Home / Colloquium: A genetic perspective of the human expansion into the Pacific from the Leeward Society Isles in eastern Polynesia


Speaker: Dr. Phillip Endicott

Title: A genetic perspective of the human expansion into the Pacific from the Leeward Society Isles in eastern Polynesia: the use of haplotype-based methods of inference and their implications for inter-disciplinary studies of archaeology, language and genetics.

Abstract: Recent changes in radiocarbon dates from eastern Polynesia dictate that the expansion of people into the central Pacific can no longer be thought of as a single continuous process starting with the settlement of Tonga and Samoa ~2,900 years BP. Yet, culture-historical models tracing the origins of Polynesians back to Taiwan, via Melanesia, explicitly rely on being able to first connect eastern Polynesia to a common ancestral Polynesian society in Samoa more than 2,000 years ago. There is now a 2,000 year hiatus in long-distance voyaging that calls into question this phylogenetic model of culture and makes the colonisation of eastern Polynesia stand alone as the last great period of human migration, during which more than a quarter of the world’s surface was explored and settled in as little as 150 years. Here, I present the first multi-locus genetic data from the Leeward Society Isles, including Rai’atea the ancient homeland and cultural hub for all populations in eastern Polynesia, where the earliest dates for the region are found (~950 BP). Using haplotype-based methods of inference I will present evidence of different periods of admixture preserved in the genomes of these peoples and show how this approach can provide information about the demographic processes that shaped the genomes of their ancestors.


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