How the Polynesians discovered America. Or the other way round?

How vast the Atlantic must have seemed in the time of the Romans or the Middle Ages. Huge, dangerous and absolutely unnavegable with the ships of the time. How very much bigger then must the Pacific have seemed to people in the tiny scattered islands. Or to the peoples who lived along its coast in places we now call Peru or Colombia.

Yet it now seems somebody did cross the Pacific, centuries before Europeans like Columbus and Magellan made their epic voyages. It looks as if, some time around 1200 AD either a group of Polynesians crossed to South America, or some Americans went the other way. The clue has always been there in sweet potato fields in places like Tonga (sweet potato comes from South America). But now a team led by GA Ioninnidis and his colleagues have used a sophisticated DNA technique to not only confirm the hypothesis but give an approximate date-probably between AD1130 and AD 1220. We have to link to two articles here, if only because the pictures are so good. We have chosen Nature and El Pais.** We’ll leave the story to them, but must wonder in amazement.

Before modern transport, astronomy and communications (in fact any time before about 1520AD) the world was so big that it must have felt almost infinite. And there is nothing bigger than the Pacific. Up to Easter Island, islands are pretty few and remote. Beyond Easter Island there is nothing at all. What sort of boat did they use? How did they navigate? Above all, why keep going, if you don’t know what’s at the other end? We stand in awe, gentle readers, at the implications of this research, and the people who were on those boats. Any budding novelists out there?

#earlyvoyages #polynesiaamericacontact #dna #nature

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