Robinson Crusoe and archaeology


This video is about Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile, in the Pacific Ocean.

From World Science:

“Real” Crusoe’s isle said to yield clues to sojourn

Oct. 30, 2008

Courtesy Maney Publishing and World Science staff

Cast away on a des­ert is­land, sur­viv­ing on what na­ture alone can pro­vide, pray­ing for res­cue but fear­ing the sight of an en­e­my boat. These are the im­ag­i­na­tive crea­t­ions of Dan­iel De­foe in his fa­mous nov­el Rob­in­son Cru­soe.

Yet the sto­ry is thought to be based on the real ex­pe­ri­ence of sail­or Al­ex­an­der Sel­kirk, ma­rooned in 1704 on a small trop­i­cal is­land in the Pa­cif­ic for more than four years.

New clues sup­port con­tem­po­rar­y records of his stay on that is­land, ar­chae­o­lo­gists say. A pa­per in the re­search jour­nal Post-Medieval Ar­chae­o­lo­gy de­scribes ev­i­dence of an “early Eu­ro­pe­an oc­cu­pant” from a dig on the is­land of Aguas Bue­nas, since re­named Rob­in­son Cru­soe Is­land.

The fore­most ev­i­dence is a pair of naviga­t­ional di­vid­ers which could only have be­longed to a ship’s mas­ter or nav­i­ga­tor, as ev­i­dence sug­gests Sel­kirk was, re­search­ers said.

An ac­count by Sel­kirk’s res­cuer, Cap­tain Woodes Rog­ers, of what he saw on ar­ri­val at Aguas Bue­nas in 1709 lists ‘some prac­ti­cal pieces’ and math­e­mat­i­cal in­stru­ments amongst the few pos­ses­sions that Sel­kirk had tak­en with him from the ship.

The finds al­so pro­vide an in­sight in­to how Sel­kirk might have lived on the is­land, in­ves­ti­ga­tors added. Post­holes sug­gest he built two shel­ters near to a fresh­wa­ter stream, and had ac­cess to a view­point over the har­bour from where he would be able to watch for ap­proach­ing ships and dis­cern wheth­er they were friend or foe.

Ac­counts writ­ten shortly af­ter the res­cue de­scribe him shoot­ing goats with a gun res­cued from the ship, and even­tu­ally learn­ing to out­run them, eat­ing their meat and us­ing their skins as cloth­ing. He al­so pas­sed time read­ing the Bi­ble and sing­ing psalms, and seems to have en­joyed a more peace­ful and de­vout ex­ist­ence than at any oth­er time in his life, ac­cord­ing to researchers.

“The ev­i­dence un­co­vered at Aguas Bue­nas cor­rob­o­rates the sto­ries of Al­ex­an­der Selkirk’s stay on the is­land and pro­vides a fas­ci­nat­ing in­sight in­to his ex­ist­ence there,” said Da­vid Cald­well of Na­tional Mu­se­ums Scot­land, one of the re­search­ers. “We hope that Aguas Bue­nas, with care­ful man­age­ment, may be a site en­joyed by the in­creas­ing num­ber of tourists.”

Sel­kirk was born in the small sea­side town of Low­er Lar­go, Fife, Scot­land in 1676. A young­er son of a shoe­maker, he was drawn to a life at sea from an early age. In 1704, dur­ing a pri­va­teer­ing voy­age on the Cinque Ports, Sel­kirk fell out with the com­mand­er over the boat’s sea­wor­thi­ness and chose to re­main be­hind on Rob­in­son Cru­soe Is­land where they had land­ed to overhaul the worm-infested ves­sel. He ap­par­ently did­n’t sus­pect five years would pass be­fore he was pick­ed up by an Eng­lish ship vis­it­ing the is­land.

Pub­lished in 1719, Rob­in­son Crusoe is one of the most fa­mous ad­ven­ture sto­ries in Eng­lish lit­er­a­ture. Whilst it is un­clear wheth­er De­foe and Sel­kirk ac­tu­ally met, De­foe would cer­tainly have heard the sto­ries of Sel­kirk’s ad­ven­ture and used the ta­les as the ba­sis for his nov­el, ac­cord­ing to Cald­well and col­leagues.

Conservationists call for drastic action to rescue the Juan Fernández archipelago’s biodiversity from alien invaders: here.

Alejandro Selkirk island marine life: here.

Chile Creates Large Marine Reserve at Sala y Gómez Island: here.

Last week was a fantastic week for the oceans. Chile’s president announced the creation of a marine reserve around Sala y Gómez Island in the Pacific Ocean that will protect a biodiverse marine habitat larger than Montana: here.

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