In DepthHUMAN EVOLUTION

First Polynesians launched from East Asia to settle Pacific

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Science  07 Oct 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6308, pp. 24-25
DOI: 10.1126/science.354.6308.24

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Summary

It was only 3000 years ago that humans first set foot on Fiji and other isolated islands of the Pacific, having sailed across thousands of kilometers of ocean. Yet the identity of these intrepid seafarers has been lost to time. They left a trail of distinctive red pottery but few other clues, and scientists have confronted two different scenarios: The explorers were either farmers who sailed directly from mainland East Asia to the remote islands, or people who mixed with hunter-gatherers they met along the way in Melanesia, including Papua New Guinea. Now, the first genome-wide study of ancient DNA from prehistoric Polynesians has boosted the first idea: These ancient mariners were East Asians who swept out into the Pacific. It wasn't until much later that Melanesians, probably men, ventured out into Oceania and mixed with the Polynesians.