New DNA analysis of sweet potatoes, which were first cultivated in the Americas, suggests that Polynesians reached the New World long before Columbus.
Tue, Jan 22, 2013 at 09:53 PM
The prevailing theory about the “rediscovery” of the American continents used to be such a simple tale. Most people are familiar with it: In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Then that theory was complicated when, in 1960, archaeologists discovered a site in Canada’s Newfoundland, called L’Anse aux Meadows, which proved that Norse explorers likely beat Columbus to the punch by about 500 years.
Now startling new DNA evidence promises to complicate the story even more. It turns out that it was not Columbus or the Norse — or any Europeans at all — who first rediscovered the Americas. It was actually the Polynesians.
All modern Polynesian peoples can trace their origins back to a sea-migrating Austronesian people who were the first humans to discover and populate most of the Pacific islands, including lands as far-reaching as Hawaii, New Zealand and Easter Island. Despite the Polynesians’ incredible sea-faring ability, however, few theorists have been willing to say that Polynesians could have made it as far east as the Americas. That is, until now. Read More…