MOTHER TONGUE
Newsletter of the Association for the Study of Language In Prehistory

Issue 26 · Spring 1996


Polynesian MTDNA Lineage Cluster

Alvah Hicks reports on J.Koji Lum et al (include Becky Cann), 1994 "Polynesian Mitochondrial DNAs Reveal Three Deep Maternal Lineage Clusters". HUMAN BIOLOGY 66: 567-590. Alvah reports: "Major group I lineages are common in Remote Oceania and include about 95% of the Native Hawaiian, 90% of the Samoan, and 100% of the Tongan donors in our sample. They contain the region V deletion and generally share three control region transition substitutions. This group also contains non-Polynesian individuals, such as Indonesians, Native Americans, Micronesians, Malaysians, Japanese, and Chinese. . . ."

"Fully modern humans colonized all of Sahul, inhabiting Australia by 50,000 yr BP (Roberts et al 1990), New Guinea by 40,000 BP (Groube et al, 1986), New Ireland by 33,000 BP (Allen et al, 1988), and the Solomon Islands by 29,000 BP (Allen et al 1989). The strings of atolls and islands of Remote Oceania were apparently beyond the simple navigational skill of the first modern people. Increasing distance between islands corresponds to a long pause of almost 30,000 years, documented in the archeological record, for the intentional spread of humans further across the ocean."

"The ancestors of Polynesians and the Lapita complex attributed to them appear to be the first human culture to develop a system of navigation and two-way sailing sufficient to ensure successful deep-water passage over thousands of miles. Some of these passages may have been the result of drift voyages, but computer simulation (Irwin 1992) and direct experimentation have refuted the likelihood that settlement was primarily accidental (Finney et al, 1989)."

"Their presumed route, based on archeological and linguistic evidence, appears to be from Mongoloid centers in East Asia south into Australo-Melanesia, then east across the Pacific."

"Lapita-associated skeletons from Mussau and Fiji are similar to Polynesians in nonmetric traits and are similar to Melanesians in skeletal dimensions (Kirch et al, 1989; Pietrusewsky 1989). Although direct gene flow is a possibility, the Lapita cultural complex could have been shared without mate exchange. The expansion of the Lapita people from the Bismarck Archipelago to western Polynesia is archeologically instantaneous (Kirch and Hunt 1988)."

"Finally, the South American sweet potato is found throughout Polynesia, raising the question of two-way voyaging from Polynesia or drift voyaging from the west coast of South America (Heyerdahl 1950; Yen 1974; Irwin 1989). The presence of flotsam from North America in Polynesia and demonstration rafting from South America indicate that some limited contact may have been possible between eastern Polynesia & the Americas

Linkage of the DRB1*1,5,0,2 and DRB5*0,1,0,1 alleles (Gao & Sarjeantson 1991) which are fixed in Papua New Guinea Highlanders and Polynesians but are absent in Chinese, suggests a New Guinea origin of Polynesian group II." (End of Lum et al & Alvah Hicks report.)

Ethnologically primitive, but interesting. Still Oceanian prehistoric studies have now reached a level above this paper and that includes much agreement on Austronesian language groups and their movements. The clear interaction with NAN or Non-Austronesian people along the north New Guinea coast + Melanesian islands should not be a mystery anymore and this significant truth should not be buried under 'Melanesian' a term which is now properly equivocal. See elsewhere in this issue where the term is extended to native Australians.


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(c) 1996 Association for the Study of Language In Prehistory