Did the Easter Islanders have contact with Native Americans ? Image Credit: CC BY 2.5 Honey Hooper
A small land mass of only 60 square miles, Easter Island has remained something of an enigma for years. Its army of strange stone statues and the fate of its original inhabitants are mysteries that continue to draw both intrigue and puzzlement.
More recently, scientists have put forward the idea that the Easter Islanders may have actually travelled to South America across 1,200 miles of open ocean and made contact with the Native American people long before the first Europeans had arrived on the continent.
In 2014, a genetic study seemed to indicate that the island’s modern inhabitants had inherited around 8% of their DNA from Native Americans, but now a second study, which involved sequencing the genomes of the original inhabitants of the island before and after European contact, showed no evidence of Native American ancestry whatsoever.
“We were really surprised we didn’t find anything,” said anthropologist Lars Fehren-Schmitz. “There’s a lot of evidence that seems plausible, so we were convinced we would find direct evidence of pre-European contact with South America, but it wasn’t there.”
“This study highlights the value of ancient DNA to test hypotheses about past population dynamics.”