Credit Polynesians for reaching the Americas before Europeans
Scientists have found proof that Polynesians arrived by canoe in South America before Europeans.
SCIENTIFIC research has found that Polynesians visited South America long before the Spanish or Portuguese explorers, and the findings strongly support the view that Pacific islanders beat Columbus to North America by hundreds of years. Discoverers Day has taken on a new meaning.
A team of researchers led by New Zealand anthropologist Alice A. Storey used genetic analysis and radiocarbon dating to link chickens that lived in Chile between 1304 and 1424 to Polynesian islands, long before Europeans arrived on the continent after 1500. The chicken bones' DNA was identical to that of chicken bones from prehistoric sites on Tonga and American Samoa.
Other evidence of prehistoric contact between South America and Polynesia includes the presence of the sweet potato, native to South America, in both places. Polynesian sailors are presumed to have obtained them in South America and brought them home.
The findings support the contention of University of California linguist Kathryn A. Klar and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo archeologist Terry L. Jones that Polynesians set foot on Southern California even earlier. They have contended that the Chumash and nearby Gabrielino Indian tribes learned how to build sewn-plank boats from the Polynesians sometime between 400 and 800 A.D, after thousands of years of using less seaworthy boats.
In addition, Klar and Jones point out the similarity of the Chumash and Gabrielino words for the boat-building technique -- tomolo'o tiat tarayna-- and the combination of Hawaiian words for the method of making wooden planks and sewing them together -- kumulaa'ua tia talai na; many Hawaiian words beginning with "k" derived from words beginning with "t."
Klar and Jones said they also found a change in the style of fishhooks used by the Chumash to the two-piece bone fishhooks used by Polynesians. Klar asserts that recent radiocarbon evidence indicates that Hawaii was initially settled between 610 and 790 A.D., which "fits comfortably" within the emergence of the technological changes in the California tribes between 400 and 800 A.D.
Skeptics have questioned whether prehistoric Polynesians could have possibly sailed across the world's biggest ocean to North America. Klar responded that the notion that Polynesians lacked the technology or sailing ability for such a voyage "is almost laughable given the size of the target and the fact that the distance from Hawaii to the Marquesas is basically the same as Hawaii to California ... yet we know that the passage from the Marquesas to Hawaii was made repeatedly."
Following the new proof that Polynesians landed in Chile, Jones said to the Los Angeles Times, "Then why is it so difficult to imagine they couldn't have made it to Southern California from Hawaii?"
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