Uranium dating shows Polynesians came to Tonga in 826 BC
The Lapita people, Polynesian settlers and the ancestors of modern Pacific Islanders, began travelling from New Guinea across the Pacific around 5,000 years ago. They settled in the Solomon Islands about 3,100 years ago and from there moved further east toward an archipelago of islands, now known as the Kingdom of Tonga.
New dates were obtained by the Simon Fraser University, Vancouver from coral tools excavated from the oldest-known settlement on Tongatapu. These dates suggest that the first Polynesian settlers arrived there between 2,830 and 2,846 years ago, 826 ± 8 BC. With only 16 years of error range, this is an extremely precise dating, attributed to a dating method of radioactive uranium isotopes.
A more commonly used dating method in such a case uses radioactive carbon isotopes, but this dating can often have error ranges of several hundred years. This problem made Burley and his team work on a method to date the coral tools with uranium, and applied it to 16 coral files that were buried under the site of Polynesia's oldest known settlement, the small village Nukuleka on the island of Tongatapu, Tonga.
"The technique provides us with unbelievable precision in dating quite ancient materials," David Burley, co-author of the publication in PLoS One and archaeologist at SFU, hopes that this new dating method can provide researchers with a more accurate way to trace the Polynesian migration routes across the Pacific.
Across a range of Pacific islands, the Polynesians left traces of their migration and culture. The coral tools that are found everywhere are primitive nail files, broken from staghorn coral reefs. Burley says that the Lapita people probably used the files to smooth the surfaces of wooden objects or shell bracelets.
ReferencesLive Science - First Polynesians Arrived in Tonga 2,800 Years Ago Kingdom of Tonga on Wiki Simon Fraser University website
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