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Beyond the Blue Horizon: How the Earliest Mariners Unlocked the Secrets of the Oceans
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Beyond the Blue Horizon: How the Earliest Mariners Unlocked the Secrets of the Oceans

3.32  ·  Rating details ·  198 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
In Beyond the Blue Horizon, archaeologist and historian Brian Fagan tackles his richest topic yet: the enduring quest to master the oceans, the planet’s most mysterious terrain. We know the tales of Columbus and Captain Cook, yet much earlier mariners made equally bold and world-changing voyages. From the moment when ancient Polynesians first dared to sail beyond the horiz ...more
Hardcover, 313 pages
Published July 3rd 2012 by Bloomsbury Press (first published March 14th 2004)
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Mar 16, 2015 rated it liked it
As the title mentions, this is about how the earliest mariners navigated the world's oceans before compasses and charts. We are speaking of the famous Polynesian explorers who populated the islands of the South Pacific, the Phoenicians, and the early trade between Ancient Egypt, Babylonian, and Indus civilizations as an example. A lot of the material is speculation as there are very few archeological remains of boats. One must turn to artifacts such as pottery, beads and ores and determine their ...more
Dec 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
An interesting survey of prehistoric seafaring. Fagan divides his book into sections based on geography which turns out to be especially helpful because these regions share ocean and wind characteristics, and so developed a common seafaring culture. He is able to color the discussion of those characteristics with his own extensive experience sailing different kinds of boats. I could tell that this book was a passion project of his.

It’s well-written and not very difficult to follow, through it mi
Jul 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
This was a good non-fiction book about how and why the earliest men (and women) in various areas of the globe first took to the sea; I can’t say it was a great book, because it is very long on speculation and the author’s personal sailing experience and short on real information.

In order, the author considers the birth of seamanship in the Far East, Greece, the Indian Ocean, Scandinavia, and a chapter covering both the lower Canadian / United States west coast and the Yucatán Peninsula. The auth
Jan 25, 2016 rated it liked it
50,000 years ago. That is when open water sea-faring began in Indonesia as best they can reconstruct from the archeological record. Fifty thousand years ago. I am used to thinking of geological time but this is human time, and it seems different and astonishing. So well-written, and I think since the author is a seafarer himself, it lends a nuanced, humble view that is lovely. I want to read more from him, and want to go sailing with him too. I hear words and phrases like seafaring, maritime cul ...more
Joe White
May 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: boats, history, on-shelf
This is a rather fast breezy overview, covering some aspects of cultures and trading, based in specific regions of the world where archaeological and historical research has been performed. The regions included:

The Pacific, specifically from Malaysia to across New Guinea to most of the Polynesian islands;

The Aegean Sea, with mention of some of the Eastern Mediterranean trade routes and societies;

The East coast of Africa and the Middle East to India over the Arabian Sea and close in Indian Ocea
Timothy Dymond
May 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Information just pours out of this book in an overwhelming torrent: Irish Monks sailing out from Ceide Fields; the canoe voyages across the Sunda and Sahel shelves of SE Asia; the mysterious Lapita people who spread across remote Oceania; the sailing canoes of Polynesia; the meltemi winds that rip across the 'wind-dark sea' in the Mediterranean; the Uluburun wreck that told us how wealthy was ancient trade; the Erythraean Sea (the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean); the 'stone towns' of trade along ...more
May 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
If you've ever wondered how ancient mariners actually got around, this is the book for you. Dr. Fagan writes clearly and vividly brings the past to life. By providing some of his own sailing experiences, the perils faced by our ancestors become more real. I'm eager to read more maritime history.
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Mike by: Dixon
The title of this book is very misleading -- "Within Sight of Land" would have been more accurate as most of the book is about coasting or "tramping" along coastlines around the world. There is very little about the development of navigation for offshore voyaging. The writer is an archaeologist so what he writes is interesting enough if not particularly surprising but the "earliest mariners'" secrets will have to remain locked up for now.
A fascinating look at the history of boats, boating, and the people who trusted their lives to their knowledge of the tides, currents, and winds.
Jul 10, 2012 rated it liked it
I like books about the history of ocean exploration in general, which is why I gave this a go. It was really quite god, although it went more into the types of boats used, their construction, and how they were sailed than I expected. This wasn't a bad thing, but not something I gathered from the title.

The book is broken down into group of chapters having to do with ocean-going in various geographic areas, the peoples involved, and how ideas about sailing developed in those places. He covers sout
Jun 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Fagan cautions, early in his introduction, that there are at least two approaches to reading Beyond the Blue Horizon:
1. You can start at Chapter 1 and read through to the end;, or
2. You can can choose a section devoted to a particular place on the globe, finish it and chose another.

I liked the latter. I bounced around soaking up some great insights Fagan offers as an archaeologist, sailor and historian. Whether talking about indigenous tribes navigating the coast of Germany or Alaska or the Nors
Margaret Sankey
Nov 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Fagan combines his personal expertise as a lifetime sailor with archaeological materials to explore the maritime civilizations as they took the breathtaking leap from coastal waters into the great unknown. For each, he examines how their culture, their available materials and their particular body of water combined to produce a unique seafaring expertise and relationship with the waves, turning up such gems as the importance of memorized landmarks in the Iliad, the effect of the regular rhythms ...more
Jan 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brian-fagan
Brian Fagan explores how the mariners of different early cultures took to the seas to venture "Beyond the Blue Horizon" as it would be. As a side note, I just love that title, it's so evocative. Fagan describes how cultures as different as the Polynesians, Greeks, Native Americans and Scandinavians explored first the near shores then ventured out, some for thousands of miles and some not much farther than the coast. He delves into the various geographical reasons such as tides, trade winds, freq ...more
Christina Dudley
Oct 11, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
A comprehensive book about how different cultures from prehistory until mostly the Renaissance, viewed the seas and navigated them. Depending on which cultures interested you the most, the book could range from fascinating to a little dry, and Fagan must rely on much informed speculation. I liked when he inserted anecdotal history and brought things to life, since I lean more toward the KON-TIKI, nitty-gritty, here's-exactly-what-it-was-like school of adventure writing.
Nov 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Broad, sweeping novel full of generalizations and guesswork but fascinating to read just the same. Author does a good job of drawing you in to each specific epoch and culture then imagining how they would have perceived the world. Very interesting.
Cliff Mccollum
Jun 03, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Not recommended. This was one of the most boring historical pieces I've ever read. It is buried in so many names, terms and words foreign to non-sailors that I never felt like I was actually paying attention. Finally, about 60% of the way through I just gave up.
Sep 11, 2012 rated it did not like it
I actually didn't finish this one. Anthropology just doesn't interest me that much; I thought there would be more focus on ship-building and seafaring, but the author seemed to focus on human origins, with much speculation of details that have no proof.
Fredrick Danysh
Dec 23, 2014 rated it liked it
The author, an anthropologist, discusses the history of ancient seafaring cultures with conjectures on equipments, causes, and roots. This work provides another view on the peopling of the Asian islands and the Americas as much as 50,000 years ago.
Aug 06, 2012 rated it liked it
A brief look at the beginning of sea exploration in southern Pacific, Mediterranean, North Atlantic region and Pacific Northwest (Alaska to California). Due to lack of evidence, based on number of conjectures, but mildly interesting.
Jun 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sailing, hns
Where on earth did I put this book?
Matthew Stuart
Oct 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Another of my boat books. He gives a good overview of sailors from around the world.
Carson Kicklighter
Feb 20, 2014 rated it it was ok
Cool look into the worldview of the first mariners, but rather rambly. Didn't make it past the second chapter.
Aug 17, 2012 added it
i enjoy everything written by B Fagan. this book was esspeccially good
Apr 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Loads of information, learnt a lot. Perhaps the wide brief didn't help, lacked a sustained narrative as it moved to different regions. Worth the read though.
Beau Smith
rated it really liked it
Oct 12, 2012
rated it liked it
Aug 24, 2016
Apr 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Fagan is certainly a capable writer, and does a good job at making this accessible to laypeople. I was most interested in navigation though, and he tended to lean more toward boat design, port and cultural histories...quite thoroughly done too. The latitudinal navigation practiced by Norse seamen was fascinating, as was the section on Mayan mariners.
Kevin Kizer
rated it liked it
Aug 19, 2012
John H, Coulombe Sr.
rated it really liked it
Sep 14, 2015
rated it it was ok
Oct 11, 2015
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Brian Murray Fagan (born 1 August 1936) is a prolific author of popular archaeology books and a professor emeritus of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, California, USA. Fagan was born in England where he received his childhood education at Rugby School. He attended Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he studied archaeology and anthropology (BA 1959, MA 1962, PhD 1965). ...more
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