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Demography and social structure of Polynesian outliers: genomic investigations of over 100 individuals buried in Namu, Taumako island

Project description

A closer look at interactions amongst Oceanians

Descendants of two main migration waves, out of Africa over 50 000 years ago and from Taiwan beginning around 5 000 years ago, the Oceanians have a complex population history and represent a complex genetic landscape. Interactions amongst Oceanians, however, remain poorly understood. The EU-funded project NAMU will study the genetic data of 114 ancient individuals from the ancient Polynesian Outlier site of Namu, a burial ground on the island of Taumako, Solomon Islands. With the main aim of understanding the structure of Oceanian societies and its relation with their migratory history, NAMU will employ palaeogenomic methods to study Taumako’s settlement processes and demographic history and the social organisation and socioeconomic stratification of Namu.


Oceanians are descendants of two main migration waves: the early migration of modern humans out-of-Africa more than 50,000 years ago (ya), which ended in the Solomon Islands (Near Oceania); and the Austronesian expansion, that started around 5,000 ya in Taiwan and peopled the remaining unexplored territories of Oceania (Remote Oceania) up to Polynesia from 3,000 ya. Subsequent migrations within the region created a complex genetic landscape. Near Oceanian populations moved into Remote Oceania at least 2,500 ya. Afterwards, Polynesian-speaking groups expanded westward, outside the Polynesian triangle, to other Oceanian islands, giving rise to the so-called Polynesian Outlier communities. This complex population history created a highly differentiated sociocultural background among Oceanians, whose interactions remain poorly understood. We will leverage genetic data for 114 ancient individuals from the ancient Polynesian Outlier site of Namu, a burial in the Taumako island, occupied from the 13th to the 18th centuries AD, which represents, to our knowledge, the largest ancient DNA dataset ever studied from a single site. We will use cutting-edge paleogenomic methods to study: the settlement processes and the demographic history of Taumako, and the social organization and socioeconomic stratification of the Namu site, according to genetic ancestry, sex, kin relations and age. The ultimate objective is to understand the structure of Oceanian societies and its relation with their migratory history. To achieve the project’s goals, I will integrate in the Archaeo- and Palaeogenetics group at the University of Tübingen, under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Cosimo Posth, who is a worldwide known expert in paleogenomics. This innovative and multidisciplinary project is a unique opportunity for me to learn the full range of paleogenomic techniques from a leading group in the field and to establish myself as an interdisciplinary leader in this expanding research area.



Net EU contribution
€ 189 687,36
72074 Tuebingen

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Baden-Württemberg Tübingen Tübingen, Landkreis
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
No data