View Full Version : DNA shows first inhabitants of Vanuatu came from Philippines and Taiwan

10-03-2016, 03:29 PM

Those who settled on the archipelago 3,000 years ago – and Tonga shortly after – travelled from farther away than previously believed, scientists say

The first inhabitants of Vanuatu hailed from Taiwan and the Philippines rather than the South Pacific island nation’s much closer neighbours, scientists have discovered.

A study by scientists at the Australian National University of ancient DNA taken from three skeletons excavated from Vanuatu’s oldest known cemetery revealed that the first people arrived about 3,000 years ago.

Rather than moving from neighbouring countries including Australia, Papua New Guinea or the Solomon Islands – where people have lived for between 40,000 and 50,000 years – Vanuatu’s original inhabitants came from much further north in Taiwan and the northern Philippines, the scientists found.

“The people of Vanuatu today are descended from Asia first of all,” said research professor Matthew Spriggs, of the ANU’s school of archaeology and anthropology. “They travelled past places where people were already living, but when they got to Vanuatu there was nobody there.

10-03-2016, 04:38 PM
“A particularly striking finding is the different ancestry observed on the X-chromosome, which is inherited mainly from females,” said lead author Dr Pontus Skoglund of Harvard Medical School and Stockholm University.

“This reveals that the vast majority of the ancestry from these open-water pioneers that survives today is derived from females, showing how DNA information can provide insights into cultural processes in ancient societies.”

I think we are going to be seeing more of this kind of finding in the future.

10-03-2016, 05:08 PM
Given the presence of Austronesian languages in Vanuatu it make sense. It would appear that Austronesian spread southwards out of Taiwan.

10-03-2016, 08:11 PM
So the first Lapita people had little or no Papuan ancestry, and were partially replaced by a later expansion derived from a mix of their cousins from the same ancestral population with Papuans (at least 25% Papuan). Modern Tongans were slightly closer to the ancient Tongan sample than other groups were, showing that the replacement was not complete. The date (from ALDER) for the Papuan-East Asian admixture episode is surprisingly recent: only 1239-1927 years ago.

The ancient samples were closest to Kankanaey from the Philippines, then to Atayal from Taiwan, with Dai more distant, in accordance with the usual view of Austronesian origins.

An interesting tidbit: "We were surprised that we could not fit Australians as outgroups to New Guinean Highlanders and the Papuan ancestry in Polynesians. However, we could fit Australians as deriving from a mixture of an ancient Australian lineage and a Papuan lineage from the same group that expanded into Polynesia. This is plausible if there was continuing gene flow between New Guinea and Australia. Another parsimonious model is that the ancestry in present-day Polynesians is not all Papuan, but a Papuan–Australian mix." (If Australians have this Papuan ancestry it would be about 45%, or Australian ancestry in the Polynesian kind of Papuan would be about 17%.)

The plot thickens, as usual.