October 23, 2014

Somewhere, Thor Heyerdahl is Smiling

In the 1940s,  Thor Heyerdahl, a Norwegian anthropologist (and scourge of Nazi super science) postulated that there had been travel and trade between South America and some or all of Polynesia. 



He based this in large part on studies of artifacts and cultural aspects found on Rapa Nui (Easter Island). Opinion of the day was that the Amerindians were incapable of such voyages and that Heyerdahl was a nut. The famous Kon Tiki expedition was intended to test the feasibility of Hyerdahl's theory and address his critics objections to it. 


April 28, 1947 Kon Tiki sets sail from Callao, Peru

Kon Tiki was a replica of an ancient Peruvian balsa raft and constructed with no metal aside from a radio in the hut. It sailed from Peru all the way to Ramoia in 101 Though the voyage was successful, (and a huge, international sensation) Dr. Hyerdahl himself was quite clear that the voyage did not prove his theory but did indicate that it was possible. 

Thor Heyerdahl's theory was widely criticized and fell out of favor, in part because it was misunderstood. He did not posit that Polynesia had been populated from South America, only that there had been some cultural exchange between the two.  


Well, it appears that Heyerdahl, was, at the very least, on the right track.
Recent genetic evidence has concluded that the inhabitants of Rapa Nui are indeed the product of interbreeding between Polynesians and Native Americans. 

 Genetic data on 27 Easter Island natives indicated that interbreeding between the Rapa Nui and native people in South America occurred roughly between 1300 and 1500.

"We found evidence of gene flow between this population and Native American populations, suggesting an ancient ocean migration route between Polynesia and the Americas," said geneticist Anna-Sapfo Malaspinas of the Center for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen, who led the study.  ['quote]

What's more, at least one Native American tribe was originally completely Polynesian. 

A second study, also published in Thursday's issue of Current Biology, illustrates another case of Polynesians venturing into South America. Two ancient human skulls from Brazil's indigenous Botocudo people, known for the large wooden disks they wore in their lips and ears, belonged to people who were genetically Polynesian, with no detectable Native American ancestry.
 

If this data pans out, then it sure looks like Thor Heyerdahl nailed it! 


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October 20, 2014

Congratulations to Nigeria and Senegal!

Astoundingly good news! Nigeria and Senegal seem to have licked Ebola for now. It still might flare up and refugees might reintroduce it, but both countries got on top of it by taking it seriously and acting diligently. 


Meanwhile, Ebola Tan discusses current events with a colleague .

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