Bamboo boat testing for 30,000-year-old Taiwan-Okinawa trip to begin in June

In June, researchers will test bamboo rafts using 30,000-year-old technology as a preparatory step to recreating sea travel believed to have been carried out by the ancestors of Japanese people, the journal Science of the National Museum of Natural History announced March 2.

The researchers eventually plan to embark on a journey of more than 100 kilometers between Taiwan and Okinawa’s Yonaguni island on Taiwanese bamboo rafts in 2019—similar to the journey made 30,000 years ago.

The museum and other groups started the project in 2016 to verify the origins of the Japanese by testing whether it was possible to travel to the Japanese archipelago by boat from Taiwan, part of the Asian mainland. Earlier this year, Taiwan’s National Museum of Prehistory joined in.

After taking advice from some elderly Taiwanese with detailed knowledge of bamboo, the researchers will first investigate whether it is possible to use a 30,000-year-old technology to build a bamboo raft that can sail to the high seas. The team has built a prototype and is currently surveying the route. They will start building the improved boat later this month.

In 2016, the team originally planned to use the Nanpu boat to complete the 75-kilometer route between Yonaguni Island and Iriomote Island, but on the day of the experiment, there was a high tide, and the boat was mainly towed by a motorboat.

Yosuke Kaifu, project representative and head of the Human Evolution Division at the National Museum of Science, commented: “We will also test a canoe (made by hollowing out a tree) and investigate which boat is most suitable as the Do a real experiment.”

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