28 Dec 2010

Study gives Polynesia migrations new timelines

6:31 pm on 28 December 2010

New research shows East Polynesia was colonised by humans more recently, and faster, than previously thought.

The findings, published in the American journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show the earliest dispersal happened between 1025 and 1120 in the central Society Islands.

The second wave, including to New Zealand, took place from 1210 to 1385.

Researchers analysed over 14-hundred radiocarbon dates from 47 Pacific islands in the study.

Professor of Prehistory at the Australian National University, Atholl Anderson, was involved in the research and he says it gives a clear co-ordinated picture of the migration:

"In most of east polynesia it's been a real problem over the eyars because we haven't had enough radio carbon dates for a start from many of the islands, the reange of results has been considerable sometimes up to two and a half thousand years ago and it's been a real mystery as to exactly when each of the island groups was settled and therefore what the pattern of colonisation was across the region as a whole."

Another researcher, Dr Janet Wilmshurst, says the results show an amazing feat of Polynesian discovery at a rate unprecedented in oceanic prehistory.