By Nicolas Cauwe, Curator of the Prehistoric and Oceanic collections at the Royal Museums of Art and History and of the exhibition ‘Oceania’
Oceania was one of the last areas discovered by the Europeans. A few daring expeditions took place in the 15th and 16th centuries but these scattered islands in the south Pacific were only really explored in the 18th century. With the exception of large land masses like Australia and New Zealand, the southern seas only offered the Europeans small colonies which were seemingly poor in natural resources. Barely any trace is left of the material creations of the first inhabitants, but from the 18th century, the discovery of artefacts began to unveil the richness and originality of the first settlers. Nicolas Cauwe will discuss these first explorers, artisans of the greatest maritime legend of all time.
War club | kotiate, Wood, New Zealand | Aotearoa, 19th century © KMKG-MRAH