Mitochondrial DNA from 3000-year old chickens at the Teouma site, Vanuatu

Alice A Storey, Matthew Spriggs, Stuart Bedford, Stuart Hawkins, Judith Robins, Leon Huynen, Elizabeth Matisoo-Smith

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Chickens were part of the Lapita cultural complex, transported into and through the Pacific by prehistoric colonists; as such they can be used as a proxy for tracking prehistoric migration and interaction. The Lapita site of Teouma in Vanuatu is well known for the recovery of complete dentate stamped pots and a cemetery containing the largest collection of Lapita period skeletons ever found. Chicken bones recovered from these excavations provide the first ancient DNA sequences from any commensal organism directly associated with a Lapita context. The ancient mtDNA sequences obtained from two Teouma chicken bones are compared with previously published archaeologically derived ancient DNA sequences to extend our understanding of the spread of chickens in Pacific prehistory. The results also show that the haplogroup E signature was present in very early populations of chickens transported into Remote Oceania. This study also adds to the suite of available data relating to isotopic signatures for commensal animals during the early settlement of Vanuatu and may reveal a different diet for Teouma chickens than those from other early prehistoric assemblages in the Pacific.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2459-2468
    JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
    Issue number10
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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