Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Chicken bones demolish Pacific migration theories

  • Written by  Harley Rustad
  • Published in Cultures
Monument to Christopher Columbus Monument to Christopher Columbus Zvonimir Atletic / Shutterstock
01 May
2014
A DNA analysis of chicken bones from islands across the Pacific has refuted claims that Polynesians arrived in South America before Columbus

A research team led by scientists at the University of Adelaide identified a unique genetic marker in chicken bones found in archaeological digs on islands such as Rapa Nui (Easter Island). They then used this marker to study the origins and dispersal of ancestral Polynesian chickens, in the process reconstructing the early migration of the people who transported them.

The marker was only found in chickens on Pacific and Southeast Asian islands, suggesting that there was no pre-Columbian contact between Polynesians and South American populations. The research also helped to explain why previous studies had found evidence of contact. ‘We were able to re-examine bones used in previous studies that had linked ancient Pacific and South American chickens, suggesting early human contact, and found that some of the results were contaminated with modern chicken DNA, which occurs at trace levels in many laboratory components,’ said one of the study’s authors, Alan Cooper. ‘We were able to show that the ancient chicken DNA provided no evidence of any pre-Columbian contact between these areas.

‘Remarkably, our study also shows that the original Polynesian lineages appear to have survived on some isolated Pacific islands, despite the introduction of European domestic animals across the Pacific in the last few hundred years,’ he added.

This story was published in the May 2014 edition of Geographical Magazine

Related items

Subscribe and Save!

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Sign up for our weekly newsletter today and get a FREE eBook collection!

geo line break v3

University of Winchester

geo line break v3

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Derby

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in PEOPLE...

Development

The recent dam collapse in Brazil could just be the…

Explorers

Watch the stunning live-stream from the bottom of the Indian…

Development

Where will the next virus outbreak emerge? A new model predicting…

Cultures

Xi Jinping’s rhetoric has prompted a heartfelt but stern response…

Explorers

The 3,000-kilometre Greater Patagonian Trail has no signposts, printed maps…

Development

Female-led artisanal mining associations are fighting back against a predominately…

Development

Once a constant threat across Bangladesh, arsenic poisoning has significantly reduced thanks to deeper wells

Development

Once dismissed as undesirable competitors, certain West African shrubs are now being recognised as…

Explorers

In January 2019, a Dutch marine charity, the Flotilla Foundation,…

Explorers

Charles Roberts reccounts the story of George Melville Boynton, perhaps the…

Cultures

Infertility affects thousands of women across Senegal, yet the subject…

Development

Still puzzled by China’s trillion dollar masterplan for the future…

Development

In this final instalment of our monthly series of reports…

Explorers

The Arabian Desert may not be everyone’s first choice when…

Cultures

Film-maker Jane Labous documents the taboos faced by Senegalese women…

Development

Gene editing technology means scientists are close to changing small-scale…

Explorers

Impassioned teacher and marine conservationist Libby Bowles looks back at…

I’m a Geographer

Simon Reeve is an author and TV presenter whose latest…

Cultures

Morocco reintroduces compulsory military service, one of many countries debating…

Development

In this penultimate instalment of our monthly series of reports…