Art Austral-Asia

Polynesian Pitcairn

The pre-history of the Polynesian people has been the subject of great study and debate. Since the time of Cook’s voyages, explorers, archeologists and anthropologists have wondered about this rich culture which flourished scattered across many islands in some of the most remote, inaccessible places on earth. In modern times, advances in such disciplines as archeology, genetics, and linguistics have enabled some remarkable discoveries, and new theories about these ancient peoples continue to emerge. The most widely held of these theories trace a migration from Asia sometime between 2,000 and 6,000 years ago, although there are competing theories which point to a migration from South America. 

In 1971 the Pitcairn Islands released this four stamp set entitled Polynesian Pitcairn in celebration of the fascinating archeology of the island. When the mutineers of the Bounty arrived on Pitcairn Island in 1790, the ancient Polynesian inhabitants had already been gone for several centuries. However, they left behind temple platforms, petroglyphs (rock carvings), and stone tools which have helped to shed light on their lifestyle.

Unfortunately many important artifacts were destroyed by the early settlers. However, enough evidence remained for modern researchers like Marshall Weisler to piece together a story of a seafaring Polynesian culture heavily dependant on trade with its larger neighbors which died out when such neighborly trade connections were lost. 

The stamps in this set show various Polynesian artifacts; Polynesian petroglyphs which can be seen at places such as Down the Gods and Down Rope; Polynesian implements – stone axes and cutting tools; A stone fish hook and a Polynesian stone statue of a deity. With heavy brows, long noses, and solemn expressions, the statues discovered at Pitcairn are similar to the larger statues discovered at Easter Island. 

Austral-Asia UNESCO


Anuradhapura was Sri Lanka’s capital for 1500 years, hunter gatherers inhabited the island for more than 30,000 years.  In the early first millennium rice farmers from India appeared.

By the fourth century BCE a walled, city with sturdy houses on regular streets appeared.  The ancient Sri Lankans were skilled engineers and built networks of canals and reservoirs to supply water for irrigation and domestic use.   

Buddhism was introduced by Mauryan King Ashoka’s son, Mahinda in 246 BCE.  

In 1017 Cholas from South India sacked Anuradhapura and the capital moved to Polonnaruwa as Anuradhapura became covered in jungle.

Partly Cleared since the 19th century CE this UNESCO Heritage Site’s buildings can be seen today.


Budj Bim

Today Budi Bim is a dormant volcano in Victoria, Australia, 30,000 years ago Budj Bim erupted and lava flowed south and west more than 30 miles creating a distinctive landscape of lakes and wetlands encompassing an area of historical and cultural importance.   

8,000 years ago the Gunditjmara people developed a sophisticated aquaculture system which channeled the water of the nearby Darlot Creek into adjacent low-lying areas.  This trapped fish in a series of dams and channels.  This indicates the indigenous population were not only hunter-gatherers but farmers and cultivators of the landscape.