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Did Easter Islanders Have Early Contact With South Individuals

On a map, Easter Island is a remote dot more than 2,000 miles (3,219 kilometers) from the western coast of Chile. It has lengthy fascinated archaeologists —not only for its lots of of enormous statues, called moai, but in addition as a result of it could hold clues about epic Pacific sea voyages and subsequent cultural mash-ups that occurred before the arrival of Europeans.

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Most students think that Easter Island, also recognized by its native name Rapa Nui, was first populated by Polynesians who arrived round Advert 1200. However there’s also some evidence that the island’s early settlers interacted with people native to South America before Europeans showed up in 1722.

A brand new examine, revealed yesterday (Oct. 12) in the journal Present Biology, provides to the debate. Scientists looked at five skeletons from the Rapanui tradition and found stone island ezln pant no genetic traces of Native American ancestry, contradicting earlier assertions of contact with South American peoples. [Picture Gallery: The Walking Statues of Easter Island]

“We had been really stunned we didn’t discover anything,” research leader Lars Fehren-Schmitz, an associate professor of anthropology at UC Santa Cruz, stated in a statement. “There’s numerous evidence that appears plausible, so we had been satisfied we’d find direct proof of pre-European contact with South America, but it wasn’t there.”

Fehren-Schmitzand his colleagues took samples from the ribs of skeletons that have been found within the 1980s during an archaeological digat the beachside moai site of Ahu Nau Nau. Some bones date again to as early as 1445, while others were buried as late as 1925, effectively after European contact. In all instances, no DNA traces of Native Americans were found.

The idea that South Americans first populated Easter Island was proposed in the 1950s by Thor Heyerdahl, the Norwegian anthropologist well-known for his Kon-Tiki raft expedition. He saw candy potatoes native to the Andes growing on Rapa Nui, and noticed similarities between fishing gear, language quirks and pre-Inca stone statueson the island and the mainland.

At present, the archaeological consensus is that Polynesians —who have been expert at lengthy-distance ocean voyages and settled scattered Pacific islands—got to Rapa Nui first. However scholars haven’t completely tossed out Heyerdahl’s thought about early contact with South America.

Erik Thorsby of the College of Oslo, who was not concerned in the brand new examine, beforehand found some genetic markers typical of Native Individuals in Rapanui skeletons.

Based mostly on a recent overview of the proof, Thorsby suggested that Native Individuals could have arrivedat Rapa Nuias early as Advert 1280 to 1495, perhaps by hitching a ride with Polynesians who were returning from visits to the shores of South America.

Thorsby mentioned he thinks the brand new findings are fascinating, but added that “great caution have to be exercised in drawing common conclusions since historical DNA from solely 5 different people was studied.” He noted that past studies have revealed small percentages of early Native American ancestry in only a few people from the island. Therefore, it’s possible that just a few Native People reached Rapa Nui early and their ancestral genes “could also be simply missed when ancient DNA from only five individuals are investigated,” he informed Reside Science in an e mail.

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