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

 

Scoop Business: Dairy Product Prices Decline To Lowest Since July 2012

Dairy product prices dropped to the lowest level since July 2012 in the latest GlobalDairyTrade auction, led by a slump in rennet casein and butter milk powder. More>>

ALSO:

SOE Results: TVNZ Lifts Annual Profit 25% On Flat Ad Revenue, Quits Igloo

Television New Zealand, the state-owned broadcaster, lifted annual profit 25 percent, ahead of forecast and despite a dip in advertising revenue, while quitting its stake in the pay-TV Igloo joint venture with Sky Network Television. More>>

ALSO:

Insurers Up For More Payouts: Chch Property Investor Wins Policy Appeal In Supreme Court

Ridgecrest NZ, a property investor, has won an appeal in the Supreme Court over insurance cover provided by IAG New Zealand for a Christchurch building damaged in four successive earthquakes. More>>

ALSO:

Other Cases:

Royal Society: Review Finds Community Water Fluoridation Safe And Effective

A review of the scientific evidence for and against the efficacy and safety of fluoridation of public water supplies has found that the levels of fluoridation used in New Zealand create no health risks and provide protection against tooth decay. More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Business: Croxley Calls Time On NZ Production In Face Of Cheap Imports

Croxley Stationery, whose stationery brands include Olympic, Warwick and Collins, plans to cease manufacturing in New Zealand because it has struggled to compete with lower-cost imports in a market where the printed word is giving way to electronic communications. More>>

ALSO:

Prefu Roundup: Forecasts Revised, Surplus Intact

The National government heads into the election with its Budget surplus target broadly intact, delivering a set of economic and fiscal forecasts marginally revised from May to reflect weaker commodity prices and a lower tax take. More>>

ALSO:

Convention Centre: Major New SkyCity Hotel And Laneway For Auckland

Today SKYCITY Entertainment Group Limited revealed plans to build a new hotel and pedestrian laneway of bars, restaurants and boutique shopping on land it owns in the Nelson and Hobson Streets block, expanding the SKYCITY Entertainment Precinct. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
Computer Power Plus

Standards New Zealand

Standards New Zealand
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sci-Tech
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news