Ah, island most mythical.  When I was a child the family had a board game we would play called “Pirates All.”  I have always been bad at board games.  There was a world map, so I suppose the parents thought it was educational.  It struck me that Portugal was in a really good location for world trade.  But the prime pirate home looked like it ought to be Madagascar.  I don’t remember my parents saying as much, but sure enough Madagascar was at one time a pirate stronghold.

Before that, before there were known to be people there, Madagascar was home to a kind of bird called the “terror crane,” at least so I had read.  Now they say it was American.  It was a six foot predatory flightless bird.  Homer mentions the Trojans charging out of their city attacking the Greeks like cranes attacking pygmies.  Evidently he knew about pygmies.  How did he know that cranes were once dangerous predators? 

The last time I read about the politics of the island, the place of the Malagasy Republic, there were two zones: the coast and the interior.  They were not getting on well together.

And now there is news (Thirty Lost Souls ECONOMIST vol. 402 no. 8777 March 24, 2012 page 84) that the original peopling of the island was not by pygmies but seafaring folk from Indonesia.  That had long been suspected on cultural grounds, but now modern genetics is able to say approximately how many people were in the original population.  Ever interested in gene pool size, I noticed that it was thirty women and a yet unknown number of men. 

Usually there are more men who are sailors than women, so that would suggest a crew of, oh what would you guess, a hundred?  That would seem to be a pretty big boat for the time – the Santa Maria a thousand years later only carried 25 including Columbus although her full complement was 40.  (Yes, yes, there was the Great Michael of Scotland with a complement of 1,420 including sailors, gunners and soldiers and carrying the largest bore gun ever mounted on a ship; but somebody was being grandiose.)

So the suggestion is that the women were the cargo, that it was a slave trader.  Anybody out there for writing a nice romantic novel? 

Anyway, the number of colonists needed for success is not so much different from the number in a viable village.

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