A new study provides a maximally detailed five wave model of the prehistoric human settlement of Micronesia, relying on ancient and modern DNA, linguistics and archaeology.
Notably, it determines that the Mariana Islands lack Papuan ancestry, and that Micronesians were strictly matrilocal.
Micronesia began to be peopled earlier than other parts of Remote Oceania, but the origins of its inhabitants remain unclear. We generated genome-wide data from 164 ancient and 112 modern individuals.
Analysis reveals five migratory streams into Micronesia. Three are East Asian related, one is Polynesian, and a fifth is a Papuan source related to mainland New Guineans that is different from the New Britain–related Papuan source for southwest Pacific populations but is similarly derived from male migrants ~2500 to 2000 years ago.
People of the Mariana Archipelago may derive all of their precolonial ancestry from East Asian sources, making them the only Remote Oceanians without Papuan ancestry.
Female-inherited mitochondrial DNA was highly differentiated across early Remote Oceanian communities but homogeneous within, implying matrilocal practices whereby women almost never raised their children in communities different from the ones in which they grew up.
Yue-Chen Liu, et al., "Ancient DNA reveals five streams of migration into Micronesia and matrilocality in early Pacific seafarers" 377 (6601) Science 72-79 (June 30, 2022).