Archaeogenetics paints a more complex picture of the Austronesian expansion

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A detailed study of DNA of Pacific Islanders finds that their mitochondrial DNA were present in Island Southeast Asia from an earlier period than the so-called Austronesian expansion, and suggests a more complex picture of how humans migrated into the Pacific.

Resolving the ancestry of Austronesian-speaking populations
Soares et al.
Human Genetics, DOI 10.1007/s00439-015-1620-z

New research into the origins of the Austronesian languages
Eureka Alert, 28 January 2016

There are two very different interpretations of the prehistory of Island Southeast Asia (ISEA), with genetic evidence invoked in support of both. The “out-of-Taiwan” model proposes a major Late Holocene expansion of Neolithic Austronesian speakers from Taiwan. An alternative, proposing that Late Glacial/postglacial sea-level rises triggered largely autochthonous dispersals, accounts for some otherwise enigmatic genetic patterns, but fails to explain the Austronesian language dispersal. Combining mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), Y-chromosome and genome-wide data, we performed the most comprehensive analysis of the region to date, obtaining highly consistent results across all three systems and allowing us to reconcile the models. We infer a primarily common ancestry for Taiwan/ISEA populations established before the Neolithic, but also detected clear signals of two minor Late Holocene migrations, probably representing Neolithic input from both Mainland Southeast Asia and South China, via Taiwan. This latter may therefore have mediated the Austronesian language dispersal, implying small-scale migration and language shift rather than large-scale expansion.

Paper is open access, downloadable here.

Chickens crossed the Pacific from Southeast Asia, but didn’t reach South America

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A study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences unravels the origins of chickens and how they dispersed across the Pacific.

Using ancient DNA to study the origins and dispersal of ancestral Polynesian chickens across the Pacific
Proceedings of the National Academy of Science
doi: 10.1073/pnas.1320412111

Chickens tell tale of human migration across Pacific
The Conversation, 18 March 2014

Chicken bones tell true story of Pacific migration
Heritage Daily, 17 March 2014
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Lapita Voyage aims to trace route of Polynesians through the pacific

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An ambitious experiment to trace the migration route of the Polynesians as they colonised the pacific is underway! A team of made up of scientists, cameramen and native sailors are seeking to retrace maritime passage by island-hopping from Philippines eastwards to the Polynesian islands of Tikopia and Anuta (see route here). The Polynesian migration into the pacific was one of the largest in the history of man, and exceptional because it occured over water, and in a relatively short period of time (1,000 years). Linguistic and DNA evidence has shown that the Polynesians, along with much of island Southeast Asia, were part of a population originating from Taiwan around 5,000 to 6,000 BC, which travelled down Philippines before spreading east and west.

 Lapita Voyage

6,000km trip to reveal clues to ancient migration
06 November 2008, Eureka Alerts
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The Chinese origin of Pacific Islanders

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Archaeologist Jiao Tianlong is exploring the origins of the Austronesian people, who spread their language and technology from Southeast China and Taiwan to the rest of Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands some 6,000 years ago.

Archaeologists Find Evidence of Origin of Pacific Islanders
Voice of America, 31 March 2008
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Pacific Islanders’ Ancestry Emerges in Genetic Study

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New light is shed of how the pacific islands were populated in a study published in the journal of the Public Library of Science – Genetics. The new study shows that the pacific islanders share very little genetic traits with those from Melanesia (the region encompassing Maluku to the east and Fiji to the west) and have much more in common with the aboriginies in Taiwan and East Asia. This in turn infers that a human migration from Taiwan eastwards had little interaction with Melanesia, and that the colonization of the pacific islands were not a result of Melanesians moving east.

Pacific Islanders’ Ancestry Emerges in Genetic Study
New York Times, 18 January 2008
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