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Did Easter Islanders Have Early Contact With South Americans

On a map, Easter Island is a distant dot greater than 2,000 miles (three,219 kilometers) from the western coast of Chile. It has lengthy fascinated archaeologists —not only for its a whole lot of enormous statues, known as moai, but also because 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 scholars assume that Easter Island, also identified by its native title Rapa Nui, was first populated by Polynesians who arrived round Ad 1200. But there’s additionally some evidence that the island’s early settlers interacted with individuals native to South America before Europeans showed up in 1722.

A new study, printed yesterday (Oct. 12) in the journal Current Biology, adds to the debate. Scientists checked out five skeletons from the Rapanui culture and located no genetic traces of Native American ancestry, contradicting earlier assertions of contact with South American peoples. [Picture Gallery: The Strolling Statues of Easter Island]

“We have been really stunned we did not discover anything,” examine leader Lars Fehren-Schmitz, an associate professor of anthropology at UC Santa Cruz, said in a press release. “There’s a variety of evidence that seems plausible, so we have been convinced we’d find direct proof of pre-European contact with South America, nevertheless it wasn’t there.”

Fehren-Schmitzand his colleagues took samples from the ribs of skeletons that have been found in the 1980s throughout an archaeological digat the beachside moai site of Ahu Nau Nau. Some bones date back to as early as 1445, whereas others have been buried as stone island overshirt light blue late as 1925, effectively after European contact. In all instances, no DNA traces of Native Individuals have been found.

The idea that South People first populated Easter Island was proposed within 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 observed similarities between fishing gear, language quirks and pre-Inca stone statueson the island and the mainland.

At this time, the archaeological consensus is that Polynesians —who were expert at long-distance ocean voyages and settled scattered Pacific islands—got to Rapa Nui first. But scholars haven’t totally tossed out Heyerdahl’s concept about early contact with South America.

Erik Thorsby of the University of Oslo, who was not involved in the brand new study, beforehand discovered some genetic markers typical of Native People in Rapanui skeletons.

Based mostly on a recent evaluation of the stone island overshirt light blue evidence, Thorsby urged that Native Individuals might have arrivedat Rapa Nuias early as Ad 1280 to 1495, perhaps by hitching a trip with Polynesians who have been returning from visits to the shores of South America.

Thorsby stated he thinks the new findings are fascinating, however added that “nice caution must be exercised in drawing normal conclusions since historic DNA from only 5 totally different individuals was studied.” He famous that past research have revealed small percentages of early Native American ancestry in only a few people from the island. Therefore, it’s potential that only some Native Individuals reached Rapa Nui early and their ancestral genes “could also be simply missed when historic DNA from solely 5 people are investigated,” he advised Stay Science in an e-mail.

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