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Human settlement of East Polynesia earlier, incremental, and coincident with prolonged South Pacific drought

Human settlement of East Polynesia earlier, incremental, and coincident with prolonged South Pacific drought
Human settlement of East Polynesia earlier, incremental, and coincident with prolonged South Pacific drought
The timing of human colonisation of East Polynesia, a vast area lying between Hawai‘i, Rapa Nui, and New Zealand, is much debated and the underlying causes of this great migration have been enigmatic. Our study generates new evidence for human dispersal into eastern Polynesia from islands to the west from around AD 900 and contemporaneous palaeoclimate data from the likely source region. Lake cores from Atiu, southern Cook Islands (SCI) register evidence of pig and human occupation on a virgin landscape at this time, followed by changes in lake carbon around AD 1000 and significant anthropogenic disturbance from c. AD 1100. The broader palaeoclimate context of these early voyages of exploration are derived from the Atiu lake core and complemented by additional lake cores from Samoa (directly west) and Vanuatu (southwest), and published hydroclimate proxies from the Society Islands (northeast) and Kiribati (north). Algal lipid and leaf wax biomarkers allow for comparisons of changing hydroclimate conditions across the region before, during, and after human arrival in the SCI. The evidence indicates a prolonged drought in the likely western source region for these colonists, lasting c. 200 to 400 years, contemporaneous with the phasing of human dispersal into the Pacific. We propose that drying climate, coupled with documented social pressures and societal developments, instigated initial eastward exploration, resulting in SCI landfall(s) and return voyaging, with colonisation a century or two later. This incremental settlement process likely involved the accumulation of critical maritime knowledge over several generations.
0027-8424
8813-8819
Sear, David
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Allen, Melinda
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Hassall, Jonathan
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Maloney, Ashley
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Langdon, Peter
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Morrison, Alex
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Henderson, Andrew
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Mackay, Helen
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Croudace, Ian
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Clarke, Charlotte
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Sachs, Julian P.
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Macdonald, Georgiana
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Chiverrell, Richard C.
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Leng, Melanie J.
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Cisneros-Dozal, Malu
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Fonville, Thierry
d23821e0-2f2e-4dee-a9c9-19b839089570
Sear, David
ccd892ab-a93d-4073-a11c-b8bca42ecfd3
Allen, Melinda
0c252409-1bea-4d93-92f1-b396fe55b398
Hassall, Jonathan
17b719cf-5b7b-496a-8bf7-96c57618baca
Maloney, Ashley
aab6ca72-487c-441d-a52e-92329c4dc7a2
Langdon, Peter
95b97671-f9fe-4884-aca6-9aa3cd1a6d7f
Morrison, Alex
61b77a14-e145-4a57-82d9-4034f4e88541
Henderson, Andrew
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Mackay, Helen
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Croudace, Ian
24deb068-d096-485e-8a23-a32b7a68afaf
Clarke, Charlotte
68afb5e9-7966-4b54-9549-47c49e350f6c
Sachs, Julian P.
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Macdonald, Georgiana
08d3f0c6-46ff-4f6e-8686-81db41dc7dc4
Chiverrell, Richard C.
193e87d2-aae0-499c-b92b-af07eb2a494d
Leng, Melanie J.
71755042-2b5f-44a6-8420-019f13a4a946
Cisneros-Dozal, Malu
bb619d8c-b52a-4cf4-a2ca-4abf74d3e92c
Fonville, Thierry
d23821e0-2f2e-4dee-a9c9-19b839089570

Sear, David, Allen, Melinda, Hassall, Jonathan, Maloney, Ashley, Langdon, Peter, Morrison, Alex, Henderson, Andrew, Mackay, Helen, Croudace, Ian, Clarke, Charlotte, Sachs, Julian P., Macdonald, Georgiana, Chiverrell, Richard C., Leng, Melanie J., Cisneros-Dozal, Malu and Fonville, Thierry (2020) Human settlement of East Polynesia earlier, incremental, and coincident with prolonged South Pacific drought. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117 (16), 8813-8819. (doi:10.1073/pnas.1920975117).

Record type: Article

Abstract

The timing of human colonisation of East Polynesia, a vast area lying between Hawai‘i, Rapa Nui, and New Zealand, is much debated and the underlying causes of this great migration have been enigmatic. Our study generates new evidence for human dispersal into eastern Polynesia from islands to the west from around AD 900 and contemporaneous palaeoclimate data from the likely source region. Lake cores from Atiu, southern Cook Islands (SCI) register evidence of pig and human occupation on a virgin landscape at this time, followed by changes in lake carbon around AD 1000 and significant anthropogenic disturbance from c. AD 1100. The broader palaeoclimate context of these early voyages of exploration are derived from the Atiu lake core and complemented by additional lake cores from Samoa (directly west) and Vanuatu (southwest), and published hydroclimate proxies from the Society Islands (northeast) and Kiribati (north). Algal lipid and leaf wax biomarkers allow for comparisons of changing hydroclimate conditions across the region before, during, and after human arrival in the SCI. The evidence indicates a prolonged drought in the likely western source region for these colonists, lasting c. 200 to 400 years, contemporaneous with the phasing of human dispersal into the Pacific. We propose that drying climate, coupled with documented social pressures and societal developments, instigated initial eastward exploration, resulting in SCI landfall(s) and return voyaging, with colonisation a century or two later. This incremental settlement process likely involved the accumulation of critical maritime knowledge over several generations.

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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 4 March 2020
e-pub ahead of print date: 6 April 2020
Published date: 21 April 2020

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 439600
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/439600
ISSN: 0027-8424
PURE UUID: dd459946-a9c7-4c4e-b8d8-7d04764f7576
ORCID for David Sear: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-0191-6179
ORCID for Peter Langdon: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-2724-2643

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Date deposited: 28 Apr 2020 16:30
Last modified: 07 Oct 2020 01:41

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Contributors

Author: David Sear ORCID iD
Author: Melinda Allen
Author: Jonathan Hassall
Author: Ashley Maloney
Author: Peter Langdon ORCID iD
Author: Alex Morrison
Author: Andrew Henderson
Author: Helen Mackay
Author: Ian Croudace
Author: Charlotte Clarke
Author: Julian P. Sachs
Author: Georgiana Macdonald
Author: Richard C. Chiverrell
Author: Melanie J. Leng
Author: Malu Cisneros-Dozal
Author: Thierry Fonville

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