Ancestry of Mariana Islanders linked to Philippines — study

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 15) — A study of two ancient skeletons recovered from Guam indicates that the early settlers of the Mariana Islands in the western Pacific may have originated from the Philippines.

Scientists from Germany and Australia analyzed the DNA of two 2,200-year-old skeletons from the Ritidian Beach Cave site in Guam, which is the largest island in the Marianas, and “found that their ancestry is linked to the Philippines.”

“Moreover, they are closely related to early Lapita skeletons from Vanuatu and Tonga, suggesting that the early Mariana Islanders may have been involved in the colonization of Polynesia,” the study added. Vanuatu and Tonga are countries in the Pacific.

The researchers, citing earlier studies on Polynesian origins, said more than 4,000 years ago, Austronesian-speaking people from Taiwan island-hopped through the Philippines and southeastward through Indonesia. They reached the Bismarck archipelago in the Pacific around 3,500 years ago. From Bismarck, they spread throughout Polynesia.

The anthropologists urged caution in interpreting the results of the study as they are based on two skeletons. Nonetheless, they said these data exhibited “provide some interesting insights into the peopling of Guam.”

The study titled “Ancient DNA from Guam and the peopling of the Pacific” was published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It was conducted by experts from Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, Australian National University, and the University of Guam.