Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Was Polynesia Settled from South America – Part VIII

Continuing from the previous post regarding the settlement of Polynesia. One of the furthest east in the Pacific Ocean, or closest west islands to the mainland of South America is that of Rapa Nui, known as Easter Island.
Map of Easter Island, with the Poika Peninsula to the northeast and Rano Kao (Crater) to the southwest

Easter Island is the westernmost island of the Polynesian group of Islands, and about 2300 miles off the coast of Chile in the Pacific Ocean. It is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world with the nearest inhabited land (around 50 residents) is Pitcairn Island 1,289 miles distant). The nearest town with a population over 500 is Rikitea on the island of Mangareva, 1629 miles away.
    No wonder early settlers considered to have originated around 300 AD, believed themselves cut off and at land’s end.
    According to some Polynesian theories, there is a probability that early Polynesian settlers arrived from South America due to their remarkable sea-navigation abilities. Theorists have supported this through the agricultural evidence of comparing foods of South America with those of Polynesia.
    Easter Island is a simple island today, cleared of most of its vegetation, especially trees, that were plentiful on the island in the past. Rano Kau is a 1,063 foot tall dormant volcano that forms the southwestern headland of Easter Island, that was formed by basaltic lava flows
    When the Cha-Rapa (a people from eastern Peru who spoke a Spanish dialect near the Amazon jungle in Peru) made their home on Easter Island, they named it ‘Te Pito O Te Kainga' which means ‘The End of Eating' which possibly is indicative of the poor fishing off the islands, and ‘Te Pito O Te Whenua', which means ‘The End of Land.” Other people have interpreted the name to mean “Naval of the World” the naval being where the umbilical cord is severed from the mother, which is another way to describe their “aloneness.”
    These first settlers must have felt they were at the end of the road, the last surviving members of their once great civilization of Ha-Rapa. They had survived the warfare in Peru that had decimated their numbers and were now cast out on a tiny speck of land thousands of miles from anywhere. They probably thought they were safe in isolation.
    However, soon after, the Hawaiians arrived. The island name was changed to Rapa Nui (big Rapa), as a form of respect for the Cha-Rapa people. The Cha-Rapa knew their bid for survival was on again, but their intuition was telling them it was all over and time to put up the statues to say “This is who we were.”
These Moai on Easter Island were so imposing that when first seen by Europeans they couldn't believe they'd been created by just a couple thousand people

They erected the Moai pointing east, back the way they came, as if yearning for their past. According to Easter Island history, the red heads or 'Long Ears' established a class society and used the Hawaiians as their workers. They cohabited on the island for over 500 years, but limited intermarriage thus creating a visible racial division, which eventually resulted in their undoing.
    Overpopulation and a particularly dry year led to a famine. The Long Ears ordered the Hawaiians to clear more land for farming - and they refused. This resulted in a civil war that saw the Long Ears fall from power, and they were slaughtered, all except one male. Thor Heyerdahl, However, Heyerdahl, the Norwegian adventurer in his book Aku Aku: The Secret of Easter Island,” describes in detail this ancient history of Easter Island.
    The surviving red heads of Easter Island are descended from this one man, Ororoina. Extinction of this lineage came very close, but now because of his survival, geneticists can now piece together this amazing story.
    Due to Heyerdahl’s untiring work and interest in Easter Island, he was made an honorary chief of the island. At least some people out there already recognized the importance of his work. Thor died in 2002, a man with many ideas the world was not ready to accept. 50 years ago and even today many people are still struggling with this new understanding of human prehistory.
    Unfortunately, Thor is no longer around to see his work finally recognized, as is the case with many famous people in history who challenged previously held beliefs. Today with genetics, the truth is staring us in the face, yet some still refuse to see this different picture of our past. Acceptance of a new level of understanding takes time. For the sake of Thor's family, let us hope that the time is near.
    Finally, on the 6 June 2011, a NewScientist article finally admitted that Thor Heyerdahl was right. There was a genetic/cultural input from Peru to Easter Island. The article, written by Michael Marshall, reads: "South Americans helped colonize Easter Island centuries before Europeans reached it. Clear genetic evidence has, for the first time, given support to elements of this controversial theory showing that while the remote island was mostly colonized from the west, there was also some influx of people from the Americas.
    Though genetics, archaeology and linguistics all claim that Polynesia was colonized from Asia, probably from around Taiwan, Heyerdahl thought otherwise.
    In the mid-20th century, Heyerdahl claimed that the famous Easter Island statues were similar to those at Tiahuanaco at Lake Titicaca in Bolivia, so people from South America must have traveled west across the Pacific to Polynesia. His famous Kon-Tiki drift voyage, in which he sailed a balsa wood raft from Peru to the Tuamotu islands of French Polynesia, showed that the trip could have been made. Now Erik Thorsby of the University of Oslo in Norway has found clear evidence to support elements of Heyerdahl's hypothesis.
Left: A single statue as it appears on Easter Island; Right: When that statue is exposed down into the ground. This shows those who thoughht the Easter Island statues were very different, they are similar to South America as well as Mesoamerica 

In 1971 and again in 2008 he collected blood samples from Easter Islanders whose ancestors had not interbred with Europeans and other visitors to the island. Thorsby looked at the HLA genes, which vary greatly from person to person. Most of the islanders' HLA genes were Polynesian, but a few of them also carried HLA genes only previously found in Native American populations. Genetic shuffling Because most of Thorsby's volunteers came from one extended family, he was able to work out when the HLA genes entered their lineage.
"The family tree of several of the people who had these Indian genes are traced to Pakomio Maori, who was born on the island in 1816.
    These Native American genes can therefore not be a result of the slave raids that devastated Polynesia in the mid 1860's," said Thorsby. But the genes may have been around for longer than that. Thorsby found that in some cases the Polynesian and American HLA genes were shuffled together, the result of a process known as "recombination."
    This is rare in HLA genes, meaning the American genes would need to be around for a certain amount of time for it to happen. Thorsby can't put a precise date on it, but says it is likely that Americans reached Easter Island before it was "discovered" by Europeans in 1722."
Vinapu wall, dated at 300AD and similar in style to cut stone walls in Peru 

The stonework on Easter island, quite similar in many respects to that of Sacsayhuaman, Ollantaytambo and other Peruvian sites, was fashioned from basalt that was formed from the rapid cooling of magnesium-rich and iron-rich lava. These rocks were cut and dressed into two things: Walls and human replica statues. The basalt also contains several other igneous rocks including obsidian (for which it was one of the major sources for the island's stoneworkers) and pumice.
Top: Comparison between (left) Easter Island stonework rock insertions and (right), the same thing in Peru; Bottom: comparison between (left) rounded stone shaping, and (right) those in Peru

While Andesite was used at Sacsayhuaman in Peru, the Obsidian stone at Easter Island was fashioned in much the same manner. The image above shows two main similar carvings: 1) small inserted piece to finish off joints; 2) rounded edges on end pieces, both of which are unusual ancient stonework that is even difficult to match today.
    As for those who claim the spread of Lapita pottery extended into Polynesia from the west to east, the DNA findings suggest a totally different origin for the Polynesians than for the Lapita Melonisians. 
    In the work, the Human Lymphocyte Antigens (HLA B13, B18 and B27), such are common among Melanesians but are totally absent from Polynesians. A11 and B40 are significantly associated with each other in Melanesia, whereas in Polynesian Populations, A11 is associated with Bw48”. A11 is a Caucasian gene and appears to have been brought into the Pacific on two separate occasions. Interestingly the only other place in the world where HLA A11 is also found associated with B40 is in the Indus region, once the home of the Harappa civilization. In conclusion, from the archaeological evidence, it appears that Lapita is closely tied to Melanesian sites and genetic evidence establishes a separate evolution of Melanesians and Polynesians. Therefore by simple logic, Polynesians and Lapita are unrelated (S.W. Serjeantson, “Migration and admixture in the Pacific,” The Journal of Pacific History, Taylor & Francis, 1984 pp160-171). 
Similarities in Peru with the Sarcophagus of the Karajia to the heads at Easter Island 

It has also been found that the Sarcophagus of the Karajia are from people related to the Carchapoya people of northern Peru has an uncannily similar to the Easter Island Moai and a bearded, big nosed Tolai carving from Bismark Archipelago, the home of blonde and red haired people of Melanesia and the dispersal point of Lapita pottery beginning 1,500 BC, seem to show a connection. Yet, the Burial urns of Tamil Nadu (Southern India) and burial urn with skull (Vanuatu, 500 miles west off Fiji and 1000 miles northeast of Australia in Melonesia), in a Time Magazine article August 2005 are suggestive of a similar connection; however, in July 2006, article by Lisa Matissoo-Smith, a geneticist, determined that DNA from these skeletons and relics was unrelated to Polynesian DNA. What appears certain, however, is that the connection between Peru and Easter Island is definite, one Thor Heyerdahl predicted fifty years earlier and was ridiculed by the archaeological community, but has now been proven accurate.
    These articles were meant to show that the idea of how Polynesia was settled and by whom, and it was not from Melanesia island-hopping eastward into and across the eastern south Pacific.

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