Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Were Pigs Transported by Island Travellers ( or Did They Fly?

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Were Pigs Transported by Island Travellers ( or Did They Fly?

Article excerpt

Pigs have pointed the way for North-East experts studying the origins of people who first colonised the Pacific islands.

Scientists from Durham and Oxford universities looked at DNA and tooth shape in modern and ancient pigs.

This has revealed that, in direct contradiction to longstanding ideas, ancient human colonists of the Pacific zone may have originated in Vietnam and travelled between numerous islands before first reaching New Guinea, and later landing on Hawaii and French Polynesia.

The researchers demonstrated that a single genetic heritage is shared by modern Vietnamese wild boar, modern feral pigs on the islands of Sumatra, Java, and New Guinea, ancient Lapita pigs in Near Oceania, and modern and ancient domestic pigs on several Pacific Islands.

The study results contradict established models of human migration which assert that the ancestors of Pacific islanders originated in Taiwan or Island Southeast Asia, and travelled along routes that pass through the Philippines as they dispersed into the remote Pacific. The research was funded by the Wellcome Trust, the Leverhulme Trust, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Fyssen Foundation.

Research project director, Dr Keith Dobney, a Wellcome Trust senior research fellow with the Department of Archaeology at Durham University, said: "Many archaeologists have assumed that the combined package of domestic animals and cultural artefacts associated with the first Pacific colonizers originated in the same place and was then transported with people as a single unit.

"Our study shows that this assumption may be too simplistic, and that different elements of the package, including pigs, probably took different routes through Island South-East Asia, before being transported into the Pacific."

Dr Greger Larson, who carried out the genetic work while at Oxford, is now due to join Durham University in August as a Research Councils UK Research Fellow. …

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