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Last week we looked at an Arts & Culture card that provided free stuff for the owning player; today, we look at another of those cards.
From their cultural cradle in the region of Samoa and Tonga, Polynesians explored and successfully settled a larger area of the earth's surface than anyone before them. Thousands of years before the Europeans would, Polynesians mastered the technical and material challenges of extended seafaring, by combining the lateen sail, the double-hulled canoe and a supple science of celestial navigation. They became experts at managing their ďtransported landscape." Polynesian settlers of new island groups brought with them plants for food and fiber, including bananas, coconuts, sweet potatoes, taro, paper mulberry, breadfruit, and the psychoactive kava, as well as dogs, pigs, chickens and rats, all helping to project and sustain a common language, culture and livelihood to a vast, interlinked realm of archipelagos and islands.
How well connected by commerce where the Polynesian islands? Archeologists can not be certain, but linguistics provides a clue. The remarkable homogeneity of the Polynesian languages is probably the result of continuous active trading between most island groups until only several hundred years ago. But archaeological evidence suggests a fall-off through time in the frequency of open sea voyaging. There is evidence of marked declines in voyaging and interaction after 1450 A.D.- less than one hundred years before their first contact with Europeans. A range of social and environmental factors may have contributed to these declines.
The illustration on the Commerce card shows a Vaka, the trading vessel of Pukapuka (one of the Tuamotu islands); they could carry several tons of trade goods. The Pukapukans are famous sailors and navigators. The island is extremely important in the arena of Pacific cultural history, both because of its geographical location near the center of Polynesia, and because its culture has close affiliations with both Eastern and Western Polynesia. They became the natural middle-men of Polynesian commerce.
In game terms, the Commerce cardís owner gains one Victory Point because of his peopleís increased focus on commerce, and the prosperity that would bring. Also, the owner gains one free Transport Canoe to help facilitate this commerce. And if the cardís owner also controls Tuamotu, then he receives two free Transport Canoes- fully recouping the original cost of the Arts & Culture card!