The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Archaeogenetics and paleodemographic estimation of founding populations, and features of residential geography on Rapa Nui (Easter Island)


1Department of Anthropology, Idaho State University, 2Center for Archaeology, Materials and Applied Spectroscopy, 3Idaho Museum of Natural History

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The development of improved techniques for extracting, amplifying and analyzing DNA from old or degraded tissue has provided unprecedented access to phylogenetic data for studying founding populations and the development of community structure in archaeology. Methodological advances in DNA extraction efficiency have resulted in increased throughput and have made large-scale sampling strategies viable, allowing the evaluation of anthropological and evolutionary hypotheses of mating and social behavior. Using mitochondrial and microsatellite data recovered from late prehistoric and early protohistoric (AD 1680 – 1750) skeletons from Rapa Nui (n = 98), we present evidence for genetic lineage construction and emerging community structure under alternative models of colonization and demographic change. In this study, Rapa Nui mtDNA HVRI and HVRII sequence variation shows greater haplogroup variability compared to recent archaeogenetic evidence from central east Polynesia (Deguilloux et al. 2011), supportive of a multiple colonization model. Microsatellite phylogenies suggest a refinement of previous craniometric (Stefan 1999) and archaeogenetic (Dudgeon 2008) studies arguing that lineage endogamy and differential mobility of males and females is explained by the emergence of corporate tribal entities after AD 1500. Our results suggest that genetic affinity maps to geography and subsistence features, rather than simple isolation by distance models, and is characteristic of a socially diverse, infilled population landscape. We do not find supporting evidence for strict lineage endogamy reported in early ethnohistoric accounts, but rather limited and geographically patterned female endogamy, the details of which require further explanation within a framework of insular demographic expansion and emerging territoriality.

This research was supported by funding from Idaho State University Faculty Research Council and an Idaho State University Molecular Research Core Facility Seed Grant

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