Oral Annual Conference of the Genetics Society of Australasia with the NZ Society for Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

Ancient DNA contributions to understanding the human settlement of the Pacific (769)

Lisa Matisoo-Smith 1
  1. University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

Since the 1980s a general scenario regarding the human settlement of the Pacific has been constructed based on linguistic, archaeological and some basic genetic data. This picture focuses on two major colonization events – an early Pleistocene settlement of Near Oceania (Australia, New Guinea and the Solomon Islands) followed by the later Lapita colonization of Remote Oceania (the islands east of the Solomon Islands). These Lapita colonists are generally seen as the immediate ancestors of the Polynesians and most Micronesians. Mitochondrial DNA and whole genome data, both ancient and modern, obtained initially from commensal animals (those transported by humans during colonisation) and more recently from human populations suggest that things may be slightly more complicated than this traditional two wave theory often presented. In this talk I argue that it may be time to reconsider our ideas about population origins and history particularly of Remote Oceania. I will discuss how the data generated from humans, ancient samples of dogs, rats, chickens and various plants introduced to the Pacific are contributing to our understanding of Pacific settlement history.