In DepthMigrations

Epic pre-Columbian voyage suggested by genes

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Science  24 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6208, pp. 406
DOI: 10.1126/science.346.6208.406

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Polynesians from Easter Island and natives of South America met and mingled long before Europeans voyaged the Pacific, according to a new genetic study of living Easter Islanders. In this week's issue of Current Biology, researchers argue that the genes point to contact between Native Americans and Easter Islanders before 1500 C.E., 3 centuries after Polynesians settled the island also known as Rapa Nui, famous for its massive stone statues. Although circumstantial evidence had hinted at such contact, this is the first direct human genetic evidence for it. Scientists say that Pacific currents and Polynesian mastery of the waves make it most likely that the Polynesians voyaged from Rapa Nui to South America, then back, perhaps bringing Native American women in their canoes.