Ancient DNA from Guam and the peopling of the Pacific

Irina Pugach, Alexander Hübner, Hsiao-chun Hung, Matthias Meyer, Mike Carson, Mark Stoneking

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    Humans reached the Mariana Islands in the western Pacific by∼3,500 y ago, contemporaneous with or even earlier than the initial peopling of Polynesia. They crossed more than 2,000 km of open ocean to get there, whereas voyages of similar length did not occur anywhere else until more than 2,000 y later. Yet, the settlement of Polynesia has received far more attention than the settlement of the Marianas. There is uncertainty over both the origin of the first colonizers of the Marianas (with different lines of evidence suggesting variously the Philippines, Indonesia, New Guinea, or the Bismarck Archipelago) as well as what, if any, relationship they might have had with the first colonizers of Polynesia. To address these questions, we obtained ancient DNA data from two skeletons from the Ritidian Beach Cave Site in northern Guam, dating to ∼2,200 y ago. Analyses of complete mitochondrial DNA genome sequences and genome-wide SNP data strongly support ancestry from the Philippines, in agreement with some interpretations of the linguistic and archaeological evidence, but in contradiction to results based on computer simulations of sea voyaging. We also find a close link between the ancient Guam skeletons and early Lapita individuals from Vanuatu and Tonga, suggesting that the Marianas and Polynesia were colonized from the same source population, and raising the possibility that the Marianas played a role in the eventual settlement of Polynesia.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-12
    JournalPNAS - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
    Volume118
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2021

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