The Easter Islands in and of themselves are a very mysterious place. They are probably the most famous for their giant statues depicting the heads and bodies of people. It’s a mystery as to where the statues came from or who exactly they were meant to represent. The technology required to build these statues would have come from a rather advanced civilization, so there is great debate as to who was responsible for their construction. Some even put forward the theory that they were built by an ancient extraterrestrial civilization.
What is even more mysterious is the origin of the local Rapa Nui people. A recent study of their genetics showed that these people have an unusual match to the people of South America, whose mainland is about 2500 miles from the island. This has perplexed many scientists and led to a rather interesting theory about the Polynesian island.But first, a little bit of history It is believed that the island had no human population until around 800 to 400 BC. The legend goes that a tribal chief named Hotu Matu’a arrived with his extended family in nothing more than two canoes. It was deduced that whoever the first settlers were, they most probably traveled from nearby Polynesian islands. European travelers only discovered the island in 1722, giving those who have settled a considerable chance to grow into a fully flourishing population. The question that arises, however, is how between 800 BC and 1722 AD, the people of Easter Island had acquired genes that are distinctly from South American people. How do we know the genes are from South America? DNA is unique to every individual, but there are sections of DNA that can tell you exactly where you came from because they are passed on through the generations. DNA is made up of four types of nitrogenous bases, which are given the letters A, T, C, and G to represent their unique chemical structure. It is the order that is different in different genes. The order of these molecules varies in different populations and that’s what gives each population distinct features. For example, the blue-eyed gene is quite distinct to European populations and the eye color gene would have a different sequence in South American populations.
By comparing the sequence of DNA of the locals of Easter Island, researchers found matches with genes that exist only in South American populations. They then demonstrated that these genes were part of the population since 1200 AD, long before the Europeans discovered the island. Essentially, what this shows is that there was some interbreeding between the Polynesian people and the people from South America. But how did that come to be? The grand new theoryBecause of this evidence, scientists now believe that there was some sort of travel between Easter Island and South America long before the Europeans discovered the Polynesian island. Considering that the genes are from around 1200 AD, it is quite remarkable that there was technology at the time that could traverse the 2500 mile gap. This presents a theory that there was a technologically advanced civilization that was able to make the journey. We have never known of such a civilization in that area before. And so another mystery is created. Just as we cannot be certain where the statues come from, we are not sure where the technology for such a long journey was developed. It seems that Easter Island is shrouded in mystery, and is a wonderful place to research well into our future.