Stamps of the Pitcairn Islands

Topical Stamp Collecting: Archeology, Oceania

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. The 5 cent stamp depicts Polynesian petroglyphs which can be seen at places such as Down the Gods and Down Rope. The 10 cent stamp depicts an assortment of Polynesian implements - stone axes and cutting tools. The 15 cent stamp depicts the fashioning of a stone fish hook. The 20 cent stamp shows a Polynesian stone statue (it is labeled as a deity on the stamp). With heavy brows, long noses, and solemn expressions, the statues discovered at Pitcairn are similar to the larger statues discovered at Easter Island.

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