Lapita people are ancestors to all Ni-Vanuatu, finds latest DNA study

Our ancestors: a Lapita skeleton buried with three other skulls at Teouma

Ol bubu blong yumi: a Lapita skeleton buried with three other skulls at Teouma, Efate

A major academic paper has been published online in Nature, the top scientific journal in the world, which solves many questions of the origins of Pacific peoples, including the people of Vanuatu.

The study, titled ‘Genomic insights into the peopling of the Southwest Pacific‘ (paywall), is based on a revolutionary study of ancient DNA from the Lapita skeletons from Teouma found during the 2004 to 2010 archaeological dig there. There are 31 authors to the paper, led by Pontus Skoglund of Harvard University.

It turns out the foundation population of Vanuatu probably came directly from Taiwan or the northern Philippines,  bypassing New Guinea and the Solomon Islands without mixing with the Australo-Papuan people already living there.

All Ni-Vanuatu descend from these first migrants and their later intermarriage with mixed Asian-Papuan groups who came down from the New Guinea and Solomon Islands. There are Asian Lapita genes in every Ni-Vanuatu, the mark of their earliest ancestors.

The original archaeological research carried out at Teouma was in response to damage to the site from soil quarrying for the prawn farm. The bulldozers had revealed skeletons and broken Lapita pots dating to almost 3,000 years ago. Read the rest of this entry »

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The little-known history of New Hebridean labourers in 19th century New Zealand – a tale waiting to be told

A New Hebridean flaxworker in the Hokianga region of the north island of New Zealand, c. 1872, photographed by Daniel Mundy

A New Hebridean flaxworker in the Hokianga region of the north island of New Zealand, c. 1872, photographed by Daniel Mundy

About sixty thousand Melanesians, almost all of them from (present-day) Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, were brought to Queensland to toil in that state’s sugarfields in the nineteenth century. Today, the descendants of some of these ‘blackbirded’ labourers make up Australia’s South Sea Islander community. In Vanuatu and in the Solomons many families remember ancestors who suffered in Queensland. Historians have told the story of Queensland’s bonded labourers in essays and books and documentary films.

But the stories of the Melanesians who were brought to New Zealand have seldom been told. Only a relatively small number of Melanesians came to New Zealand, and few of them stayed permanently. But their presence prompted debates in the media and in parliament, and led to the creation of an historic set of photographs.
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Pala Molisa: we need to rebuild the links between the peoples of the Pacific

Pala Molisa, PhD. Photo: Victoria University

Ni-Vanuatu scholar Pala Molisa, PhD. Photo: Victoria University

Pala Molisa was born in Vanuatu, but did most of his schooling in New Zealand. He’s now a lecturer at Victoria University’s Business School, with a PhD in accounting. Not your usual, yawn-inducing kind of accounting, but the kind that gets him called an “activist accountant”. Here he talks to Dale Husband of e-tangata about why Māori and other Pasifika people need to reconnect “the threads of whakapapa [geneaology, ancestry] that colonisation has broken” — and unite to tackle the big social and ecological challenges of our time.

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