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Ancient DNA reveals Guam ancestors migrated from Taiwan, Philippines

Archaeologists found Guam DNA samples overlap with those from indigenous peoples in Philippines, Taiwan

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Archaeologists have traced the origins of early inhabitants of Guam to Taiwan and the Philippines. (Hung Hsiao-chun photo)

Archaeologists have traced the origins of early inhabitants of Guam to Taiwan and the Philippines. (Hung Hsiao-chun photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — An international team of archaeologists has traced the origins of Guam's first inhabitants to Taiwan and the Philippines based on DNA samples collected on the U.S. territory.

The team, which consisted of Taiwanese researcher Hung Hsiao-chun (洪曉純) of The Australian National University and her colleagues from Germany and Guam, analyzed ancient DNA from two skeletons found in the Ritidian Beach Cave site in northern Guam that were dated to around 2,200 years ago. The team found that the samples overlapped with modern samples from Taiwan and the Philippines, suggesting that the early inhabitants of the three places shared common ancestors.

During an interview with CNA, Hung explained that the Mariana Islands, which include Guam, are southeast of Taiwan and approximately 2,000 kilometers from the Philippines. She said the first known human activity on the islands is known to be over 3,500 years ago but that scientists could not agree on the source of the settlers.

Hung said her team began its research in 2016 and that it had recently discovered that the Guam skeletons were related to Taiwan's Amis indigenous tribe and the Kankanaey people of the northern Philippines. She said DNA analysis suggests that the early inhabitants of Guam had migrated from what is now Taiwan and the Philippines over 10-15 generations.

Hung further pointed out that archaeological findings in recent years have confirmed Taiwan as the place of origin of the Austronesian language family. She added that a study conducted by Denmark's Copenhagen University in 2018 also linked ancient skeletons found on the Philippine island of Luzon to the Amis.

Hung and her team's study was published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. She said it shows humans were capable of traveling as far as 2,000 km across the open ocean 35 centuries ago.

Ancient DNA reveals Guam ancestors migrated from Taiwan, Philippines
Researchers suspect Guam's first inhabitants migrated from Taiwan and Philippines. (Hung Hsiao-chun photo)


Updated : 2021-03-06 07:36 GMT+08:00