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Dispersal, Isolation, and Interaction in the Islands of Polynesia: A Critical Review of Archaeological and Genetic Evidence

Department of Anthropology, Southern Methodist University, P.O. Box 750336, Dallas, TX 75275-0336, USA
School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Wits 2050, South Africa
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Diversity 2017, 9(3), 37;
Received: 11 August 2017 / Revised: 2 September 2017 / Accepted: 11 September 2017 / Published: 14 September 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ancient DNA)
Integration of archaeology, modern genetics, and ancient DNA holds promise for the reconstruction of the human past. We examine the advances in research on the indigenous peoples of Polynesia to determine: (1) what do archaeological and genetic data (ancient and modern DNA) tell us about the origins of Polynesians; and, (2) what evidence is there for long-distance travel and contacts between Polynesians and indigenous populations of the Americas? We note that the general dispersal pattern of founding human populations in the remote islands of the Pacific and long-distance interaction spheres continue to reflect well-established models. New research suggests that the formation of an Ancestral Polynesia Culture in Western Polynesia may have involved differential patterns of dispersal followed by significant later migrations. It has also been suggested that the pause between the settlement of Western and Eastern Polynesia was centuries longer than currently thought, followed by a remarkably rapid pulse of island colonization. Long-distance travel between islands of the Pacific is currently best documented through the sourcing of artifacts, while the discovery of admixture of Native American DNA within the genome of the people from Easter Island (Rapa Nui) is strong new evidence for sustained contacts between Polynesia and the Americas. View Full-Text
Keywords: human diversity in prehistory; archaeology; ancient DNA; Polynesia human diversity in prehistory; archaeology; ancient DNA; Polynesia
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Horsburgh, K.A.; McCoy, M.D. Dispersal, Isolation, and Interaction in the Islands of Polynesia: A Critical Review of Archaeological and Genetic Evidence. Diversity 2017, 9, 37.

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