This item is a stick chart or map from the Marshall Islands of Micronesia. It was used as a navigation aid, working like a subway map for the ocean. The webbing of criss-crossed pandanus strands represent wave patterns and possible boat courses. The cowrie shells indicate locations of land. Looking at the piece, it is easy to see the dominance of the ocean to the inhabitants of the vast Pacific Ocean.
This item was collected in the 1940’s by Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Zost, a couple that both spent their later years working at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Most of the Oceanic collections that were collected in the 1940’s come from donors who were in the military. Micronesian and Polynesian territories served as strategic locations during World War II. Several sites in the Marshall Islands were also designated Pacific Proving Grounds, or sites used by the United States to conduct nuclear testing between 1946 and 1962.
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Dr. Margaret Hardin
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