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 October 20, 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 October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) A 380-million-year-old fish may be the first creature to have copulative sex - and it was side by side with arms linked, like square dancers. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) With Sweden on the look-out for a suspected Russian sub, a lot of people are talking about the Cold War, but is it an apt comparison? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

Newsy (Oct. 16, 2014) Researchers believe an extinct kangaroo species weighed 500 pounds or more and couldn't hop. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
1000-Year-Old Viking Treasure Hoard Found in Scotland

1000-Year-Old Viking Treasure Hoard Found in Scotland

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 14, 2014) A hoard of Viking artifacts dating back over 1,000 years is discovered by a treasure hunter with a metal detector in Scotland. Elly Park reports. Video provided by Reuters
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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