10 Mar 2014

Research reveals ancient Polynesian diet

8:22 am on 10 March 2014

Researchers from Otago University say they have gained new insights into the diets of Polynesian ancestors by analysing 3000 year old skeletons from Vanuatu.

Dr Rebecca Kinaston says her team looked at remains of the Lapita people who were the first to colonise Vanuatu after travelling through Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands from South East Asia.

She says stable isotope analysis was used to directly investigate what these people ate.

And so what we found was that these people when they were first coming to the islands they weren't establishing large stores of horticultural plant foods. In the beginning they were actually accessing resources such as endemic resources on the land, such as fruit bats and land based tortoises and also marine foods from the inshore environment.

Dr Kinaston says different protiens found in men and women's remains may indicate a preferential higher value foods were eaten by Lapita men.