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Rethinking Polynesian Origins: Human Settlement of the Pacific

Questions about human origins and the mapping of human movement around the world has long interested science. Molecular biotechnological techniques are now an important tool in collecting data to answer these questions.

Our Polynesian ancestors are renowned as some of the world’s most successful and innovative navigators. Using their knowledge of tides and stars, Polynesian seafarers explored vast areas of the Pacific. They discovered and settled nearly every inhabitable island in the Pacific Ocean well before European explorers got here in the 16th century.

Māori oral legends tell us that Hawaiki is the legendary homeland from which Māori and Polynesian people explored and colonised the islands of the Pacific and Aotearoa New Zealand. There is also increasing scientific evidence that Polynesians reached South America well before the first Europeans.

Allan Wilson Centre anthropologist Lisa Matisoo-Smith, is part of a team of researchers investigating questions about the origins of Polynesians such as:

  • Where did the ancestors of Polynesians come from?
  • What route did the settlers take through the Pacific?

Answering questions like this is the role of a field of science called biological anthropology.

Rethinking Polynesian Origins: Human Settlement of the Pacific
Senior Biology Seminar Series with Michal Denny and Lisa Matisoo‐Smith (2.4 MB, PDF)
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