The Peopling of the Pacific

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Science  02 Mar 2001:
Vol. 291, Issue 5509, pp. 1735-1737
DOI: 10.1126/science.291.5509.1735

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Archaeologists, linguists, and geneticists have been struggling to understand the origins of the bold seafarers who settled the remote Pacific Islands. Now some scientists are converging on a model that involves mingling between Austronesian speakers, perhaps from Taiwan or nearby areas, and the indigenous people of Melanesian islands such as Papua New Guinea. The fusion of these cultures created a people that swept out into the remote Pacific islands, exploring 4500 kilometers in outrigger canoes and leaving a trail of distinctive pots behind. But a true synthesis of all the data remains elusive. Researchers argue about just how much mixing occurred between peoples, and at the moment each data set tends to favor a different homeland for the original voyagers.