Friday, February 04, 2011

Polynesians not from Taiwan?

A new study argues that Taiwan's genetic contributions to the settlement of Polynesian were not very large:

Lead researcher, Professor Martin Richards, explains: "Most previous studies looked at a small piece of mtDNA, but for this research we studied 157 complete mitochondrial genomes in addition to smaller samples from over 4,750 people from across Southeast Asia and Polynesia. We also reworked our dating techniques to significantly reduce the margin of error. This means we can be confident that the Polynesian population – at least on the female side – came from people who arrived in the Bismarck Archipelago of Papua New Guinea thousands of years before the supposed migration from Taiwan took place."

Nevertheless, most linguists maintain that the Polynesian languages are part of the Austronesian language family which originates in Taiwan. And most archaeologists see evidence for a Southeast Asian influence on the appearance of the Lapita culture in the Bismarck Archipelago around 3,500 years ago. Characterised by distinctive dentate stamped ceramics and obsidian tools, Lapita is also a marker for the earliest settlers of Polynesia.

Professor Richards and co-researcher Dr Pedro Soares (now at the University of Porto), argue that the linguistic and cultural connections are due to smaller migratory movements from Taiwan that did not leave any substantial genetic impact on the pre-existing population.
Complexification indeed!
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Anonymous said...

What's missing in this study is what does the Y-chromosome evidence say?

The linguistic evidence is quite strong so though Taiwanese Aboriginal women may not have made it out to Polynesia, the Aboriginal men, by process of elimination, must have. It'll be interesting to see: 1) confirmation of the study and then if confirmed 2) ideas on how the Taiwanese Aboriginal men came to interact with those south such that their culture became dominant.

Anonymous said...

Simple... this is nothing new.

Paupa New Guinea in NOT Polynesia. It has been speculated for many years that New Guinea has been populated for approximately 40,000 years, from the first human populations to migrate to Australia from southern Asia.... possibly Java, when today's Malaysia and Indonesia were part of a massive archipelago that stretched within sight of modern day New Guinea.

This in no way contradicts the out of Taiwan theory, in which proto-Austronesian peoples began a pattern of migration out into the Pacific and Indian Oceans to become the widest spread Pre-Columbian civilization in the world beginning approximately 4000 years ago.

The languages and cultures on New Guinea are Austronesian...corded pottery and other material culture is often cited as secondary evidence for Austronesian roots.

Much like English and globalization is changing cultures today, the same thing possibly happened several thousand years ago as the people of New Guinea had frequent contact with Austronesian peoples and may have found immediate need for their material culture. This may also explain why the people of New guinea may have adopted Austronesian languages as they would have been the dominant language of the market.

This study simply confirms what has long been suspected of the DNA of the indigenous people of New Guinea. It also highlights the malleability of culture and the power of cultural change. If anything this is a study that confirms the separation of biology, culture and cultural drift. Human populations will rapidly engage in cultural change as it suits their environmental needs. These changes can be rapid and sweeping if the changes are appealing.

The rest of the out of Taiwan theory remains firmly intact. It was not simply a people who were on the move, but their culture.

ryan said...

What do you mean mith polynesia and austronesian?

Anonymous said...

Austronesia is not a place. Austronesian is a term used to describe the peoples, languages and cultures that formed during a 3000 year period of separation from a population of pre-Austronesian peoples.

Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia are regional classification for groups of Pacific islands.

New Guinea in in Melanesia. Hawaii is in Polynesia.