Primary Source

Marshall Islands Stick Charts

Marshall Island Stick Chart, ca. 19th century
Marshall Island Stick Chart, ca. 20th century.


The Marshall Island stick charts represent a unique and non-Western tradition of mapmaking. Whereas Western maps generally attempt to capture and visualize distance and space, the charts of the Marshallese dwelt not just on general direction, with shells representing nearby islands, but, more importantly, ocean currents and swell movements. This information was crucial in a region where water travel by canoe was the central means of mobility and commerce among island chains. These stick charts illustrate the ways in which mapmaking depends largely on the context and needs of the mapmakers themselves.

This source is a part of the Analyzing Maps methods module.


Archaeological Institute of America [] and the Library of Congress [,-0.037,2.393,1.031,0].

How to Cite This Source

"Marshall Islands Stick Charts," in World History Commons, [accessed June 13, 2024]