Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Radio Free Asia (RFA): "A young North Korean man conscripted to guard a customs post on his country's border with China in under arrest for shooting dead seven platoon members who had angered him with bullying treatment, RFA’s Korean Service has learned."
"Desperate times lead to desperate measures,” so the saying goes, and a new study finds male baboons are no exception.
Some baboon males vying for a chance to father their own offspring expedite matters in a gruesome way — they kill infants sired by other males and attack pregnant females, causing them to miscarry, researchers report.
The behavior reduces their waiting time to breed with pregnant and nursing females, who otherwise wouldn't become sexually available again for up to a year.
The perpetrators are more prone to commit domestic violence when forced to move into a group with few fertile females, said first author Matthew Zipple, a graduate student in professor Susan Albert's lab at Duke University.
University of Arizona (UA):
Rainfall patterns in the Sahara during the 6,000-year "Green Sahara" period have been pinpointed by analyzing marine sediments, according to new research led by a UA geoscientist.
What is now the Sahara Desert was the home to hunter-gatherers who made their living off the animals and plants that lived in the region's savannahs and wooded grasslands 5,000 to 11,000 years ago.
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB):
China, the world's largest seafood producer, has done something extraordinary. For the past 20 years, despite minimal management and some of the most intense industrial fishing in the world, it has maintained large catches of key species in its most productive waters.
That same kind of intense, lightly managed industrial fishing has collapsed other fisheries, such as Newfoundland’s cod fishery in the 1990s. China's ability to sustain its catches has puzzled scientists, some of whom have even questioned the accuracy of the country's catch reports.
A new study from UC Santa Barbara, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests another explanation: By reducing the population of predatory fish, China has increased populations of preyed-upon species.
Survive Like a Spy: How Top CIA Operatives
Stay Safe in a Dangerous World —
and How You Can Too
Nonfiction book by Jason Hanson
Publication Date: September 26, 2017
Penguin Random House:
Follow-up to the New York Times bestseller Spy Secrets That Can Save Your Life — revealing high-stakes techniques and survival secrets from real intelligence officers in life-or-death situations around the world
Everyone loves a good spy story, but most of the ones we hear are fictional. That's because the most dangerous and important spycraft is done in secret, often without anyone even noticing.
In Survive Like a Spy, bestselling author and former CIA officer Jason Hanson takes the reader deep inside the world of espionage, revealing true stories and expert tactics from real agents engaged in life-threatening missions around the world.
With breathtaking accounts of spy missions in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Korea, Japan and elsewhere, the book reveals how to:
- Achieve mental sharpness to be ready for anything
- Escape if taken hostage
- Defend yourself if detained by foreign cops
- Set up a perfect safe site
- Assume a fake identity
- Master the "Weapons of Mass Influence" to recruit others to build rapport and make allies when you need them most
With real-life spy drama that reads like a novel paired with expert practical techniques, Survive Like a Spy is the perfect read for fans of espionage, as well as anyone who wants to stay safe in a fast-changing world.
Monday, January 16, 2017
Pennsylvania State University:
The goal of eliminating malaria in countries like India could be more achievable if mosquito-control efforts take into account the relationship between mosquitoes and cattle, according to an international team of researchers.
"In many parts of the world, the mosquitoes responsible for transmitting malaria are specialist feeders on humans and often rest within human houses," said Matthew Thomas, professor of entomology, Penn State. "We found that in an area of India that has a high burden of malaria, most of the mosquitoes that are known to transmit malaria rest in cattle sheds and feed on both cows and humans."
According to Jessica Waite, postdoctoral scholar in entomology, Penn State, cattle sheds are often next to, and sometimes even connected by, a shared wall to human houses, yet current control efforts are restricted to domestic dwellings only.
The Women Who Flew for Hitler: A True Story
of Soaring Ambition and Searing Rivalry
Nonfiction book by Clare Mulley
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Despite Hitler's dictates on women's place being in the home, two fiercely defiant female pilots were awarded the Iron Cross during the Second World War. Other than this unique distinction and a passion for flying that bordered on addiction, these women could not have been less alike.
One was Aryan Nazi poster-girl Hanna Reitsch, an unsurpassed pilot, who is now best-known for being the last person to fly into Berlin-under-siege in April 1945, in order to beg Hitler to let her save him. He refused and killed himself two days later. The other pilot was her antithesis, a brilliant aeronautical engineer and test pilot, Melitta Schenk Gräfin von Stauffenberg, who was part Jewish. She used her value to the Luftwaffe as a means to protect her family. When her brother-in-law, Claus von Stauffenberg, planned the Valkyrie attack to assassinate the Führer, she agreed to provide the transport.
Both women repeatedly risked their lives to change the history of the Third Reich — one in support of and the other in opposition. Mulley shows, through dazzling film-like scenes suffused in glamour and danger, that their interwoven dramas are a powerful forgotten story of conformity and resistance and the very strength of women at the heart of the Second World War.
Université de Montréal, Canada:
The timing of the first entry of humans into North America across the Bering Strait has now been set back 10,000 years.
This has been demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt by Ariane Burke, a professor in Université de Montréal's Department of Anthropology, and her doctoral student Lauriane Bourgeon, with the contribution of Dr. Thomas Higham, deputy director of Oxford University's Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit.
Their findings were published in early January in the open-access journal PLoS One.
The earliest settlement date of North America, until now estimated at 14,000 years Before Present (BP) according to the earliest dated archaeological sites, is now estimated at 24,000 BP, at the height of the last ice age or Last Glacial Maximum.
The researchers made their discovery using artifacts from the Bluefish Caves, located on the banks of the Bluefish River in northern Yukon near the Alaska border. The site was excavated by archaeologist Jacques Cinq-Mars between 1977 and 1987. Based on radiocarbon dating of animal bones, the researcher made the bold hypothesis that human settlement in the region dated as far back as 30,000 BP.
In the absence of other sites of similar age, Cinq-Mars's hypothesis remained highly controversial in the scientific community. Moreover, there was no evidence that the presence of horse, mammoth, bison and caribou bones in the Bluefish Caves was due to human activity.
To set the record straight, Bourgeon examined the approximate 36,000 bone fragments culled from the site and preserved at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau — an enormous undertaking that took her two years to complete. Comprehensive analysis of certain pieces at UdeM's Ecomorphology and Paleoanthropology Laboratory revealed undeniable traces of human activity in 15 bones. Around 20 other fragments also showed probable traces of the same type of activity.
"Series of straight, V-shaped lines on the surface of the bones were made by stone tools used to skin animals," said Burke. "These are indisputable cut marks created by humans."
Bourgeon submitted the bones to further radiocarbon dating. The oldest fragment, a horse mandible showing the marks of a stone tool apparently used to remove the tongue, was radiocarbon dated at 19,650 years, which is equivalent to between 23,000 and 24,000 cal BP (calibrated years Before Present).
"Our discovery confirms previous analyses and demonstrates that this is the earliest known site of human settlement in Canada," said Burke. "It shows that Eastern Beringia was inhabited during the last ice age."
Beringia is a vast region stretching from the Mackenzie River in the Northwest Territories to the Lena River in Russia. According to Burke, studies in population genetics have shown that a group of a few thousand individuals lived in isolation from the rest of the world in Beringia 15,000 to 24,000 years ago.
"Our discovery confirms the 'Beringian standstill [or genetic isolation] hypothesis,'" she said, "Genetic isolation would have corresponded to geographical isolation. During the Last Glacial Maximum, Beringia was isolated from the rest of North America by glaciers and steppes too inhospitable for human occupation to the West. It was potentially a place of refuge."
The Beringians of Bluefish Caves were therefore among the ancestors of people who, at the end of the last ice age, colonized the entire continent along the coast to South America.
Pennsylvania State University: "A chemical that is thought to be safe and is, therefore, widely used on crops — such as almonds, wine grapes and tree fruits — to boost the performance of pesticides, makes honey bee larvae significantly more susceptible to a deadly virus, according to researchers at Penn State and the U.S. Department of Agriculture."
Sunday, January 15, 2017
Defectors: A Novel
By Joseph Kanon
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Simon & Schuster:
From the bestselling author of Leaving Berlin and The Good German comes a fast-paced and richly imagined novel about an American spy, the Cold War's most notorious defector, who gave up his country for the safety — and prison — of Moscow, but never lost his gift for betrayal.
In 1949, Frank Weeks, fair-haired boy of the newly formed CIA, was exposed as a Communist spy and fled the country to vanish behind the Iron Curtain. Now, twelve years later, he has written his memoirs, a KGB-approved project almost certain to be an international bestseller, and has asked his brother Simon, a publisher, to come to Moscow to edit the manuscript. It's a reunion Simon both dreads and longs for. The book is sure to be filled with mischief and misinformation; Frank's motives suspect, the CIA hostile. But the chance to see Frank, his adored older brother, proves irresistible.
And at first Frank is still Frank — the same charm, the same jokes, the same bond of affection that transcends ideology. Then Simon begins to glimpse another Frank, still capable of treachery, still actively working for "the service." He finds himself dragged into the middle of Frank's new scheme, caught between the KGB and the CIA in a fatal cat-and-mouse game that only one of the brothers is likely to survive.
Defectors is the gripping story of one family torn apart by the divided loyalties of the Cold War, but it's also a revealing look at the wider community of defectors, American and British, living a twilit Moscow existence, granted privileges but never trusted, spies who have escaped one prison only to find themselves trapped in another that is even more sinister. Filled with authentic period detail and moral ambiguity, Defectors takes us to the heart of a world of secrets, where no one can be trusted and murder is just collateral damage.
Saturday, January 14, 2017
Love, Africa: A Memoir of Romance,
War, and Survival
Nonfiction book by Jeffrey Gettleman
Publication Date: May 16, 2017
From Jeffrey Gettleman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist, comes a memoir about finding love and finding a calling in one of the most violent yet most beautiful places in the world.
A seasoned war correspondent, Jeffrey Gettleman has covered every major conflict over the past twenty years, from Afghanistan to Iraq to the Congo. For the past decade, he has served as the East Africa bureau chief for the New York Times, fulfilling his teenage dream of living in Africa. Love, Africa is the story of how he got there — and of his difficult, winding path toward becoming a good reporter and a better man.
At nineteen, Gettleman fell in love, twice. On a community service trip in college, he went to Africa — a terrifying, exciting, dreamlike continent in the throes of change that imprinted itself on his imagination and heart. One day, he vowed, he would return there to stay. But around the same time he also fell in love with Courtenay, a fellow Cornell student — the brightest, fiercest, kindest woman he'd ever met.
Courtenay became a lawyer in America, and all Gettleman wanted was to be with her. But he also hungered to be in Africa. For the next decade he would waver between these two abiding passions. Finally, after a great deal of growing up, he learned to be honest with himself about what he wanted — a realization that ultimately fulfilled both of his deepest desires.
A beautifully rendered coming-of-age story in the tradition of Barbarian Days, Love, Africa is a tale of passion, professional rivalries, tortuous long-distance relationships, marital strife, forgiveness, parenthood, and happiness that explores the power of finding yourself in the most unexpected of places.
Friday, January 13, 2017
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Michigan: "Tokyo-based Takata Corporation, one of the world's largest suppliers of automotive safety-related equipment, agreed to plead guilty to wire fraud and pay a total of $1 billion in criminal penalties stemming from the company's fraudulent conduct in relation to sales of defective airbag inflators. An indictment was also unsealed charging three Takata executives with wire fraud and conspiracy in relation to the same conduct."
A Brazilian television presenter has been strongly criticized for stating that Indians will "have to die of malaria."
Fabélia Oliveira, reporting on TV Record, one of Brazil's biggest channels, said: "Keeping the forest intact and then eating from a fridge is not indigenous culture… If they want to preserve their culture, they can't have access to our technology. They can't have fridges, showers or chemical medicines… They'll have to die of malaria, tetanus, childbirth… That’s nature."
Her comments have been rejected by Indians nationwide, who are campaigning for their right to live on their land in the way they choose to be respected. This right is guaranteed under Brazilian and international law.
Messages like Oliveira's fuel the depiction of tribal people as backward and primitive simply because their communal ways are different. These descriptions are used by sections of industrialized societies which subject tribal people to genocidal violence, slavery and racism so they can steal their lands, resources and labor in the name of "progress" and "civilization."
In fact, tribal peoples are contemporary and evolving societies just like any other. Many of the drugs used in Western medicine originate with tribal peoples, and have saved millions of lives.
Oliveira's outburst echoes the views of many of Brazil's anti-indigenous politicians promoting large-scale "development" on tribal peoples' land and attempting to change the law to prevent the recognition and protection of their territories.
Their proposals, if implemented, would be disastrous for tribes across the country and are being strongly opposed by tribal people and their allies, including Survival supporters around the world.
Cartel Wives: A True Story of Deadly Decisions,
Steadfast Love, and Bringing Down El Chapo
Nonfiction book by Mia Flores and Olivia Flores
Publication Date: April 18, 2017
Hachette Book Group:
An astonishing, revelatory, and redemptive memoir from two women who escaped the international drug trade, with never-before-revealed details about El Chapo, the Sinaloa Cartel, and the dangerous world of illicit drugs.
Olivia and Mia Flores are married to the highest level drug traffickers ever to become U.S. informants. Their husbands worked with — and then brought down — El Chapo, as well as dozens of high-level members of the Mexican cartels. They had everything money could buy: luxury cars, huge houses, and expensive jewelry — but they chose to give it all up when they cooperated with the US government. They knew that life was about more than wealth; it was about love, family, and doing what's right. Cartel Wives is a love story, a "Married to the Mob" story, an insider's look into the terrifying but high-flying empire of the new world of drugs, and, finally, the story of a major DEA and FBI operation.
Thursday, January 12, 2017
U.S. Justice Department:
Two Greek shipping companies were sentenced yesterday to pay corporate penalties totaling $2.7 million after being convicted for obstructing justice, violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS), tampering with witnesses and conspiracy. Each company was ordered to pay part of its penalty to Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary in recognition of the threat posed by illegal discharges of oily waste to the marine environment.
The case stems from an inspection of the M/V Ocean Hope, a large cargo ship, conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard at the Port of Wilmington, North Carolina, in July 2015. During that inspection, senior engineers for the companies tried to hide that the vessel had been dumping oily wastes into the ocean for months.
Oceanfleet Shipping Limited, the vessel's operator, was sentenced to pay a $1,350,000 fine and make a $450,000 community service payment to Gray's Reef. Oceanic Illsabe Limited, the vessel's corporate owner, was sentenced to pay a $675,000 fine and make a $225,000 community service payment to the reef. Each company was placed on a five-year term of probation and barred from sending ships to United States ports until its financial penalty has been satisfied.
The origin of hunting behavior may come from two sets of neurons tucked deep in the forebrain of most vertebrates, a new Yale University study suggests.
Activating these neurons in living mice prompt them to pursue never-seen-before prey and to bite everything in their path, even sticks and bottle caps, the researchers report in the Jan. 12 issue of the journal Cell.
Fully Alive: Using the Lessons of the Amazon
to Live Your Mission in Business and Life
Nonfiction book by Tyler Gage
Foreword by Channing Tatum
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Simon & Schuster:
In the spirit of Adam Braun's The Promise of a Pencil and Blake Mycoskie's Start Something That Matters, Fully Alive tells the story of an astoundingly successful young entrepreneur's immersion in Amazonian indigenous spirituality and how he integrated the lessons he learned to build a successful, socially responsible company, live a purposeful life, and make a difference in the world.
In Fully Alive, Tyler Gage shares his spiritual adventures and the business savvy that helped him create RUNA, a tea and energy drink company that collaborates with the indigenous people of Ecuador to harvest the "master plant" guayusa, revealing a centuries-old guiding philosophy for building a sacred way of living that he discovered through Amazonian shamanism.
Following these teachings, what began as a humble start-up has now grown into a thriving, multimillion dollar company, selling products in more than 10,000 stores across the United States and Canada. With the help of collaborators like Channing Tatum, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Olivia Wilde, RUNA has created a sustainable source of income for the 3,000 farming families in Ecuador who grow guayusa organically, while also establishing a nonprofit organization dedicated to positively impacting the issues that affect these indigenous communities.
Packed with practical and inspiring lessons, this book offers a comprehensive examination of how we too might become "fully alive," both in business and as individuals.
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
Affluence Without Abundance:
The Disappearing World of the Bushmen
Nonfiction book by James Suzman
Publication Date: July 11, 2017
A vibrant portrait of the "original affluent society" — the Bushmen of southern Africa — by the anthropologist who has spent the better part of the last twenty-five years documenting their encounter with modernity.
If the success of a civilization is measured by its endurance over time, then the Bushmen of the Kalahari are by far the most successful in human history. A hunting and gathering people who made a good living by working only as much as needed to exist in harmony with their hostile desert environment, the Bushmen have lived in southern Africa since the evolution of our species nearly two hundred thousand years ago.
In Affluence Without Abundance, anthropologist James Suzman asks whether understanding how hunter-gatherers like the Bushmen found contentment by having few needs easily met might help us address some of the environmental and economic challenges we face today. Vividly bringing to life a proud and private people, introducing unforgettable members of their tribe, Affluence Without Abundance tells the story of the collision between the modern global economy and the oldest hunting and gathering society on earth. In rendering an intimate picture of a people coping with radical change, it asks profound questions about how we now think about matters such as work, wealth, equality, contentment, and even time.
Not since Elizabeth Marshall Thomas's The Harmless People in 1959 has anyone provided a more intimate or insightful account of the Bushmen or of what we might learn about ourselves from our shared history as hunter-gatherers.
Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Steam Titans: Cunard, Collins, and the Epic Battle
for Commerce on the North Atlantic
Nonfiction book by William M. Fowler Jr.
Publication Date: August 8, 2017
The story of the epic contest between shipping magnates Samuel Cunard and Edward Collins for mid-19th century control of the Atlantic.
Between 1815 and the American Civil War, the greatest invention of the Industrial Revolution delivered a sea change in oceanic transportation. Steam travel transformed the Atlantic into a pulsating highway, dominated by ports in Liverpool and New York, as steamships ferried people, supplies, money, and information with astounding speed and regularity. American raw materials flowed eastward, while goods, capital, people, and technology crossed westward. The Anglo-American "partnership" fueled development worldwide; it also gave rise to a particularly intense competition.
Steam Titans tells the story of a transatlantic fight to wrest control of the globe's most lucrative trade route. Two men — Samuel Cunard and Edward Knight Collins — and two nations wielded the tools of technology, finance, and politics to compete for control of a commercial lifeline that spanned the North Atlantic. The world watched carefully to see which would win. Each competitor sent to sea the fastest, biggest, and most elegant ships in the world, hoping to earn the distinction of being known as "the only way to cross."
Historian William M. Fowler brings to life the spectacle of this generation-long struggle for supremacy, during which New York rose to take her place among the greatest ports and cities of the world, and recounts the tale of a competition that was the opening act in the drama of economic globalization, still unfolding today.
International Maritime Bureau (IMB):
Monday, January 9, 2017
The Great Rescue: American Heroes, an Iconic Ship,
and Saving Europe During WWI
Nonfiction book by Peter Hernon
Publication Date: June 13, 2017
Published in commemoration of the centennial of America's entry into World War I, the story of the USS Leviathan, the legendary liner turned warship that ferried U.S. soldiers to Europe — a unique war history that offers a fresh, compelling look at this epic time.
When war broke out in Europe in August 1914, the new German luxury ocean liner SS Vaterland was interned in New York Harbor, where it remained docked for nearly three years — until the United States officially entered the fight to turn the tide of the war. Seized by authorities for the U.S. Navy once war was declared in April 2017, the liner was renamed the USS Leviathan by President Woodrow Wilson, and converted into an armed troop carrier that transported thousands of American Expeditionary Forces to the battlefields of France.
For German U-Boats hunting Allied ships in the treacherous waters of the Atlantic, no target was as prized as the Leviathan, carrying more than 10,000 Doughboys per crossing. But the Germans were not the only deadly force threatening the ship and its passengers. In 1918, a devastating influenza pandemic — the Spanish flu — spread throughout the globe, predominantly striking healthy young adults, including soldiers.
Peter Hernon tells the ship's story across multiple voyages and through the experiences of a diverse cast of participants, including the ship's captain, Henry Bryan; General John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force; Congressman Royal Johnson, who voted against the war but enlisted once the resolution passed; Freddie Stowers, a young black South Carolinian whose heroism was ignored because of his race; Irvin Cobb, a star war reporter for the Saturday Evening Post; and Elizabeth Weaver, an army nurse who saw the war's horrors firsthand; as well as a host of famous supporting characters, including a young Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Thoroughly researched, dramatic, and fast-paced, The Great Rescue is a unique look at the Great War and the diverse lives it touched.
Sunday, January 8, 2017
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:
Destined for War: America, China,
and Thucydides's Trap
Nonfiction book by Graham Allison
Publication Date: May 30, 2017
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:
War with China is much more likely than anyone thinks.
When Athens went to war with Sparta some 2,500 years ago, the Greek historian Thucydides identified one simple cause: a rising power threatened to displace a ruling one. As the eminent Harvard scholar Graham Allison explains, in the past 500 years, great powers have found themselves in "Thucydides's Trap" sixteen times. In twelve of the sixteen — from war between the French and the Habsburgs in the sixteenth century to the two world wars of the twentieth — the results have been catastrophic. Today, the same structural forces propel China and the United States toward a cataclysm of unseen proportions, even as both sides insist that such a war could never occur.
In Destined for War, Allison compares the U.S.-China conflict to its closest parallel: World War I. There, a rising Germany threatened the supremacy of the British Empire. He sketches several scenarios in which America and China might slide, against their intent and better judgment, into a similar conflict. But he also examines the rare instances when two clashing powers have avoided disaster. Can our current standoff be one of those exceptions? Allison's answer is essential reading for our age and those to come.
Saturday, January 7, 2017
Oxford University Press:
Abusir: The Necropolis of the Sons of the Sun
Nonfiction book by Miroslav Verner
Shipping Date: January 20, 2017
Oxford University Press:
At the center of the world-famous pyramid field of the Memphite necropolis lies a group of pyramids, temples, and tombs named after the nearby village of Abusir. Long overshadowed by the more familiar pyramids at Giza and Saqqara, this area has nonetheless been the site, for the last fifty years, of an extensive operation to discover its past.
This thoroughly updated in-depth study documents the uncovering by a dedicated team of Czech archaeologists of a hitherto neglected wealth of ancient remains dating from the Old Kingdom to the Late Period. This is Abusir, realm of Osiris, god of the dead, and its story is one of both modern archaeology and the long-buried mysteries that it seeks to uncover.
Friday, January 6, 2017
Merchants of War and Peace: British Knowledge
of China in the Making of the Opium War
Nonfiction book by Song-Chuan Chen
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Hong Kong University Press, Hong Kong:
Merchants of War and Peace challenges conventional arguments that the major driving forces of the First Opium War were the infamous opium smuggling trade, the defense of British national honor, and cultural conflicts between "progressive" Britain and "backward" China. Instead, it argues that the war was started by a group of British merchants in the Chinese port of Canton in the 1830s, known as the "Warlike Party." Living in a period when British knowledge of China was growing rapidly, the Warlike Party came to understand China's weakness and its members returned to London to lobby for intervention until war broke out in 1839.
However, the Warlike Party did not get its way entirely. Another group of British merchants known in Canton as the "Pacific Party" opposed the war. In Britain, the antiwar movement gave the conflict its infamous name, the "Opium War," which has stuck ever since. Using materials housed in the National Archives, UK, the First Historical Archives of China, the National Palace Museum, the British Library, SOAS Library, and Cambridge University Library, this meticulously researched and lucid volume is a new history of the cause of the First Opium War.
Thursday, January 5, 2017
Hiri: Archaeology of Long-Distance Maritime Trade
Along the South Coast of Papua New Guinea
Nonfiction book by Robert John Skelly
and Bruno David
Publication Date: February 28, 2017
University of Hawai'i Press:
In the late 1800s, missionaries and government officials stationed along the south coast of Papua New Guinea began to observe large fleets of indigenous Motu sailing ships coming and going out of present-day Port Moresby. Each year the women of nearby villages manufactured tens of thousands of clay pots to be loaded onto the ships that men built, then sailed with their cargos westward some 400 kilometers. Upon arrival at prearranged destination-villages in distant lands to the west — lands populated by peoples speaking foreign languages — the pots together with the shell valuables were exchanged for hundreds of tons of sago flour. While in those villages, the men dismantled their ships and built them anew, literally from the bottom up, because trees of sufficient size to make large sailing ships did not grow in the landscapes of their home villages. Both the Motu of the Port Moresby region and sago producers of the Gulf of Papua to the west knew of these ventures as hiri.
Through first-hand archaeological research at recipient villages, archaeologists Robert Skelly and Bruno David investigate the origins of this indigenous maritime trade system, from ancient roots in the famed Lapita culture of three thousand years ago up to the present. They offer details from archaeological digs that led them from the first ceramics of the south coast of Papua New Guinea to pottery with unmistakable signs of the ethnographic hiri. Along the south coast of Papua New Guinea, the maritime endeavor that is the hiri is revealed in historical perspective, including stories of its colonial past.