Ancient explorers in the South Pacific

I seldom use this blog for its original purpose – promoting the Misfits and Heroes series of ancient adventures, but today I will.  The second book in the series, Past the Last Island, is now available in paperback and in e-book format on Kindle, from

cover 2

Past the Last Island is the story of a group of explorers who set out to discover what lies beyond the edge of the world.

They start from the area that is now called Indonesia, 14,000 years ago.  With the end of the Ice Age, their world has suffered wrenching changes.  Wild seas drowned their old village, killing many, including the chief and his wife.  As the story begins, only treetops sticking out of the water mark where the old village stood.  Later, a comet appears, identified by the shaman as the white face of the goddess of death with her terrible white hair spread out behind her.  Shortly after the sighting, the new chief falls from a cliff and lies unresponsive, between life and death.

Terrified, many villagers turn to the strongest man in the village to guide them, though he hungers only for war and revenge.  Others come, gradually, to a different vision.  They see the flood, the comet, and the chief’s fall as a sign telling them to leave the life they knew and find something completely different.

Some history of the area

The South Pacific, 14,000 years ago, had long been the crossroads of migrants from Asia, Southeast Asia, and Australia.  Homo erectus people occupiedmap of Homo erectus migrations China and Southeast Asia over a million years ago, leaving behind evidence of hunting, fire use, and flaked stone tools  (See Homo erectus migrations map).

The Denisovan hominids lived in eastern Eurasia, Asia, and Southeast Asia between 50,000 and 170,000 years ago.   According to David Reich, professor of genetics at Harvard University, DNA sequencing of a finger bone found in Denisova Cave in Siberia showed that Denisovans are distant relatives of the Neanderthals, who occupied western Eurasia.   According to his findings, modern people in the Philippines, New Guinea, and Melanesia, as well as Australian Aborigines are related to Denisovans.   This indicates a very long history of migrations over a very large area.

The so-called “Hobbit” people, Homo Floresiensis, occupied the island of Flores in what is now Indonesia, from 94,000 to 13,000 BC.  Despite their small size (about 3’ 6”/1.06 m tall), they successfully hunted pygmy elephants and large rodents.

Past The Last Island makes several references to people from long ago who left their marks on the land.  Their presence, even if only in handprints on a wall or skeletons in a cave, is reassuring to the travelers, reminding them they’re not truly  alone, even when there’s no one else there.

The crossroads of cultures 

By 14,000 years ago, the South Pacific Islands would have been a crossroads of cultures and a hotbed of innovation, especially regarding boats and navigation.  As the sea level rose, boats became necessities.   While the islands would have provided both shelter and abundant resources, the sea would have been the highway that went to everywhere else.  The navigator would have been the most respected person in the group because he understood the sea and its mysteries, including dangerous currents and star guides.

The Explorers

While we think of ancient people as sedentary, archaeological evidence points to the opposite.  Many were bold, long-distance travelers, from the Homo erectus explorers who first explored the area to the later South Pacific mariners, who became the greatest open water navigators in the world, traveling thousands of miles to Fiji, Hawaii, and Easter Island.

The heroes of my book are not super-heroes, born with all the answers.   They’re heroes because they rise to the challenges they face.

I hope you enjoy it.  While you don’t have to have read the first book in the series, Misfits and Heroes: West from Africa, the ending of the second book will mean a lot more to you  if you have.

Kathleen Flanagan Rollins

Some sources and interesting reading:

Karen L. Baab, Department of Anthropology, Stony Brook University, New York, “Homo Floresiensis – Making Sense of the Small=Bodied Hominin Fissils from Flores”  The Nature Education Knowledge Project

“Homo erectus,” Athena Review, vo.l 4, no. 1 “The Long Journey of an Ancient Ancestor”

“Homo erectus,” Wikipedia

“Homo Floresiensis” Wikipedia

“Meet Your Ancient Relatives: The Denisovans” NPR, Science Friday,  interview with David Reich, professor genetics, Harvard University, August 3, 2012

“Human Evolution: Homo erectus” Stanford University

“What Does It Mean To Be Human?  Homo Floresiensis, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History