Social Science

The origin of the Lapita Cultural Complex: Analyses of mtDNA from ³long² and ³short² pigs

J. Koji Lum, PhD

Associate Professor of Anthropology and Biological Sciences, Laboratory of Evolutionary Anthropology and Health, Binghamton University,

The archaeological record of the human settlement of the Pacific describes two discreet periods of range expansion. Some of the earliest evidence of modern humans outside of Africa is found in the Pacific dated to 60,000 years ago. By 29,000 years ago humans had settled the intervisible islands extending from New Guinea to the central Solomon Islands, known as Near Oceania. Approximately 3,500 years ago a second group of settlers entered the Pacific, rapidly moved through Near Oceania, and settled Remote Oceania, the remaining archipelagoes of the Pacific. These latter voyagers are characterized archaeologically by a distinct material culture known as the Lapita cultural complex that includes intricately decorated pottery and the transport of pigs, dogs, chickens, and rats.

We recently examined a group of Remote Oceanic pigs to gain insights into the geographic origin of the Lapita People and their cultural complex unavailable in the human data. These data suggest that Pacific pigs were recently domesticated within Southeast Asia rapidly selected for compact, canoe-friendly size, and then dispersed during the human colonization of Remote Oceania associated with the Lapita cultural complex. These Pacific pigs are most closely related to wild boars dispersed throughout Southeast Asia, but not Taiwan. These data suggest that the Lapita Cultural Complex may have arisen in mainland Southeast Asia and that the currently favored hypothesis of a Taiwanese origin may be an artifact of recent human population replacements within Southeast Asia.

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Social Science

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