Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Dead Men Do Tell Tales: Strange Burial Positions Show Pacific Island Life

Date:
October 31, 2007
Source:
Durham University
Summary:
Archaeologists analysed skeletons' teeth from seventeen excavated skeletons who were found in some unusual burial positions at the earliest ancient cemetery in the Pacific. The scientists identified a small group of immigrants, mostly buried with the head to the south, and one with three heads on his chest.

Scientists analyzed skeletal remains and identified a small group of immigrants, mostly buried with the head to the south, and one with three heads on his chest.
Credit: Image courtesy of Durham University

Analysis of strange burial positions and skeletons’ teeth has given clues about earliest Pacific Island society, according to new research.

The research team, led by Durham University, United Kingdom, analysed skeletons’ teeth from seventeen excavated skeletons who were found in some unusual burial positions at the earliest ancient cemetery in the Pacific. The scientists identified a small group of immigrants, mostly buried with the head to the south, and one with three heads on his chest.

The results from the team’s analysis strongly suggest that some had migrated from distant coastal locations, potentially as far away as Southeast Asia. The new discovery gives further insight into the colonists of the Pacific islands.

The scientists from Durham, Otago and Australian National universities, whose paper is published in American Antiquity, analysed the strontium, carbon and oxygen isotope signatures of the teeth giving the researchers vital information about their geological origin, their diet and likely source of their drinking water.

Two distinct groups were discovered with scientific evidence showing a majority had a diet of mainly local plants and seafood, and a minority of four standing out with a coastal but still terrestrial diet identifying them as immigrants. The immigrants’ oxygen levels were significantly higher than those of the local skeletons indicating they were from a distant location outside the tropical Pacific.

Lead author Dr Alex Bentley, lecturer in Anthropology at Durham University, explains: “The combination of the way these people were buried and the information we have about their possible origin reveals a richness of social complexity. Although they travelled long distances by sea, they nonetheless were farmers as much as they were fisher folk.

“The curious burials among the identified group of prehistoric Pacific mariners, who were among the best navigators on earth for the next 3,000 years, indicate they were admired by the locals for their amazing long-distance travelling abilities.”

The cemetery was discovered by a research team led by Professor Matthew Spriggs and Dr Stuart Bedford from The Australian National University and the Vanuatu National Museum in 2003 at Teouma, on Efate Island in Vanuatu, which is situated between Fiji and Australia. The team uncovered almost fifty burials, more than doubling the number of skeletal remains of the first Pacific islanders from anywhere around the Pacific. A project on the health of the Teouma people is being led by Dr Hallie Buckley of the University of Otago.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Durham University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Durham University. "Dead Men Do Tell Tales: Strange Burial Positions Show Pacific Island Life." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 October 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071030130524.htm>.
Durham University. (2007, October 31). Dead Men Do Tell Tales: Strange Burial Positions Show Pacific Island Life. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071030130524.htm
Durham University. "Dead Men Do Tell Tales: Strange Burial Positions Show Pacific Island Life." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071030130524.htm (accessed April 24, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Newsy (Apr. 20, 2014) — A 9-year-old Michigan boy was exploring a creek when he came across a 10,000-year-old tooth from a prehistoric mastodon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Couple Finds Love Letters From WWI In Attic

Couple Finds Love Letters From WWI In Attic

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) — A couple found love letters from World War I in their attic. They were able to deliver them to relatives of the writer of those letters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Erotic Art Offers Glimpse of China's 'lost' Sexual Philosophy

Erotic Art Offers Glimpse of China's 'lost' Sexual Philosophy

AFP (Apr. 16, 2014) — Explicit Chinese art works dating back centuries go on display in Hong Kong, revealing China's ancient relationship with sex. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
French Historians Fight to Save Iconic La Samaritaine Buildings

French Historians Fight to Save Iconic La Samaritaine Buildings

AFP (Apr. 15, 2014) — Parisians and local historians are fighting to save one of the French capital's iconic buildings, the La Samaritaine department store. Duration: 01:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins