A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Frank Reed
Date: 2016 Dec 19, 17:59 -0800
Carly Butler, you wrote:
"did they practice celestial navigation?"
Well, they probably used the stars for compass direction. That's simple, and people all over the globe did that. I would suggest looking for any stories of indigenous constellations. If they knew the circumpolar stars, then they probably used them for compass heading. Beyond that, it's relatively unlikely they employed any more sophisticated celestial navigation, simply because their navigation would have been primarily coastal. Is there any evidence for long-distance voyaging off-shore?
"All that keeps coming up is Polynesia etc. I don't know if there's a connection."
First, you have to bear in mind that what you will read about Polynesian navigation is a great double-hulled canoe full of speculation. Apart from some very well-developed compass direction tricks (see above), we don't even know if the Polynesians had any actual position-finding methods that would qualify as celestial navigation. As for the Pacific northwest of the US and British Columbia, there have also been long-lasting speculations about contacts made by lost Polynesian voyagers. While this is not an outlandish possibility, and it may well have happened, there's simply no positive evidence for it. It's yet more speculation.
Finally, remember this: celestial navigation is a luxury. Celestial navigation is not necessary for ocean navigation. You can sail the globe without it, though you might not survive to tell the tale. Then again, you might! Celestial navigation, especially modern scientific celestial navigation, as developed starting in the late 18th century, was created to make ocean voyaging efficient and safe, productive and profitable. If you can sail at your leisure, or if you do not need to repeat your voyages reliably, then you can get by without the celestial toolkit.