for example, controlled the wise exploitation of the available resources. Among these traditional skills was the weaving of mats, ranging from coarse by lightweight mats for sails to sitting and sleeping mats. The pinnacle of mat weaving, however, were the very fine and well ornamented clothing mats.

Traditional Material Culture

The traditional skills of the Marshallese found their manifestations in a number of technologies and artefacts, summarised under the term Traditional Material Culture. These technologies are well adapted to the needs of the environment, and encompass large things such as outrigger canoes and houses, and small items such as pandanus scrapers or breadfruit peelers. Given their environment it is hardly surprising to learn that the Marshallese traditionally were avid navigators who ventured far. Inter-atoll canoe traffic was common and the exploitation of varied marine resources a well developed skill. Exercising these skills to the fullest depended on the availability of a superior sailing craft, the sailing outrigger canoe.

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Bibliographic citation for this document

Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (1998). Essays on the Marshallese Past Second edition. Albury:

Dirk H.R. Spennemann, Institute of Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, P.O.Box 789, Albury NSW 2640, Australia.

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