From Sweet Potatoes to DNA: New Evidence Supports Links Between South American and Polynesian Cultures
The people who lived in Polynesia hundreds of years ago were known for their voyaging capability. They practiced wayfinding, or navigating, by using careful observations of the natural world including the stars, the Sun, and ocean waves. We know they sailed between clusters of islands that includes Marquesas, Mangareva, and Rapa Nui using their sturdy double-hulled canoes, but did they travel all the way to South America? Until recently, the strongest evidence to answer this question was the presence of the sweet potato, a crop native to South America, in Polynesia. However, recent research analyzing human DNA from Polynesians and South and Central American groups sheds new light on the mystery.
This artwork shows what a double-hulled canoe looks like. Getty