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Tiki Central Forums » » General Tiki » » New Theory+Facts about Easter Island/Rapa Nui?(img +txt heavy)
New Theory+Facts about Easter Island/Rapa Nui?(img +txt heavy)
Tom Slick
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Joined: Aug 26, 2005
Posts: 1092
From: The Beaches of South Bay, SoCal
Posted: 2007-03-28 12:56 pm   Permalink

Just found a cool little article on Rapa Nui from the Smithsonian. I'll post here with images for future readers:

Hundreds of years ago, a small group of Polynesians rowed their wooden outrigger canoes across vast stretches of open sea, navigating by the evening stars and the day's ocean swells. When and why these people left their native land remains a mystery. But what is clear is that they made a small, uninhabited island with rolling hills and a lush carpet of palm trees their new home, eventually naming their 63 square miles of paradise Rapa Nui—now popularly known as Easter Island.
<br>

Two statues sit on the slopes of the Rano Raraku statue quarry. Nearly half of Easter Island's statues remain near this area.
<br>
On this outpost nearly 2,300 miles west of South America and 1,100 miles from the nearest island, the newcomers chiseled away at volcanic stone, carving moai, monolithic statues built to honor their ancestors. They moved the mammoth blocks of stone—on average 13 feet tall and 14 tons—to different ceremonial structures around the island, a feat that required several days and many men.
<br>

Polynesians chiseled the moai (above, on the lower slopes of the Rano Raraku statue quarry) out of volcanic rock. Carved in honor of ancestors, the statues stood on average 13 feet tall and weighed 14 tons.
<br>
Eventually the giant palms that the Rapanui depended on dwindled. Many trees had been cut down to make room for agriculture; others had been burned for fire and used to transport statues across the island. The treeless terrain eroded nutrient-rich soil, and, with little wood to use for daily activities, the people turned to grass. "You have to be pretty desperate to take to burning grass," says John Flenley, who with Paul Bahn co-authored The Enigmas of Easter Island. By the time Dutch explorers—the first Europeans to reach the remote island—arrived on Easter day in 1722, the land was nearly barren.
<br>
Although these events are generally accepted by scientists, the date of the Polynesians' arrival on the island and why their civilization ultimately collapsed is still being debated. Many experts maintain that the settlers landed around 800 A.D. They believe the culture thrived for hundreds of years, breaking up into settlements and living off the fruitful land. According to this theory, the population grew to several thousand, freeing some of the labor force to work on the moai. But as the trees disappeared and people began to starve, warfare broke out among the tribes.
<br>
In his book Collapse, Jared Diamond refers to the Rapanui's environmental degradation as "ecocide" and points to the civilization's demise as a model of what can happen if human appetites go unchecked.
<br>

Hanga Roa Village today,is one of Easter Island's main settlements.
<br>
But new findings by archaeologist Terry Hunt of the University of Hawai'i may indicate a different version of events. In 2000, Hunt, archaeologist Carl Lipo of California State University, Long Beach, and their students began excavations at Anakena, a white sandy beach on the island's northern shore. The researchers believed Anakena would have been an attractive area for the Rapanui to land, and therefore may be one of the earliest settlement sites. In the top several layers of their excavation pit, the researchers found clear evidence of human presence: charcoal, tools—even bones, some of which had come from rats. Underneath they found soil that seemed absent of human contact. This point of first human interaction, they figured, would tell them when the first Rapanui had arrived on the island.
<br>

Students with the University of Hawai'i Rapa Nui Archaeological Field School inspect the stratification at Anakena Beach in 2005.
<br>
Hunt sent the samples from the dig to a lab for radiocarbon dating, expecting to receive a date around 800 A.D., in keeping with what other archaeologists had found. Instead, the samples dated to 1200 A.D. This would mean the Rapanui arrived four centuries later than expected. The deforestation would have happened much faster than originally assumed, and the human impact on the environment was fast and immediate.
<br>

At Anakena Beach, several moai, perched on a four-foot tall stone wall called an "ahu," stand with their back to the sea.
<br>
Hunt suspected that humans alone could not destroy the forests this quickly. In the sand's layers, he found a potential culprit—a plethora of rat bones. Scientists have long known that when humans colonized the island, so too did the Polynesian rat, having hitched a ride either as stowaways or sources of food. However they got to Easter Island, the rodents found an unlimited food supply in the lush palm trees, believes Hunt, who bases this assertion on an abundance of rat-gnawed palm seeds.
<br>
Under these conditions, he says, "Rats would reach a population of a few million within a couple of years." From there, time would take its toll. "Rats would have an initial impact, eating all of the seeds. With no new regeneration, as the trees die, deforestation can proceed slowly," he says, adding that people cutting down trees and burning them would have only added to the process. Eventually, the degeneration of trees, according to his theory, led to the downfall of the rats and eventually of the humans. The demise of the island, says Hunt, "was a synergy of impacts. But I think it is more rat than we think."
<br>
Hunt's findings caused a stir among Easter Island scientists. John Flenley, a pollen analyst at New Zealand's University of Massey, accepts that the numerous rats would have some impact on the island. "Whether they could have deforested the place," he says, "I'm not sure."
<br>
PAGE 2
<br>
Flenley has taken core samples from several lakebeds formed in the island's volcanic craters. In these cores, he has found evidence of charcoal. "Certainly there was burning going on. Sometimes there was a lot of charcoal," he says. "I'm inclined to think that the people burning the vegetation was more destructive [than the rats]."
<br>
Adding to the civilization's demise, European explorers brought with them Western diseases like syphilis and smallpox. "I think that the collapse happened shortly before European discovery of the island," Flenley says. "But it could be that the collapse was more of a general affair than we think, and the Europeans had an effect on finishing it off."
<br>
Flenley, who initially surveyed Easter Island in 1977, was one of the first scientists to analyze the island's pollen—a key indicator of foresting. The island's volcanic craters, which once housed small lakes, were ideal sites for his research. "The sediment was undisturbed. Each layer was put down on top of the layer before," says Flenley, referring to core samples from one crater's lakebeds. "It's like a history book. You just have to learn to read the pages." The samples showed an abundance of pollen, indicating that the island had once been heavily forested. The pollen rate then dropped off dramatically. "When I dated the deforestation at that site, it came starting at about 800 A.D. and finishing at this particular site as early as 1000 A.D.," a finding in line with other radiocarbon dates on the island. Since this was one of the first settlement sites, Flenley says, it makes sense that deforestation would have occurred even earlier than it did on other parts of the island.
<br>
This crater, Flenley believes, would have been one of the only sources of freshwater on the island, and therefore one of the first places the Polynesians would have settled. "It wasn't only a site of freshwater, it was also a very sheltered crater," he says. "It would have been possible to grow tropical crops." Anakena, the beach where Hunt did his research, would have been a good place to keep their canoes and to go fishing, but not a good place to live. Hunt, Flenley says, "has definitely shown a minimum age for people being there, but the actual arrival of people could have been somewhat earlier."
<br>
Other scientists who work on the island also remain skeptical of Hunt's later colonization date of 1200 A.D. Jo Anne Van Tilburg, founder of the Easter Island Statue Project and a scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, is one of the island's leading archaeologists and has studied the moai for nearly 30 years. "It's not logical that they were constructing within a year of when they got there," she says. Van Tilburg and her colleagues have surveyed all 887 of the island's statues. "By 1200 A.D., they were already building platforms," she says referring to the stone walls on which the islanders perched the moai, "and we have found crop production. It's hard for me to be convinced that his series of excavations can overturn all of this information."
<br>

The moai at Ahu Tongariki form the island's largest ceremonial platform. A tidal wave in 1960 sent 15 of these statues inland. Some 30 years later, archaeologists finally restored the site.
<br>
Despite these questions, Hunt remains confident in his findings. Many scientists, he says, "get a date, tell a story, invest a lot in it, and then don't want to give it up. They had a very good environmental message."
<br>
Hunt, Lipo, and their students continue to do excavation work on the island. They have recently moved on from Anakena to do work on the northwest coast. They also plan to date the earliest rat-gnawed seeds. "We keep getting a little more evidence," says Hunt, who has published his findings in Science. "Everything looks very consistent."
<br>

Petroglyphs still remain at the Orongo Ceremonial Village.
<br>
Scientists may never find a conclusive answer to when the Polynesians colonized the island and why the civilization collapsed so quickly. Whether an invasive species of rodent or humans devastated the environment, Easter Island remains a cautionary tale for the world.
<br>
<br>
Whitney Dangerfield, a freelance writer in Washington, D.C. whose work has appeared in National Geographic and the Washington Post, is a regular contributor to Smithsonian.com.



 
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Paipo
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Joined: Jun 22, 2006
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From: Aotearoa / NZ
Posted: 2007-03-28 6:24 pm   Permalink

Quote:
a small group of Polynesians rowed their wooden outrigger canoes across vast stretches of open sea



Good article nevertheless, and a few new pics for the archives. Cheers!
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Benzart
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From: Port Saint Lucie, Florida
Posted: 2007-03-28 6:57 pm   Permalink

Yes, Thanks Tom Slick, Very interesting piece and good pix too. There was a Lot happening back there that we will Never really be sure of how it went down. Why Why why? Too many unanswered questions.
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hewey
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From: Sydney, Australia
Posted: 2007-03-28 8:37 pm   Permalink

Quote:

On 2007-03-28 18:57, Benzart wrote:
There was a Lot happening back there that we will Never really be sure of how it went down. Why Why why? Too many unanswered questions.



Yep, and thats the appeal I like a little mystery and intrigue. Great thread too!
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Son-of-Kelbo
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Joined: Aug 03, 2004
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From: NOHO, CA
Posted: 2007-03-28 11:49 pm   Permalink

Great post and info, TS!

I suggest for companion immersion Thor Heyerdahl's AKU-AKU. Dated, true, but nonetheless a fascinating first-hand account of a major chapter in Easter Island's "modern rediscovery", with fascinating first-hand glimpses in to the personalities (and personal agendas) of the descendant population in the mid 20th Century, and generally great storytelling. Heyerdahl's theory that the very first islanders came from western South America (joined by Polynesian navigators later) is still compelling.

And of course the film "Rapa Nui" is another must for the discerning Polynesiac's library, and really brings the visual sense of AKU-AKU to life, with a great score by Stuart Copland, transporting cinematography, great cast, and witty direction.

Great fun that'll take you straight to "The Navel of the World", in spirit.

Cheers and aloha,
SOK


(a different kina' island entirely...)



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TIKIBOSKO
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Posted: 2007-03-29 9:45 pm   Permalink

“Hunt suspected that humans alone could not destroy the forests this quickly. In the sand's layers, he found a potential culprit—a plethora of rat bones. Scientists have long known that when humans colonized the island, so too did the Polynesian rat, having hitched a ride either as stowaways or sources of food. However they got to Easter Island, the rodents found an unlimited food supply in the lush palm trees,”


This same problem is currently going on all over the South Pacific, rats (with no natural predators on the islands) are eating or damaging seeds when they hit the ground and many palm species are no longer propagating. It is a problem modern man has been unable to get a handle on and as I understand it took a while to confirm who or what the culprit was.

Bosko


 
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Tiki Diablo
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From: socal
Posted: 2007-03-29 10:36 pm   Permalink

pinchis ratas. No bueno!

 
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Sneakytiki
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From: Boise, Idaho
Posted: 2007-03-30 03:44 am   Permalink

Thor Heyerdahl proved that man could travel over vast distances in short amounts of time but his theories which were pseudo-science have been almost completely disproved. If anyone were to discover anyone else it would be more likely that the sailing Poly's would discover the land hugging Amerinds. The boat Thor used was not accurate to pre-Columbian models and was heavily influenced by later Spanish influenced Mestizo designs. Much of the Easter island evidence was faked. Thor's detractors say "planted" by Thor, his supporters can only say he was duped. His methodology, if u can call it that, was similar to the scientific methodology of "cult" archeology groups, start with a foregone theory you've already made your mind up to be true, then grasp at any straw to "prove it" while ignoring the vast amounts of anthropologic, genetic, linguistic and carbon dating evidence that says otherwise. I admire the man for his jumpstarting the diffusionist theories of human travel capability and his courage etc.. But his theories make for fun fantasy reading and not much else, similar to theories of Atlantis or Lemuria that make no sense when one understands plate tectonics, continental versus oceanic crust etc..

There may well have been a few Indians in Polynesia but if so they left a very small footprint genetically, linguistically or culturally, and they certainly were not the progenitors of the Polynesians who are of Austronesian stock with a small amount of Melanesian admixture picked up along the migratory routes.

The Easter Island pix and info. are fascinating, thx for posting them.

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[ This Message was edited by: Sneakytiki 2007-04-04 02:35 ]


 
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Kong-Tiki
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Posted: 2007-04-08 11:41 pm   Permalink

Not so fast there, SneakyTiki.
According to an article in the latest (?) issue of Tissue Antigens by MD Erik Thorsby at Radiumhospitalet Medical Center in Oslo, Molecular genetic studies of natives on Easter Island shows there is evidence of an early European and Amerindian contribution to the Polynesian gene pool. Mighty Thor might not have been so far of the mark after all.
Read the article here:
http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1399-0039.2006.00717.x?cookieSet=1



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Sneakytiki
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From: Boise, Idaho
Posted: 2007-04-09 11:33 am   Permalink

That theory has already been proposed and debunked.

There are Caucasian and American Indian genes on Easter island. These genes don't prove any kind of "early" contact. It is impossible to prove when a gene entered the "pool" on Easter island.

A similar theory showed that Easter Islanders have the most diverse gene pool of Polynesian genes out of any island/group a few years back and also showed that there were amerindian genes present on Rapa, this theory was supposed to give creedence for E. Island being the starting point of Polynesian culture, ala Heyerdahl, which then supposedly spread westward to C. Polynesia etc..contrary to prevailing well supported theories of Austronesian origin supported by linguistics, DNA. anthropology, archeology, carbon dating etc. .

Only the most brief look at these results would lead one to believe that this proves anything other than that islanders have procreated with non Islanders. As to the antiquity of the genes the article conveniently left out the fact that slaver ships decimated E. Island and many other archipelago's early on and that through the work of various charitable and moral individuals it was arranged that Polynesian slave labor in S. America be halted. This was no big loss as the miserable Islanders were dying like flies and less than 10% had survived. It was arranged that a small ship would return the remaining Easter islanders and other natives home. The islanders continued to die off on the journey to E. Island and the decision was made to leave a group of 15 islanders from all the island groups on E. Island for fear that they would perish if the journey continued, hence, very diverse Polynesian DNA on Easter Isle as there were only a handful of natives left when these slaves were taken. The name Rapa- Nui isn't even native to the Easter isle dialect. There is also a well documented early occurrence that provides one of the many more likely explanations for European and Amerindian DNA in Rapa and Easter Islanders. That occurrence was the intentional marooning of two Peruvians and one Mexican sailor for punitive reasons. Peruvians and Mexicans from lower classes are most often Indian/Spanish Mestizos, sometimes with a little african blood thrown in for good measure. Do you think it's possible that on an island with very few individuals they could have inter-married and produced offspring. It seems very likely.

This doesn't even take into consideration all the other sailors and tourists who've before and since passed through, so to speak. Another interesting note is that there was no Mitochondrial DNA that was specifically Indian, a large colony would have been Men AND Women. The oldest bones on Easter Island have been tested and showed no Indian genetic characteristics but did show SE Asian/Polynesian genetic characteristics. Thor said the Peruvian Vikings were there first...Why aren't the oldest bones some kinda' Euro-Indian?

A genetic analysis was taken a couple of years back on a Lakota Reservation that could not find any individuals with less than 1/16th European ancestry. This even amongst those who called themselves "full bloods" and had no knowledge of their "white" ancestry. Now, according to the researchers methods you posted, I could use this as "evidence" to prove that the Sioux were descended in part from Long ago European types who traveled across the ocean and continent... It's the old Occam's Razor "when you have two competing theories which make exactly the same predictions, the one that is simpler is the better." So you have to look at ALL the facts and then ask yourself "What is more likely?" Probably misogny and intermarriage, white captives and natives raped, etc...

I for one would be very surprised if there were never any Polynesians in N and S America. I would be mildly surprised to learn that there were never any Indians in the Pacific, but, to say that the Moai were based on Incan statues? To say that American Indians were a major contributor genetically and culturally to ALL Polynesians??? To say Polynesian culture spread from East Pac. to West???

I studied Non Western art history and S America/Polynesia are no more similar than any other two non Western cultures. There are precedents for large stone statues elsewhere in C. Polynesia. etc..

I'm not disputing diffusionist theories at all. Thor got that part right. His methods and particular "theories" (ideas really) based on "I think NW Indians were a major contributor to Polynesia cuz their artwork looks similar to me" etc etc, are on the other hand, highly unlikely and unreputable. He claimed that NW Amerindians were a large part of the Polynesians ancestors, no genetic proof for that.

Being objective and looking at all evidence is good science. Being a layman and having an idea, then grasping at anything that supports it, while overlooking vast amounts of info that doesn't support it, is Cult science, pseudo science, racist science, nationalistic science, etc... There are several religious/cult groups that practice the same sort of "methods" Heyerdahl did. There are Chariots of the Gods "scientists" who claim exra terrestrial intervention was necessary to perform any of the wonderful feats that humans have accomplished. When you educate yourself on the cultures, look at ALL the possibilities, are aware of the various explanations, the "science" these guys do is lame.

Easter Island has only been occupied a few hundred to a 1000 years based on anyone's estimates from either camp, so any ANCIENT genetic evidence is self disproving. Usually within 5 -7 generations (approx. 120 years or so) the specificity of a genes introduction time-wise is lost due to all humans being incredibly similar genetically and the great amount of shared DNA we all carry. Those marooned sailors were well before 120-140 years ago. In a large population like Germany for example, the average German has 6% East Asian blood, based on any given individual it's impossible to tell if the ancestry is from 4 generations or so back or a cumulative large admixture from hundreds of years ago x many ancestors. Now when you take the national average consistently being that high (If only HITLER knew, hehe!) It points at a large cumulative admixture far enough back for it to evenly disperse. Most scientists agree Mongol invasions are the answer. Now in a small population like Easter Island post contact with say 100 individuals or less, a couple of inter-racial liasons can become a significant portion of the cumulative DNA in a very short amount of time, averaging homogenously like the Germans Asian genes in far far less time due to the small population.

Also please consider the source of the article/study you posted. Oslo!! Since Heyerdahl's "red headed viking Indians settle the Americas and Pacific" theory some people in a certain part of the world have tried to "prove" that viking like... hmmmmmmm Norwegian types created every technological and navigational accomplishment in the Western world. I guess Pacific Islanders an' Native Americans were not smart enuf to build pyramids and Moai without red bearded Kon-tiki, the Peruvian viking to show us the way, LOL! it strikes me as ironic sometimes that Thor fought against the Nazis in WWII cus they sure would have liked his "science" and had similar theories themselves. BTW in archeological circles Oslo has a very bad name for turning out some nationalistic cult scientists.



Peace,
ST

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[ This Message was edited by: Sneakytiki 2007-04-22 03:26 ]

[ This Message was edited by: Sneakytiki 2007-04-26 09:07 ]


 
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Kong-Tiki
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Joined: Sep 13, 2005
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Posted: 2007-04-22 02:52 am   Permalink

Now that you mention it....
there WAS contact between Thor Heyerdahl and Nazi Germany's pesudo-scientist before the war. After Heyerdahl had been living on the Marquesas Islands in the thirties, he visited Germany and presented racial scientist Hans Guenther with a skull from one of the natives. He also wrote a letter to his mother in which he states that Guenther " is one of the leading men of the new Reich".
This information was revealed in Ragnar Kvams biography "Thor Heyerdahl, the Man and the Ocean", in late 2005. Kvam writes that Heyerdahl's decision to provide anthropological material to one of Hitler's leading racial scientists showed a distinct "lack of intuition" and "evidence of a political naivete," .
When Norway was attacked by Germany in 1940, Heyerdahl joined the resistance. He never did express any extreme political views.
Your assumption that there is a sort of Norwegian conspiracy to defend all things Thor, is simply wrong, however. The Kon Tiki Expedition was controversial and strongly criticised in the Norwegian press and at the universities, before the movie made him a star in the rest of the world.
His theories are considered just that, also at the Kon Tiki Museum in Oslo. Dr Ingjerd Hoem, head of research at the Museum , told the Norwegian daily Aftenposten just this weekend that "Heyerdahls theories about the population of the Paciffic has been debunked".
Before his death in 2002, Heyerdahl had some new, entertaining theories about the orgin of the Norse mythology, that pissed off a lot of Norewgian scientists.


 
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Sneakytiki
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Joined: Mar 31, 2003
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From: Boise, Idaho
Posted: 2007-04-22 03:22 am   Permalink

Kong-tiki,

thx for the info, interesting stuff. I never meant to imply that all Norwegians are conspirators in the Heyerdahl theories, just that certain nationalistic "scientists" and other groups like his idea of red haired Viking like/Norse-like/Norwegian types spreading their superior genes and technologies across the Western world.

This sight is about fun and Kon-tiki is part of that fun/fantasy but it pisses me off when people are trying to say Thor's theories have merit, even now...

Smacks of colonialism--cultural elitism and ultimately racism. I certainly have no beef against diffusionist science and firmly believe that more inter-cultural exchange took place than is currently preached... Solutrean-Clovis connection maybe, Polynesians in the Americas -very likely. Vikings civilizing Peru and Polynesia and NW Indians being majority ancestors of Polynesians ala Heyerdahl--BS!

Again thanks for the info and I hope I didn't come off as slamming all of Norway, though I probably did. Lord knows there is plenty of propagandistic pseudo-science coming from the United States.

Peace

S
T

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Kong-Tiki
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Joined: Sep 13, 2005
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Posted: 2007-04-22 03:39 am   Permalink

No sweat and none taken. It has to be said that Heyerdahl's fame usually overshadowed his controversy in his home country. His last theories were, however, more far out than anything he had done previously. The stuff that television shows like Xena and Hercules are made of. The short version is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jakten_p%C3%A5_Odin

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Sneakytiki
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Joined: Mar 31, 2003
Posts: 1795
From: Boise, Idaho
Posted: 2007-04-22 04:46 am   Permalink

Kongtiki,

I just re-read that article.
http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1399-0039.2006.00717.x?cookieSet=1

It says the early Euro and Amerind genes are from pre-1800 only, not early as in founder or ancient contact. Here is a quote from the article.

"Most archaeological and linguistic evidence suggest a Polynesian origin of the population of Easter Island (Rapanui), and this view has been supported by the identification of Polynesian mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) polymorphisms in prehistoric skeletal remains. However, some evidence of an early South American contact also exists (the sweet potato, bottle gourd etc.), but genetic studies have so far failed to show an early Amerindian contribution to the gene pool on Easter Island. To address this issue, we analyzed mtDNA and Y chromosome markers and performed high-resolution human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genotyping of DNA harvested from previously collected sera of 48 reputedly nonadmixed native Easter Islanders. All individuals carried mtDNA types and HLA alleles previously found in Polynesia, and most men carried Y chromosome markers of Polynesian origin, providing further evidence of a Polynesian origin of the population of Easter Island. A few individuals carried HLA alleles and/or Y chromosome markers of European origin. More interestingly, some individuals carried the HLA alleles A*0212 and B*3905, which are of typical Amerindian origin. The genealogy of some of the individuals carrying these non-Polynesian HLA alleles and their haplotypic backgrounds suggest an introduction into Easter Island in the early 1800s, or earlier. Thus, there may have been an early European and Amerindian contribution to the Polynesian gene pool of Easter Island."

Being as how the island was first documented as visited by Europeans in 1722, this makes perfect sense that some sexual contact between European and South American genes and native Easter Islanders would have taken place. Again the genes were Y chromosone or Male only.

As far as the sweet potato, there is continual debate about whether it could have been carried by water or seeded by birds to disperse over the S. Pac.

Almost all scientists are in agreement that the bottle gourd floated to South America from Africa (it's of African origin not S. American) where it is native. If that has merit then, well Polynesia's between the two.

Of course both species could have been introduced by humans. This would only prove human contact however, and not Heyerdah's bizarre ideas about the peopling of Polynesia.

Regards,
ST

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[ This Message was edited by: Sneakytiki 2007-04-22 05:01 ]


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