First Polynesian humans discovery

This video says about itself:

“The last great human migration: DNA and the human settlement of the Pacific” (Part 1)

Professor Lisa Matisoo Smith, University of Otago, New Zealand.

Friday 13 May 2011

Over the last thirty years there has been a fundamental change in our knowledge of the human settlement of the remote Pacific, the last major region of the Earth to be colonised by people.

The story begins with the Neolithic expansion out of Asia via Taiwan, through Island Southeast Asia and Near Oceania and out into Remote Oceania. In the Pacific, this migration event is associated archaeologically with the appearance and spread of the Lapita Cultural Complex (about 3500 to 2000 years ago) and linguistically with the distribution of Austronesian languages. The final stage of this migration was the settlement of the Polynesian Triangle (demarcated by Hawaii, Easter Island and New Zealand).

While this so called “Fast Train Model” has, for the most part, been rejected by the archaeological community, this general story of the migration of a population making its way out of Taiwan and purposefully sailing through Near Oceania to the islands of Polynesia has captured the public imagination. Genetic research has also contributed to this story with the identification of molecular markers that appear to track this migration event — in particular the distribution of the mitochondrial DNA marker known as the “Polynesian motif”. But as more genetic data accumulate this simple model appears to be problematic.

This lecture will discuss the latest genetic studies that suggest a more complicated picture of Pacific settlement and population origins and show how ancient DNA analyses are allowing us to test some possible alternative scenarios for the settlement of the Pacific islands and beyond.

From Simon Fraser University in Canada:

Scientists improve dating of early human settlement

15 Nov 2012

A Simon Fraser University archaeologist and his colleagues at the University of Queensland in Australia have significantly narrowed down the time frame during which the last major chapter in human colonization, the Polynesian triangle, occurred.

SFU professor David Burley, Marshall Weisler and Jian-Xin Zhao argue the first boats arrived between 880 and 896 BC. The 16-year window is far smaller than the previous radiocarbon-dated estimate of 178 years between 2,789 and 2,947 years ago.

Burley, the lead author, and his colleagues have recently had their claims published in an article in the open access journal PLOS ONE.

Polynesia, a group of 1,000 islands forming a geographic triangle connecting Hawaii, New Zealand and Easter Island in the South Pacific Ocean, is one of the last landscapes discovered and settled by humans.

Burley’s team applied uranium/thorium dating to a series of coral artifacts recovered from a site in Tonga known to be the first settlement location for Polynesia.

This dating technique is not new, having been used previously to date coral reefs and stalagmites in caves and other materials. But this study’s authors had to develop new processes and verification protocols to achieve their more precise dating of the Tongan artifacts.

When the results came back from a Queensland University lab, Burley says his only comment was: “Wow! It is spooky that we can track an event that happened so long ago to such an exact period of time.”

The researchers dated coral files, common day artifacts used to file-down wood or shell materials for manufacturing other artifacts. Thirteen of these were successfully dated, all nicely falling into a temporal sequence from top to bottom of their archaeological siting.

Burley is most excited about a coral file found in the very bottom of the site. Not only does it have the oldest date, but also it was found in beach sand, over which the archaeological site formed. “It is the beach on which first landfall took place, and we now know exactly when that happened,” says Burley.

Polynesian people used binary numbers 600 years ago: here.

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