Rulers of the waves

  • 14/04/1994

SEDUCED by Western biases, archaeologists and historians have neglected the rich seafaring tradition of maritime communities in the Indian Ocean area. The sciences of boat-making and navigation were acquired and painstakingly refined over generations as a logical corollary of association with the sea. And they are still in use.

Traditional boats require no motors and navigating them depends on no sophisticated gadgets -- only an understanding of the temperaments of wind and wave, and the infallible fixity of the stars. To Westerners, mollycoddled by machines, traditional technology may appear far too simple -- even primitive -- to be considered technology at all. But it is one, and it has evolved out of the fisherfolks' survival instinct against perhaps the most unpredictable element known to humankind. Not for nothing have fisherfolk learnt to ride the waves. Condemning the technology that made this possible by ignoring it will only scuttle a better understanding of the ancient mariners.

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