Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 


New insights into ancient Pacific settlers’ diet

Otago researchers gain new insights into ancient Pacific settlers’ diet


University of Otago researchers studying 3000-year-old skeletons from the oldest known cemetery in the Pacific Islands are casting new light on the diet and lives of the enigmatic Lapita people, the likely ancestors of Polynesians.

Their results—obtained from analysing stable isotope ratios of three elements in the bone collagen of 49 adults buried at the Teouma archaeological site on Vanuatu’s Efate Island—suggest that its early Lapita settlers ate reef fish, marine turtles, fruit bats, free-range pigs and chickens, rather than primarily relying on growing crops for human food and animal fodder.

The findings are newly published in the prestigious international journal PLOS ONE. Study lead author Dr Rebecca Kinaston and colleague Associate Professor Hallie Buckley at the Department of Anatomy carried out the research in collaboration with the Vanuatu National Museum and researchers from the University of Marseilles and CNRS (UMR 7269 and UMR 7041) in France and The Australian National University, Canberra.

Dr Kinaston says the study is the most detailed analysis of Lapita diet ever undertaken and provides intriguing insights into the socio-cultural elements of their society.

“It was a unique opportunity to assess the lifeways of a colonising population on a tropical Pacific island,” she says.

The researchers analysed the isotopic ratios of carbon, nitrogen and sulphur in adult human bone collagen and compared these with ratios in ancient and modern plants and animals from the location, which provided a comprehensive dietary baseline.

“Examining these ratios gave us direct evidence of the broad make-up of these adults’ diets over the 10-20 years before they died, which helps clear up the long-running debate about how the Lapita settlers sustained themselves during the early phases of colonising each island during their eastward drive across the Pacific.”

Dr Kinaston says it appears that the new colonists, rather than relying mainly on a “transported landscape” of the crop plants and domesticated animals they brought with them, were practicing a mixed subsistence strategy.

“The dietary pattern we found suggests that in addition to eating pigs and chickens, settlers were also foraging for a variety of marine food and consuming wild animals—especially fruit bats—and that whatever horticultural food they produced was not heavily relied on,” she says.

Isotopic analysis of the ancient pig bones found at the site also suggests that they were free-ranging rather than penned and given fodder from harvested crops.

Study of the human bones revealed a sex difference in diet compositions, showing that Lapita men had more varied diets and greater access to protein from sources such as tortoises, pigs and chicken than women did.

“This may have resulted from unequal food distribution, suggesting that males may have been considered of higher status in Lapita society and treated preferentially,” Dr Kinaston says.

Grants that funded the overall research project came from the Australian Research Council, Pacific Biological Foundation, National Geographic Society, Royal Society of New Zealand-administered Marsden Fund and the University of Otago. Other funding came from CNRS: Aix-Marseille Université.

ends


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Wine: 20% Of Marlborough Storage Tanks Damaged By Quake

An estimated 20 percent of wine storage tanks in the Marlborough region, the country’s largest wine producing area, have been damaged by the impact of the recent Kaikoura earthquake. More>>

ALSO:

ACC: Levy Recommendations For 2017 – 2019 Period

• For car owners, a 13% reduction in the average Motor Vehicle levy • For businesses, a 10% reduction in the average Work levy, and changes to workplace safety incentive products • For employees, due to an increase in claims volumes and costs, a 3% increase in the Earners’ levy. More>>

Women's Affairs: Government Accepts Recommendations On Pay Equity

The Government will update the Equal Pay Act and amend the Employment Relations Act to implement recommendations of the Joint Working Group on Pay Equity. More>>

ALSO:

Immigration: Increase In Seasonal Workers For RSE

The current cap will be increased by 1,000 from 9,500 to 10,500 RSE workers for the 2016-17 season. Mr Woodhouse says the horticulture and viticulture industry is New Zealand’s fourth largest export industry, producing almost $5 billion in exports. More>>

ALSO:

Hurunui: Crown Irrigation Invests Up To $3.4m In North Canterbury

Crown Irrigation Investments will invest up to $3.4m in the Hurunui Water Project, an irrigation scheme that will be capable of irrigating up to 21,000 hectares on the south side of the Hurunui River in North Canterbury. More>>

ALSO:

Not So Great:Butterfly Eradication Success

The invasive pest great white butterfly has been eradicated from New Zealand in a world-first achievement, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Conservation Minister Maggie Barry say. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Government’s Tax Cuts Fixation

Long before the earthquake hit, the dodginess of the government tax cuts programnme was evident in the language of its packaging. It is being touted as a “tax cuts and family care” package... More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sci-Tech
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news