August 12, 2020


Aim for Excellence

Polynesians and Native South Americans Made 12th Century Contact

In 1947, the Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl set sail from Peru, on a balsa wooden...

In 1947, the Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl set sail from Peru, on a balsa wooden raft referred to as Kon-Tiki. As he described a number of years afterwards in the documentary of the exact same name, Heyerdahl was certain that indigenous individuals from South The us experienced used a identical craft to settle Polynesia. 


Just one-hundred-a single times and four,three hundred nautical miles afterwards, his raft reached French Polynesia. The expedition didn’t truly verify anything other than that the feat was achievable. And most scholars agreed then and now that the Pacific islands were being little by little settled from the other direction, by individuals traveling from East Asia.

But a new research indicates that, virtually 900 years back, Polynesians and Indigenous South Us residents did make contact—and traces of that experience live on in the genes of Polynesians these days. 

“Irrespective of whether the individuals were being bodily standing on an island in Polynesia when they commenced mingling—or whether or not they were being on the coast of South America—we cannot say.” 

Alex Ioannidis, a computational scientist and geneticist at Stanford College. His staff in contrast the DNA of 800 individuals from 17 Pacific islands and 15 Pacific Coastline Indigenous American groups. And they found, inside of the genomes of present day-working day Polynesians, snippets of DNA usually uncovered in Indigenous Us residents.

“What we uncovered is it can be essentially a really identical sequence of DNA that they all share. That’s not described or else than acquiring a frequent ancestor in latest moments.”

That ancestor likely arrived from the area of current-working day Colombia or Ecuador, states co-author Andres Moreno-Estrada, of Mexico’s National Laboratory of Genomics for Biodiversity. And the similarity of that sequence throughout Polynesians indicates only a single get hold of transpired. Based mostly on the lengths of those DNA segments in present day individuals, the scientists were being in a position to pin a achievable day on the conference: all-around the year 1150. 

The research is in the journal Character. [Alexander G. Ioannidis et al, Indigenous American gene stream into Polynesia predating Easter Island settlement]

It really is vital to be aware that even though the getting does indicate the two cultures achieved, it doesn’t say anything about which tradition initiated the get hold of. And it undoubtedly doesn’t help Heyerdahl’s controversial concept that Polynesian tradition derives from settlers from South The us. 

On the other hand, Ioannidis points out that the discovery aligns with some non-genetic observations. For example, the sweet potato—a South American crop—is uncovered in Polynesia, but how it bought there is significantly less crystal clear. This research could deliver an rationalization. 

“The other appealing matter about the sweet potato, is the word used for it in some of the Polynesian languages is really shut to the word used for it in some of the northwestern South American languages, which include together the coast of Ecuador. Individuals have seen that ahead of, and it can be really appealing in gentle of what we uncovered.”

Moreno-Estrada states the results are worthwhile to anthropologists, but his principal interest was relaying the final results back again to the Polynesians who took part in the research. 

“They were being truly excited figuring out about their own history, and receiving a image of truly what has been preserved in the DNA in regard to their ancestors.”

—Christopher Intagliata

[The earlier mentioned text is a transcript of this podcast.]