DNA analysis by a team of Stanford medical scientists, led by Alexander Ioannidis, shows that Native Americans and Polynesians began to come into contact for centuries before the first Europeans arrived, and that an archaeological puzzle may have been solved,media reported.
In 1947, the young Thor Heyerdahl and five like-minded explorers set off from Peru on an epic 101-day journey through 6,900 kilometers (4,300 miles) of the high seas to La Roa in Tuamotus, Polynesia. The purpose of this dramatic experiment is to answer a question that has puzzled scholars for decades. Why do the indigenous peoples of the west coast of South America and the indigenous peoples of Polynesia have so many similarities in some writings, works of art, and even crops?
Polynesians have nothing to do with South Americans, who are thought to be descendants of people who migrated from North America, and Polynesians who migrated from Southeast Asia to the other side of the Pacific Ocean at a very late age. However, some of the Works of Art of Polynesians are similar to those found in the Andean civilization of South America, and some Andean and Polynesian sounds very similar, but the biggest mystery is that Polynesians have planted sweet potatoes, a plant native to South America. More intriguingly, there are similarities between Polynesian and sweet potatoes in various Andean languages.
The problem is that the two peoples are thousands of miles apart on the high seas. Polynesians had great sailing canoes, but the wind and currents would prevent them from reaching South America, while the South Americans had winds and currents that helped them drift westward, but their sea boats were limited to fragile coastal rafts made of basawood.
The purpose of Heyerdahl’s voyage was to reveal whether South Americans could sail or drift to Polynesia. Despite ending on a reef, the Kantiki voyage was a success. However, it only proves that such travel can be carried out, not that it did happen.
The Stanford study aims to gather direct evidence that Not only did Polynesians and Native Americans actually meet, but they also have offspring, which will be reflected in the modern population. These will be revealed through deep genomic analysis, including sequencing the genome scants to look for fragments of characteristics of each population and fragments inherited from the same ancestor several generations ago.
This isn’t the first time DNA has been used to solve this problem, according to Stanford University. Early genetic tests focused on sweet potatoes and how or whether Polynesian sweet potatoes were related to sweet potatoes in South America, but the genetic originof of sweet potatoes was too complex to provide a definitive answer.
Instead, Ioannidis’s team focused on 807 samples from people from 17 Polynesian islands and 15 Native American groups along the Pacific coast from Mexico to Chile. Modern DNA samples are preferred because in the tropics, samples from archaeological sites are too degraded. From there, they were able to trace the common genetic marker seq in the DNA of Native Americans and Polynesians back to around 1200 A.D., Ioannidis said, “about when the islands were first settled by Polynesians” more than 200 years before the first Europeans arrived in South America.
According to Ioannidis, DNA points to a genetic blend between Polynesia and now Colombians, because Polynesians made at least one landing in South America, whether designed or accidental, but it was possible that Columbus’s rafts were caught in the storm and then drifted westward, which could explain the migration of sweet potatoes.
“If you think about how the history of this period is told, it’s almost always a story of European conquest, and you never really hear anyone else’s story,” Ioannidis says. “I think it’s a work that helps piece together stories that aren’t known — in fact, it can be exposed through genetics, and i’m very excited about it.”
The study was published in the journal Nature.