The Chicken Proves It: Polynesians Entered America Before Columbus

This explains the similarities between South American and Polynesian tribes

  Araucana cock
Chicken preceded Christopher Columbus when it comes to setting foot in America. We know Vikings stepped into the New World too, but they were not the first outsiders.

Recently dug chicken bones on the coast of Chile have been dated before Columbus' "discovery" of America and their DNA matched fowls breeds of Polynesia.

"Chickens could not have gotten to South America on their own-they had to be taken by humans," said anthropologist Lisa Matisoo-Smith from the University of Auckland, New Zealand.

And the Polynesian contact with the west coast of South America was more than a century older than the Spanish arrival.

The bones were found in an archaeological site called El Arenal (south Chilean coast), alongside other items of the indigenous population. Previously, it was thought the local Araucana chicken breed had been brought by Spanish settlers around 1500 but the carbon dating of the ancient chicken places them anywhere from 1304 to 1424.

"This also fits with the other dates obtained from the site (on other materials), and it fits with the cultural period of the site." said Matisoo-Smith.

The bones' DNA also fitted closely a Polynesian chicken breed rather than any European breed.

Polynesians started their migration from the big islands of Indonesia (Borneo, Sumatra) about 3,000 years ago. They gradually went eastward, but were never thought to have traveled further than Easter Island, about 2,000 miles (3,200 km) off the coast of continental Chile.

"The chicken DNA suggests at least one group did make the harrowing journey across the remaining stretch of Pacific. We cannot say exactly which island the voyage came from. The DNA sequence is found in chickens from Tonga, Samoa, Niue, Easter Island and Hawaii," Matisoo-Smith said.

"If we had to guess, we would say it was unlikely to have come from West Polynesia and most likely to have come from Easter Island or some other East Polynesian source that we have not yet sampled."

In 1947, Thor Heyerdahl, the famous Norwegian anthropologist, proved that a voyage from Peru to Polynesia aboard a rudimentary raft (called Kon-Tiki) was possible.

"There are more scientific arguments, too. There is increasing evidence of multiple contacts with the Americas, based on linguistic evidence and similarities in fish hook styles. Physical evidence of human DNA from Polynesia has yet to be found in South America," added Matisoo-Smith.

Many tribes of the Amazon have many cultural common affinities to tribes of Borneo, like the use of hammock, blowpipe and the "Big House" of the tribe. And even that common fringed haircut, not found in other cultures.

Linguistic should look more at the eventual similarities between Malayo-Polynesian languages and many indigenous languages of the Americas. The discovery could explain also mysteries of the Easter Island, like similarities of its statues with Andean sculptures.

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By    5 Jun 2007, 07:53 GMT