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Ancient DNA Reveals Information About The People of The Mariana Islands

“We know more about polynesic settlement than we do for settlement in the Mariana Islands,” says author Irina Pugach, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

The researchers wanted to know where people came to Marianas and how the ancestors of Chamorro, the current Mariana Islanders, could be related to Polynesians.

To answer these questions, researchers obtained ancient DNA data from the first skeleton dating back nearly 2,200 years in the Ritidian Beach Caveso region north of Guam.

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“We found that the lineage of these ancient skeletons was linked to the Philippines,” pugach says.

Excavation site outside the Ritidian Beach Cave site in northern Guam, Mariana Islands C: Hsiao-cun Hung

Co-author Mike T. Carson, an archaeologist at the Micronesya Field Research Center at the University of Guam, says, “These findings reinforce the picture from linguistic and archaeological studies, pointing to an island of Southeast Asian origin for marianas’ early settlers.”

“At the same time, we find a close link between ancient Guam skeletons and early Lapita individuals from Vanuatu and Tonga in the Western Pacific region,” Pugach says, adding, “This shows that Marianas and Polynesya may have been colonized from the same source population, increasing the likelihood that the Marianas will play a role in the eventual settlement of Polynesya.”

The researchers note that the new results offer interesting new information and are based on only two skeletons from about 1,400 years after the first human settlement in Guam.

“More research needs to be done for the people of Guam and the settlement of such remote archi archidas in Oceania,” says senior author Mark Stoneking of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

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References:

Article: Pugach, I., Hübner, A., Hung, H.C., Meyer, M., Carson, M. T., & Stoneking, M. (2020). Ancient DNA from Guam and the Peopling of the Pacific. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(1).

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