AO Magazine - April 2019
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Some of us are self-confessed island lovers, hooked on the idyllic vision of island living, while others fear the dark truths that may lie beneath the deceiving quaintness of island settings. But whatever our feeling, human beings, and even our ancient hominin ancestors, have been obsessed by islands and their mysterious, haunting charm since our time began.
Hundreds of thousands of islands populate our world and countless more remain in the realm of legend and folklore. Most of the world’s islands are well-explored, their secrets plundered long ago, but a few remain mysterious, like those that appear to drift aimlessly across our oceans – is there any truth behind the floating islands of ancient legend? Historian of cartography Chet Van Duzer takes you on a journey to find the answer, from the mythical paradise islands of Chinese philosophical texts to the floating islands of Homer’s Odyssey.
In this issue, we dive into the puzzles of island life: mind-blowing seafaring abilities and ancient navigation. Like any sea tale worth its salt, we encounter the bizarre and downright dangerous behavior of a pack of mutineers stranded on a remote island in the Pacific. And then there is the world-famous Easter Island that is yet to give up its secrets. Author and History Channel celebrity David Hatcher Childress raises the unanswered questions, such as how the islanders crafted and moved the gigantic moai statues that dot the island, or why a small, remote population invented their own complex written language that is yet to be deciphered!
Finally, we examine one of the biggest enigmas in paleoanthropology: the mysterious hobbit species of Flores island; a tiny, 3-foot-tall human ancestor whose remains are found nowhere else in the world but an island of Indonesia—and experts still can’t agree on where they came from, why they were so small, and what led to their final demise just 50,000 years ago.
Along this journey we make some surprising discoveries; the first being that the food that fuelled the Vikings – gruel - can actually be pretty tasty as well as filling. We also examine a different perspective of Easter; a resurrection and rebirth celebration with pagan roots that has adapted and transformed over the ages. Finally, we explore the Old Testament story of Samson’s “Jawbone Massacre”, which archaeologist John McHugh reveals is full of hidden messages and Mesopotamian occult divination.