September 04, 2008

Polynesians brought chickens

I reported on this subject back in Polynesians Were Here First. Now it's come up again.

Polynesians beat Columbus to the AmericasPrehistoric Polynesians beat Europeans to the Americas, according to a new analysis of chicken bones.

The work provides the first firm evidence that ancient Polynesians voyaged as far as South America, and also strongly suggests that they were responsible for the introduction of chickens to the continent--a question that has been hotly debated for more than 30 years.

Chilean archaeologists working at the site of El Arenal-1, on the Arauco Peninsula in south-central Chile, discovered what they thought might be the first prehistoric chicken bones unearthed in the Americas. They asked Elizabeth Matisoo-Smith at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and colleagues to investigate.

The group carbon-dated the bones and their DNA was analysed. The 50 chicken bones from at least five individual birds date from between 1321 and 1407--100 years or more before the arrival of Europeans.

Two-week journey

However, this date range does coincide with dates for the colonization of the easternmost islands of Polynesia, including Pitcairn and Easter Island.

And when the El Arenal chicken DNA was compared with chicken DNA from archaeological sites in Polynesia, the researchers found an identical match with prehistoric samples from Tonga and American Samoa, and a near identical match from Easter Island.

Easter Island is in eastern Polynesia, and so is a more likely launch spot for a voyage to South America, the researchers say. The journey would have taken less than two weeks, falling within the known range of Polynesian voyages around this time, says Matisoo-Smith.
DNA from chicken bone shows Polynesians 'found' South AmericaDomestic chickens are thought to have derived from wild birds that lived in the forests of the Indian subcontinent and the people who first migrated to the Americas from Asia--using a land bridge across the Bering Strait--are not believed to have taken chickens with them.

Yet the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro reported on his arrival in Peru in 1532 that the local Inca were using chickens as part of their religious ceremonies, suggesting that the domestic bird had been part of the native culture for some time.

Some experts believe, however, that chickens could not have existed in South America before the arrival of the first Europeans and that they must have been introduced by sailors from Europe.

The chicken bones came from an archaeological site at El Arenal in the Arauco region. A total of 50 bones have been recovered, but the single bone that provided the crucial dating evidence came from a bird estimated to have lived between 1321 and 1407--a century before the Portuguese landed in Brazil, according to the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Until now the evidence in support of a direct cultural connection with Polynesians has been circumstantial. Linguists have identified similarities in language and anthropologists have noted the presence of American items such as the sweet potato and the bottle-gourd plant in eastern Polynesia long before Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas.

Alice Storey, a doctoral student in the department of anthropology at the University of Auckland, and her colleagues suggest that Polynesian seafarers could have used the reliable trade westerlies of the southern hemisphere to carry them and their cargo of living chickens to Chile.
Comment:  Writer Russell Bates claims that Robinson Crusoe's Friday was a Polynesian. Wrong, but Russ isn't totally off his rocker. Alexander Selkirk, on whom Crusoe was modeled, marooned himself on a Chilean island. It's possible Selkirk found traces of Polynesians on his island.

Of course, if Polynesians visited South America in the 1300s, they would've encountered longstanding Native civilizations. They wouldn't have had more than a minor influence on the development of Amerindian cultures.

For more on the subject, see Rediscovering America:  The New World may be 20,000 years older than experts thought.

Below:  A chicken in Ecuador.


writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
It long has been known from lingual studies, cultural studies and, more recently, DNA studies, that the San Blas Natives of Baja California are Polynesians, not Native Americans. Thus there is a relict Polynesian-speaking 'tribe' still extant in North America. Just thought you should know, FYI...
All Best
Russ Bates

Rob said...

DMarks finally figured what you were talking about in the Crusoe and Cannibals on TV thread. Here are a couple of links on the subject:

I sure wish you'd learn how to write better, Russ. This group of natives lived throughout Baja California, not merely in San Blas. And they may be descended from southern Asians, Australians, and populations of the South Pacific Rim, not merely Polynesians.

Now that we've deciphered your cryptic comment, I know what you're talking about. I responded to this claim when it first came out. Check it out:

Scientist:  Mexican skulls prove Natives weren't here first

Moreover, the BBC article provides a possible explanation for the skulls:

However, some scientists think that the older group of Americans may simply have evolved the features typical of present-day natives of the continent.

One study has shown marked differences in the skull shape of prehistoric and present-day Inuit populations despite the fact their mitochondrial DNA types were very similar.

Rob said...

So far, it seems Dr. Silvia Gonzalez is pretty much alone in claiming the Pericues were from South Asia or Australia. When the majority of archaeologists and anthropologists support her theory, then I'll take it seriously. Until then, no.

There's also the issue of her obvious bias. She's invested in the idea that her research proves the Pericues were here first. That's reason enough to doubt her.

Needless to say, this has nothing to do with the fact that Friday is a Caribbean Indian. You were wrong about that before and you're still wrong about it. You've never been more wrong in your life.

P. A. Medley said...

That chicken is much cuter than regular chickens. This comment is irrelevant to the topic under discussion, however, so I shall end it now.

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Even you require writing lessons, Rob, as your phrase should have read, "....learn how to write more well..." But then again bloggers write the same way that they speak, which is fast, jumbled, mostly inarticulate, and ephemeral. writerfella has been in the game since age 16, which was around 1957. Where were you in 1957, if you even existed at all?
All Best
Russ Bates

Rob said...

You think "write more well" is preferable to "write better"?! Wrong, doofus. No wonder you haven't written or published as much as I have.

Obviously you can't and won't cite a source for this ridiculous claim. I suspect you got it from the same place as your ridiculous claim that Friday was a Polynesian. When it comes to ridiculous claims, you're batting 1.000.

P.S. I've already told you my age several times. If you're too stupid to do the math, that's your problem. Any longtime reader who is paying attention knows where I was in 1957.

Rob said...

Since you clearly need writing help, here's how you should've punctuated your first sentence:

It long has been known from lingual studies, cultural studies, and, more recently, DNA studies that the San Blas Natives of Baja California are Polynesians, not Native Americans.

In other words, you misplaced two commas in the first sequence of four commas. Oops.

In addition, your wordiness and use of the passive tense make for weak writing. Here's a more concise and readable version:

Linguistic, cultural, and DNA studies have long indicated that the San Blas "Natives" of Baja California are actually Polynesians.

That's 19 instead of 28 words with no passive tense or punctuation mistakes.

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
The San Blas being Polynesians was in a SCIENCE DIGEST article back in 1972 while writerfella attended Oklahoma University and included the item in a paper for an anthropology course, "Man And The World..."
All Best
Russ Bates

Rob said...

Yeah, and you have a perfect memory of something you read 36 years ago? Sure you do. Until you quote the article, there's no reason to buy your description of it.

None of the recent articles about the Pericues mention San Blas. I suspect scientists found some evidence in or around San Blas. And you mistakenly assumed they were referring to "San Blas Natives."

Anonymous said...

"Write more well"? Oy vey?!

"Better" is the correct turn of phrase. There is no generally recognized use of "more well."

dmarks said...

Writerfalla writes in a more gooder way than me though.

dmarks said...

Also, I used to read "Science Digest". It was rather sensationalist, given to publishing dodgy articles, and certainly not in the league of "Scientific American".