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A team of anthropologists came to the conclusion that the inhabitants of the remote Easter Island, the Rapanui, had no contact with the outside world until the arrival of the Europeans on the island in 1722.
The results of the study were published in the specialized journal Current Biology.
The study also points out that if there were cultural contacts between the Rapanui and the South American native peoples, “there is no trace of them” in their genes.
During the experiment, the researchers analyzed the DNA sequences extracted from the remains that are conserved of five individuals, three of which date from the XIV-XV centuries and the other two from people born between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Each bone fragment provided the researchers with about 200 milligrams of genetic material.
According to the person in charge of the study, Lars Fehren-Schmitz, of the University of California in Santa Cruz (USA), the scientists were “really surprised” by this discovery.
“Our information suggests that the American Indian heritage present today in the people of Easter Island was not present on the island before contact with Europeans and therefore may be due to more recent events in history,” said professor Fehren-Schmitz.
He stressed that “we were convinced that we would find direct evidence of a pre-European contact with South America, but we did not”.
According to Fehren-Schmitz, this discovery sheds light on the evolution and human genetic diversity.
However, scientists could not determine when the first contact that altered the genome of modern Pascuenses occurred.
At present, the DNA of the inhabitants of the island shows between 6% and 8% of genetic material coming from indigenous people.
For this reason, the researcher stressed that his team plans to continue studying in this direction to determine more precisely how and when this gene entry from the continent occurred and from where it originated.
“The dynamics of the population of these regions is fascinating, we need to study the ancient populations of other islands, if they exist,” he said.
He also added that slavery, whaling, and mass deportations are activities that could explain this genetic fingerprint.
It is estimated that the Rapanui arrived on Easter Island – located more than 2,000 kilometers from the nearest inhabited island – in the second century of our era.
Some anthropologists believe that this civilization – the creator of the massive Moai statues, which are the main tourist attraction on the island – is more related to pre-Columbian peoples than to inhabitants of other islands in the region.
More than 900 moai statues sculpted by the ancient Rapa Nui are distributed throughout the island.
Most of them were carved from the Rano Raraku volcanic cone, where more than 400 moai remain in different phases of construction.
The historical data of the entire development of the various construction techniques were developed on the island between 700 AD and 1600 AD.
Everything indicates that the quarry was suddenly abandoned and half-carved statues were left in the rock.