10 Jul 2012

Conference hears new evidence of ancient Polynesian contact with the Americas

7:47 pm on 10 July 2012

New evidence of ancient Polynesian contact with the Americas is being presented at this year's Easter Island and the Pacific Conference.

The eighth Easter Island and the Pacific Conference is being held in California, with about 150 people attending including archaeologists, anthropologists, art historians and geographers.

A professor of biological anthropology from Otago University, Lisa Matisoo-Smith, says in 2007 they published a paper about finding Polynesian chicken bones in the Americas.

She says they think they have found more evidence of Polynesian contact after looking at ancient DNA of people and animals in Chile.

"Polynesians continued voyaging, once they found all of the islands of polynesia they kept going until they couldn't go any further and basically that would be when they hit the mainland. The evidence that we have is that's from this little off-shore island which is where polynesians probably would have stopped and re-grouped and maybe traded and turned around again and went back."

Lisa Matisoo-Smith says they knew that there had to be contact at some point, because Polynesians have the kumara - a South American plant that was in Polynesia before Europeans arrived.

The contact is thought to have been made about a thousand years ago.