During the last prehistoric expansion of modern humans, Polynesians from the Samoa-Tonga area dispersed through more than 500 remote, subtropical to subantarctic islands of East Polynesia (a cultural region encompassing the islands of New Zealand, Chathams, Auckland, Norfolk, Kermadecs, Societies, Cooks, Australs, Gambier, Tuamotu, Marquesas, Line, Rapa Nui, and Hawaii), an oceanic region the size of North America (Fig. The timing and sequence of this expansion, debated vigorously since Europeans rediscovered the islands of East Polynesia (1, 2) and most intensively with the advent of radiocarbon dating (3, 4), remains unresolved. 600–950 in the central, northern, and eastern archipelagos, and no earlier than A. Subsequent studies using precise AMS dating of short-lived materials alone have generally supported short chronologies (4, 6–8).
On many islands, irreconcilable long and short settlement chronologies coexist that vary by more than 400–1,000 y (4). The last systematic analysis of radiocarbon dates from archaeological and paleoecological sites throughout East Polynesia, published 17 y ago, was based on 147 radiocarbon dates (5). However, these chronologies continue to be dismissed by some scholars (9, 10) on hypothetical grounds of missing evidence or archaeological invisibility, and in favor of radiocarbon dates on materials (typically unidentified charcoal with high inbuilt age potential) incapable of providing a precise age for the event being dated.
Original frisky Radio broadcast date: June 21, 2017 Recorded during my recent trip to South America, hour 1 features my live set from The Bow in Buenos Aires, while hour 2 captures the energy of my B2B performance with Cid Inc at Umma in Posadas, Argentina.
We would like to thank everyone for their amazing support on this tour!
In a meta-analysis of 1,434 radiocarbon dates from the region, reliable short-lived samples reveal that the colonization of East Polynesia occurred in two distinct phases: earliest in the Society Islands A. ∼1025–1120, four centuries later than previously assumed; then after 70–265 y, dispersal continued in one major pulse to all remaining islands A. Our empirically based and dramatically shortened chronology for the colonization of East Polynesia resolves longstanding paradoxes and offers a robust explanation for the remarkable uniformity of East Polynesian culture, human biology, and language.
Models of human colonization, ecological change and historical linguistics for the region now require substantial revision. This analysis shortened East Polynesian prehistory just at the time when accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dating became available for very small samples (e.g., individual seeds).
The reliable Class 1 dates consistently reveal a short chronology for each island or archipelago where data are available. Our LAEM and our EAEM for initial colonization are listed below each island group and are represented by the yellow band.
In contrast, Class 2–3 dates, which are based on materials that have a high risk of imprecision and/or inaccuracy, have a larger spread of ages, and these are often used to support longer chronologies in the region.(A) Estimates for the timing of colonization for East Polynesian archipelagos or islands. (B) Distinct separation between colonization ages for the Society Islands (and possibly Gambier) vs. Our LAEM and our EAEM for initial colonization are listed below each island group and are represented by the yellow band.
We first categorized all radiocarbon-dated materials into one of six sample material types: short-lived plant, long-lived plant, unidentified charcoal, terrestrial bird eggshell, bone, and marine shell (Fig. Dates on these materials were then sorted into reliability classes, according to whether there was potential for any disparity between the age of the radiocarbon event (i.e., Fig. Calibration probabilities were then calculated for the subset of reliable dates to derive the most precise (within radiocarbon calibration error) estimate for the age of initial colonization on all East Polynesian island groups (Chronometric range (68% probability) of calibrated radiocarbon dates for East Polynesian islands, for reliability Classes 1–3 as defined in Materials and Methods.
Boxes show minimum and maximum calibrated ages for dates within each class.
The 15 archipelagos of East Polynesia, including New Zealand, Hawaii, and Rapa Nui, were the last habitable places on earth colonized by prehistoric humans.
The timing and pattern of this colonization event has been poorly resolved, with chronologies varying by 1000 y, precluding understanding of cultural change and ecological impacts on these pristine ecosystems. We show that previously supported longer chronologies have relied upon radiocarbon-dated materials with large sources of error, making them unsuitable for precise dating of recent events.
Solid blue line = cumulative probability (right axis) which provides a means of assessing our confidence that colonization occurred no later than a particular date. Red dashed line indicates sum of probability distributions (left axis). 1200 based on the assumption that we have 100% confidence that colonization had occurred by this time; and for the remaining islands with Class 1 dates, this was set to A. The distribution of calibrated age ranges for all classes of radiocarbon dates shows a clear pattern across the entire region (Fig. 1025 to 1520, in contrast to those of Class 2–3 dates, which extend back to 500 B. This pattern reflects the higher precision and accuracy of the reliable targets that make up Class 1 dates (i.e., short-lived materials with SEs and Fig. Using our models, we can show a robust and securely dated two-phase sequence of colonization for East Polynesia: earliest in the Society Islands A. ∼1025–1120, four centuries later than previously assumed, and significantly before (by ∼70–265 y) all but one (Gambier) of the remote island groups with Class 1 dates. This is caused by one date in the Gambier group [Beta-271082: 970 ± 40 BP on carbonized ), leaving initial colonization age ambiguously between that of the central and marginal East Polynesian islands. ∼1200–1253, respectively) but with much larger sets of Class 1 dates. They are also in close agreement with age estimates for initial colonization on the remaining island groups, with Class 1 dates including Line, Southern Cooks, and the sub-Antarctic Auckland Island, which all show remarkably contemporaneous chronologies within radiocarbon dating error (Fig. The unity in timing of human expansion to the most remote islands of East Polynesia (encompassing the triangle made between Hawaii, Rapa Nui, and Auckland Island) is even more extraordinary considering these islands span a vast distance of both longitude and latitude (Fig. Collectively, these results, based on only the most reliable samples, provide a substantially revised pattern of colonization chronology for East Polynesia, which shortens the age for initial colonization in the region by up to 2,000 y, depending on various claims asserted for earlier chronologies (3, 9, 10).