Prehistoric Polynesians beat Europeans to the Americas, according to a new analysis of chicken bones.
The work provides the first firm evidence that ancient Polynesians voyaged as far as South America, and also strongly suggests that they were responsible for the introduction of chickens to the continent – a question that has been hotly debated for more than 30 years.
Chilean archaeologists working at the site of El Arenal-1, on the Arauco Peninsula in south-central Chile, discovered what they thought might be the first prehistoric chicken bones unearthed in the Americas. They asked Elizabeth Matisoo-Smith at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and colleagues to investigate.
The group carbon-dated the bones and their DNA was analysed. The 50 chicken bones from at least five individual birds date from between 1321 and 1407 – 100 years or more before the arrival of Europeans.
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