DNA from Guam's indigenous peoples traced to Taiwan: study

12/24/2020 04:58 PM
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Ancient skeletons found in Ritidian, Guam. Photo courtesy of Hung Hsiao-chun
Ancient skeletons found in Ritidian, Guam. Photo courtesy of Hung Hsiao-chun

Taipei, Dec. 24 (CNA) A team of archaeologists from Taiwan and other countries has found that the origins of the Chamorro people in Guam are closely linked to the indigenous peoples of the northern Philippines, whose ancestry can be traced back to Taiwan.

In a recent study titled "Ancient DNA from Guam and the peopling of the Pacific," the research team said DNA tracing suggested that the Chamorros had migrated from Taiwan to the Philippines and crossed the sea to Guam.

Hung Hsiao-chun (洪曉純), a Taiwanese archaeologist at the Australian National University's Department of Archaeology and Natural History, said she and the other researchers had set out to discover how the Chamorros, the ancestors of the present Mariana Islanders, might be related to Polynesians.

Past studies have shown that prehistoric humans reached the Mariana Islands some 3,500 years ago, said Hung, who was part of the international team of researchers from the Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany and the University of Guam in the recent study.

The Mariana Islands are located southeast of Taiwan, about 2,000 kilometers from the nearest Philippine island, and they include Guam and Saipan, she noted in an interview with CNA.

A map of the migration route published in the PNAS report.
A map of the migration route published in the PNAS report.

Hung said that in 2016, she and other archaeologists excavated two skeletons in Ritidian, Guam, which dated back 2,200 years.

Subsequent analysis of the the ancient DNA of the skeletons found sequences identified with the Kankanaey peoples of the Philippines and the indigenous Amis peoples of Taiwan, she said.

As past studies have shown, the Austronesian-speaking peoples have their origins in Taiwan, she said, adding that a DNA lab test conducted by the University of Copenhagen on an ancient skeleton excavated in Luzon, northern Philippines, in 2018 showed that they were linked to the Amis peoples of Taiwan.

The recent findings also demonstrated the sailing capabilities of Guam's prehistoric islanders, as they were able to navigate more than 2,000 kilometers of ocean some 3,500 years ago, Hung said.

The "Ancient DNA from Guam and the peopling of the Pacific" study was funded by the Taipei-based Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange, and published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) in December.

(By Phoenix Hsu and Ko Lin)

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