Using seafaring simulations and shortest-hop trajectories to model the prehistoric colonization of Remote Oceania

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Montenegro, Alvaro [UNESP]
Callaghan, Richard T.
Fitzpatrick, Scott M.
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Natl Acad Sciences
The prehistoric colonization of islands in Remote Oceania that began similar to 3400 B.P. represents what was arguably the most expansive and ambitious maritime dispersal of humans across any of the world's seas or oceans. Though archaeological evidence has provided a relatively clear picture of when many of the major island groups were colonized, there is still considerable debate as to where these settlers originated from and their strategies/trajectories used to reach habitable land that other datasets (genetic, linguistic) are also still trying to resolve. To address these issues, we have harnessed the power of high-resolution climatic and oceanographic datasets in multiple seafaring simulation platforms to examine major pulses of colonization in the region. Our analysis, which takes into consideration currents, land distribution, wind periodicity, the influence of El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events, and shortest-hop trajectories, demonstrate that (i) seasonal and semiannual climatic changes were highly influential in structuring ancient Pacific voyaging; (ii) western Micronesia was likely settled from somewhere around the Maluku (Molucca) Islands; (iii) Samoa was the most probable staging area for the colonization of East Polynesia; and (iv) although there are major differences in success rates depending on time of year and the occurrence of ENSO events, settlement of Hawai'i and New Zealand is possible from the Marquesas or Society Islands, the same being the case for settlement of Easter Island from Mangareva or the Marquesas.
Pacific colonization, Lapita expansion, ancient seafaring, computer simulations, ENSO
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Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences Of The United States Of America. Washington: Natl Acad Sciences, v. 113, n. 45, p. 12685-12690, 2016.