The Original Kon-Tiki Expedition

Genetics researchers at Stanford have determined that there was contact between Native Americans and Polynesian peoples some three centuries before European contact, based on the result of a large-scale genetic study across multiple countries:

Ioannidis and a team of international researchers collected genetic data from more than 800 living Indigenous inhabitants of several South American countries, Mexico and Polynesia, conducting extensive genetic analyses to find signals of common ancestry. Based on trackable, heritable segments of DNA, the team was able to trace common genetic signatures of Native American and Polynesian DNA back hundreds of years.

That’s via Stanford Medical News Center.

According to one of the researchers, Alexander Ioannidis, the genetics indicate contact took place about 300 years before Columbus first landed in the Bahamas:

“It was conclusive evidence that there was a single shared contact event.” In other words, Polynesians and Native Americans met at one point in history, and during that time people from the two cultures produced children with both Native American and Polynesian DNA. Statistical analyses confirmed the event occurred in the Middle Ages, around A.D. 1200, which is “around the time that these islands were originally being settled by native Polynesians,” Ioannidis said. Using computational methods developed as part of Ioannidis’ graduate work, the team then localized the source of the Native American DNA to modern-day Colombia.

Theories of pre-Columbian contact between certain indigenous South American peoples and Polynesians have been around for a while. The 1947 Kon-Tiki Expedition, led by Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl, was an attempt to prove that an oceanic voyage from South America to Polynesia was feasible using a raft made with materials and methods known to the people of the time. It sailed 4,300 miles, from Callo, Peru, to an empty atoll in French Polynesia, in 101 days.

Heyerdahl contended that native South Americans made contact with Polynesian islanders around 1100 AD, not far from the date given by the Stanford team.

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