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Genetic Study Shows Early Contact Between Easter Islanders and South Americans

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Kerry Lenzendorf
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« on: October 28, 2014, 04:10:25 am »


Genetic Study Shows Early Contact Between Easter Islanders and South Americans

Thu, Oct 23, 2014

Researchers suggest the Rapa Nui intermixed with South Americans long before European contact.
Genetic Study Shows Early Contact Between Easter Islanders and South Americans

Hundreds of years before Dutch commander Jakob Roggeveen and his ships arrived at Easter Island in the Pacific in 1722, the native Rapa Nui islanders had already made contact with South Americans.

So suggests an international team of researchers led by Anna-Sapfo Malaspinas and Eske Willerslev of the Natural History Museum of Denmark's Centre for GeoGenetics, who analyzed genome-wide data for 27 Rapa Nui individuals. While they detected mostly Polynesian ancestry, they also found "genome-wide patterns consistent with Native American and European admixture", and that the "Native American admixture occurred before the European admixture." By comparing their data with other data set proportions, they determined that the Native American proportion was significantly greater than that detected in other Polynesians and Europeans. Moreover, "by considering the distribution of local ancestry tracts of eight unrelated Rapa Nui, we found statistical support for Native American admixture dating to AD 1280 - 1495 and European admixture dating to AD 1850 - 1895."* The research study is published in the Cell Press journal, Current Biology.

The results are consistent with other archaeological evidence that suggests contact, such as the finding that crops that were native to the Americas existed in Polynesia, including the Andean sweet potato, long before European contact. The results of another study (also published in Current Biology) by Malaspinas and Eske Willerslev and their colleagues, wherein they examined two human skulls of the indigenous "Botocudos" of Brazil, found that their genomic ancestry is Polynesian, with no detectable Native American component.

"These genetic results," report the researchers in their published study, "can be explained by one or more pre-European trans-Pacific contacts."*

Easter Island,a Polynesian island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, is well-known for its monumental statues called moai, created by the early Rapa Nui people. Archaeological evidence shows that Polynesian people settled on Easter Island in the first millennium AD and developed a sustained civilization there. But the Rapa Nui significantly declined due to the introduction of the Polynesian rat, and overpopulation led to gradual deforestation and extinction of natural resources, leading to the demise of its civilization.

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rapanui3Above and below: The Rapanui are best known for building giant stone platforms and statues. Courtesy Natalia Solar

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rapanui2_________________________________________________

Archaeological studies and evidence has shown that the Polynesians had the technological and knowledge capacity to execute long-range voyages across the Pacific, consistent with the time range results of the genetic study. This new evidence related to the Rapa Nui suggests one of two scenarios, according to the study authors: either Native Americans sailed to Rapa Nui or Polynesians sailed to the Americas and back. The researchers suggest that it was more likely that the Rapanui successfully made the trip back and forth, given simulations presented in previous studies showing that "all sailing voyages heading intentionally east from Rapa Nui would always reach the Americas, with a trip lasting from two weeks to approximately two months." On the other hand, the trip from the Americas to Rapa Nui is much more challenging, given that Rapanui is a small target, making it likely to fail or miss the island completely.

For Malaspinas, the findings are a reminder that "early human populations extensively explored the planet. Textbook versions of human colonization events—the peopling of the Americas, for example—need to be re-evaluated utilizing genomic data."

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* http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822(14)01220-2

Also adapted and edited from a Cell Press news release.

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http://popular-archaeology.com/issue/fall-09012014/article/genetic-study-shows-early-contact-between-easter-islanders-and-south-americans
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Kerry Lenzendorf
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« Reply #1 on: October 28, 2014, 04:10:46 am »

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« Reply #2 on: October 28, 2014, 04:11:19 am »



Above and below: The Rapanui are best known for building giant stone platforms and statues. Courtesy Natalia Solar
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Kerry Lenzendorf
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« Reply #3 on: October 28, 2014, 04:11:43 am »

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« Reply #4 on: October 28, 2014, 04:12:04 am »

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« Reply #5 on: October 28, 2014, 04:12:23 am »

PUBLIC RELEASE DATE:
23-Oct-2014

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Contact: Mary Beth O'Leary
moleary@cell.com
617-397-2802
Cell Press
@CellPressNews
Genomic data support early contact between Easter Island and Americas
            
      

IMAGE: This image shows Botocudos Chief Brasil.
Click here for more information.

      
            

People may have been making their way from Easter Island to the Americas well before the Dutch commander Jakob Roggeveen arrived with his ships in 1722, according to new genomic evidence showing that the Rapanui people living on that most isolated of islands had significant contact with Native American populations hundreds of years earlier. The findings reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on October 23 lend the first genetic support for such an early trans-Pacific route between Polynesia and the Americas, an impressive trek of more than 4,000 kilometers (nearly 2,500 miles).

The findings are a reminder that "early human populations extensively explored the planet," says Anna-Sapfo Malaspinas from the Natural History Museum of Denmark's Centre for GeoGenetics. "Textbook versions of human colonization events—the peopling of the Americas, for example—need to be re-evaluated utilizing genomic data."

On that note, a second article that will appear in the same issue of Current Biology by Malaspinas along with Eske Willerslev and their colleagues examined two human skulls representing the indigenous "Botocudos" of Brazil to find that their genomic ancestry is Polynesian, with no detectable Native American component at all.
            
      

IMAGE: The Rapanui are famous for building giant stone platforms and statues.
Click here for more information.

      
            

Archaeological evidence had suggested that 30 to 100 Polynesian men, women, and children first landed on Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui, around AD 1200, arriving in two or more double-hulled canoes. After settling on the isolated island, the Rapanui famously built giant stone platforms and over 900 statues, some weighing as much as 82 tons.

While it may have taken weeks for Polynesians to reach even the closest nearby islands, there are hints of contact with the larger world. For example, there is evidence for the presence of crops native to the Americas in Polynesia, including the Andean sweet potato, long before the first reported European contact.

Genome-wide analysis of 27 native Rapanui now confirms significant contact between the island people and Native Americans sometime between approximately AD 1300 and AD 1500, 19 to 23 generations ago. The Rapanui population began mixing with Europeans only much later, in about 1850. The ancestry of the Rapanui today is ?76% Polynesian, 8% Native American, and 16% European.
            
      

IMAGE: The Rapanui are famous for building giant stone platforms and statues.
Click here for more information.

      
            

The new evidence about the Rapanui suggests one of two scenarios: either Native Americans sailed to Rapa Nui or Polynesians sailed to the Americas and back. The researchers say that it seems more likely that the Rapanui successfully made the trip back and forth, given simulations presented in previous studies showing that "all sailing voyages heading intentionally east from Rapa Nui would always reach the Americas, with a trip lasting from two weeks to approximately two months." On the other hand, the trip from the Americas to Rapa Nui is much more challenging, which would have made it likely to fail or miss the island completely. From the Americas, Rapa Nui is indeed a small target, which might also explain why it took Europeans so long to find it.

###

Current Biology, Moreno-Mayar et al.: "Genome-wide ancestry patterns in Rapanui suggest pre-European admixture with Native Americans."


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Kerry Lenzendorf
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« Reply #6 on: October 28, 2014, 04:13:01 am »



Contact: Mary Beth O'Leary
moleary@cell.com
617-397-2802
Cell Press
Botocudos Chief Brasil

Caption: This image shows Botocudos Chief Brasil.

Credit: Public Domain

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Related news release: Genomic data support early contact between Easter Island and Americas
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Kerry Lenzendorf
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« Reply #7 on: October 28, 2014, 04:13:49 am »



Contact: Mary Beth O'Leary
moleary@cell.com
617-397-2802
Cell Press
Moai Head Close Up

Caption: The Rapanui are famous for building giant stone platforms and statues.

Credit: Photograph by Natalia Solar

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Related news release: Genomic data support early contact between Easter Island and Americas
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Kerry Lenzendorf
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« Reply #8 on: October 28, 2014, 04:14:34 am »




Contact: Mary Beth O'Leary
moleary@cell.com
617-397-2802
Cell Press
Moai Statues

Caption: The Rapanui are famous for building giant stone platforms and statues.

Credit: Photograph by Natalia Solar

Usage Restrictions: Credit Required

Related news release: Genomic data support early contact between Easter Island and Americas
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Kerry Lenzendorf
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« Reply #9 on: October 28, 2014, 04:14:51 am »

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-10/cp-gds101614.php
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