The Human Landscape: Population Origins, Settlement and Impact of Human Arrival in Aotearoa/New Zealand

  • Elizabeth Matisoo-SmithEmail author
Part of the Atlantis Advances in Quaternary Science book series (AAQS, volume 3)


The settlement of the Polynesian Triangle, culminating with the settlement of Aotearoa/New Zealand within the last 750 years, represents the last major migration event of humans as they dispersed across the globe. Despite this relatively short human history in the region, humans have had a significant impact on the island environments they inhabited. Reconstructing the process of Polynesian settlement, including population origins, the timing of arrival and size of colonising populations as well as those of the animals they introduced, will not only allow us to better understand the true impact of human arrival in Aotearoa, but help us appreciate the broader impact of humans on the environment and of the environment on humans. Both ancient and modern DNA studies of humans and the plants and animals they introduced to the island environments they settled can help us to reconstruct these population histories and therefore better address these important questions. Similarly, ancient DNA analyses of the remains of native fauna can provide key information regarding the true impacts of human arrival in island ecosystems.


Founding Population Before Present Human Genome Diversity Project Austronesian Language Human Arrival 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Addison DJ, Matisoo-Smith E (2010) Rethinking Polynesian Origins: A West-Polynesian Triple-I Model. Archae in Oceania 45:1-12.Google Scholar
  2. Allen J (1984) In search of the Lapita homeland. J Pac Hist 19: 186-201.Google Scholar
  3. Allen MS (2006) New Ideas about Late Holocene Climate Variability in the Central Pacific. Curr Anthro 47:521-535.Google Scholar
  4. Allen MS, Matisoo-Smith E, Horsburgh A, (2001) Pacific ‘Babes’: Issues in the origins and dispersal of Pacific pigs and the potential of mitochondrial DNA analysis. Int J Osteoarch 11:4-13.Google Scholar
  5. Anderson A, (1998) The Welcome of Strangers: An Ethnohistory of Southern Maori. University of Otago Press, Dunedin.Google Scholar
  6. Barnes SS, Matisoo-Smith E, Hunt TL (2006) Ancient DNA of the Pacific rat (Rattus exulans) from Rapa Nui (Easter Island). J Arch Sci 33: 1536-1540.Google Scholar
  7. Beavan N (2014) No evidence for sample contamination or diet offset for pre-Columbian chicken dates from El Arenal. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 111: E3582.Google Scholar
  8. Bedford S, Buckley H, Valentin F, Tayles N, Longga NF (2011) Lapita Burials, a New Lapita Cemetery and Post-Lapita Burials from Malakula, Northern Vanuatu, Southwest Pacific. J Pac Arch 2: 26-48.Google Scholar
  9. Bedford S, Spriggs M, Buckley H et al (2009) The Teouma Lapita site, south Efatem Vanuatu: A summary of three field seasons (2004-2006), in: Sheppard, P.J., Thomas, T., Summerhayes, G.R. (Eds.), Lapita: Ancestors and Descendants. New Zealand Archaeological Association, Auckland, p 215-234.Google Scholar
  10. Benton M, Macartney-Coxson D, Eccles D et al (2012) Complete Mitochondrial Genome Sequencing Reveals Novel Haplotypes in a Polynesian Population. PLoS One 7: e35026.Google Scholar
  11. Benton MC, Stuart S, Bellis C, et al (2015) ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’: the genetic history of Norfolk Island reveals extreme genderbiased admixture. Investigative Genetics 6: 11.Google Scholar
  12. Blust R (1984) The Austronesian homeland: a linguistic perspective. Asian Perspect 26: 45-67.Google Scholar
  13. Brooks E, Jacomb C, Walter R, (2009) Archaeological investigations at Wairau Bar. Archaeo NZ 52: 259-268.Google Scholar
  14. Buckley H, Tayles N, Halcrow SE et al (2010) The people of Wariau Bar: A re-examination. J Pac Archaeo 1: 1-20.Google Scholar
  15. Burley D, Edinborough K, Weisler M et al (2015) Bayesian Modeling and Chronological Precision for Polynesian Settlement of Tonga. PLoS ONE 10: e0120795.Google Scholar
  16. Burley D, Weisler, MI, Zhao J-x (2012) High Precision U/Th Dating of First Polynesian Settlement. PLoS One 7: e48769.Google Scholar
  17. Burrows EG, (1940) Culture areas in Polynesia. J Polynes Soc 49: 349-363.Google Scholar
  18. Cann RL, Stoneking M, Wilson AC (1987) Mitochondrial DNA and human evolution. Nature 325: 31-36.Google Scholar
  19. Chang C-S, Liu H-L, Moncada X et al (2015) A holistic picture of Austronesian migrations revealed by phylogeography of Pacific paper mulberry. Proc. Nat Acad Sci USA 112: 13537–13542, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1503205112
  20. Clarke AC (2009) The Origins and Dispersals of the Sweet Potato and Bottle Gourd in Oceania: Implications for prehistoric human mobility, Plant Biology. Unpub PhD Thesis Massey University, New Zealand.Google Scholar
  21. Clarke AC, Burtenshaw MK, McLenachan PA et al (2006) Reconstructing the origins and dispersal of the Polynesian bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria). Molecular Biol Evol 23: 893-900.Google Scholar
  22. Collins CJ, Rawlence NJ, Prost S et al (2014) Extinction and recolonization of coastal megafauna following human arrival in New Zealand. Proc Roy Soc B: Biol Sci 281 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2014.0097
  23. Deguilloux M-F, Pemonge M-H, Dubut V et al (2011) Human ancient and extant mtDNA from the Gambier Islands (French Polynesia): Evidence for an early Melanesian maternal contribution and new perspectives into the settlement of Easternmost Polynesia. Am J Physical Anthrop 144: 248-257.Google Scholar
  24. Denham T (2013) Ancient and historic dispersals of sweet potato in Oceania. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 110: 1982-1983.Google Scholar
  25. Dickinson WR, (2001) Paleoshoreline record of relative Holocene sea levels on Pacific islands. Earth-Sci Rev 55: 191-234.Google Scholar
  26. Duff R (1977) The Moa-hunter Period of Maori Culture, 3rd ed. Government Printer, Wellington.Google Scholar
  27. Duggan AT, Evans B, Friedlaender FR (2014) Maternal History of Oceania from Complete mtDNA Genomes: Contrasting Ancient Diversity with Recent Homogenization Due to the Austronesian Expansion. Am J Human Gen, 94:721-733.Google Scholar
  28. Duggan AT, Stoneking M, (2013) A Highly Unstable Recent Mutation in Human mtDNA. Am J Human Gen 92: 279-284.Google Scholar
  29. Gongora J, Rawlence NJ, Mobegi VA et al (2008) Indo-European and Asian origins for Chilean and Pacific chickens revealed by mtDNA. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 105: 10308-10313.Google Scholar
  30. Gosling AL, Matisoo-Smith E, Merriman TR (2014) Gout in Māori. Rheumatology 53, 773-774.Google Scholar
  31. Gray RD, Drummond AJ, Greenhill SJ (2009) Language Phylogenies Reveal Expansion Pulses and Pauses in Pacific Settlement. Science 323: 479-483.Google Scholar
  32. Gray RD, Jordan FM, (2000). Language trees support the express-train sequence of Austronesian expansion. Nature 405: 1052-1055.Google Scholar
  33. Green RC (2000) Lapita and the cultural model for intrusion, integration and innovation, in: Anderson A, Murray T (Eds.), Australian Archaeologist: Collected papers in honour of Jim Allen. Coombs Academic Publishing, The Australian National University, Canberra.Google Scholar
  34. Green RC (2005) Sweet potato transfers in Polynesian prehistory, in: Ballard C, Brown P, Bourke RM, Harwood T (Eds.), The Sweet Potato in Oceania: A Reappraisal. Oceania Publications, Sydney, p 43-62.Google Scholar
  35. Greig K, Boocock J, Prost S (2015) Complete Mitochondrial Genomes of New Zealand’s First Dogs. PLoS ONE 10: e0138536.Google Scholar
  36. Greig K, Walter R, Matisoo-Smith EA (2016) Dogs and people in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. The Routledge Handbook of Bioarchaeology in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands 462pGoogle Scholar
  37. Grosser S, Rawlence NJ, Anderson CNK et al (2016) Invader or resident? Ancient-DNA reveals rapid species turnover in New Zealand little penguins. Proc Roy Soc London B: Biol Sci 283 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.2879
  38. Hage P, Marck J, (2003) Matrilineality and the Melanesian origin of Polynesian Y chromosomes. Curr Anthrop 44: S121-S127.Google Scholar
  39. Hather J, Kirch PV, (1991) Prehistoric sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) from Mangaia Island, Central Polynesia. Antiquity 65: 887-893.Google Scholar
  40. Hertzberg M, Mickleson KNP, Serjeantson SW et al (1989) An Asian-specific 9-bp deletion of mitochondrial DNA is frequently found in Polynesians. Am J Human Gen 44: 504-510.Google Scholar
  41. Higham T, Anderson A, Jacomb C, (1999) Dating the first New Zealanders: The chronology of Wairau Bar. Antiquity 73: 420-427.Google Scholar
  42. Hogg AG, Higham TFG, Lowe DJ et al 2003. A wiggle-match date for Polynesian settlement of New Zealand. Antiquity 77: 116-125.Google Scholar
  43. Jacomb C, Holdaway RN, Allentoft ME (2014) High-precision dating and ancient DNA profiling of moa (Aves: Dinornithiformes) eggshell documents a complex feature at Wairau Bar and refines the chronology of New Zealand settlement by Polynesians. J Archaeo Sci 50: 24-30.Google Scholar
  44. Kayser M, (2010) The Human Genetic History of Oceania: Near and Remote Views of Dispersal. Curr Biol 20:R192-201.Google Scholar
  45. Kayser M, Brauer S, Cordaux R et al (2006) Melanesian and Asian origins of Polynesians: mtDNA and Y chromosome gradients across the Pacific. Molecular Biol Evol 23: 2234-2244.Google Scholar
  46. Kayser M, Brauer S, Weiss G et al (2000) Melanesian origin of Polynesian Y chromosomes. Curr Biol 10: 1237-1246.Google Scholar
  47. Kim SK, Gignoux CR, Wall JD (2012) Population Genetic Structure and Origins of Native Hawaiians in the Multiethnic Cohort Study. PLoS One 7: e47881.Google Scholar
  48. Kinaston RL, Walter RK, Jacomb C et al (2013) The First New Zealanders: Patterns of Diet and Mobility Revealed through Isotope Analysis. PLoS One 8: e64580.Google Scholar
  49. Kirch PV (2000) On the Road of the Winds: An Archaeological History of the Pacific Islands before European Contact University of California Press, Berkeley.Google Scholar
  50. Kirch PV (2001) Lapita and its Transformations in Near Oceania: Archaeological Investigations in the Mussau Islands, Papua New Guinea, 1985–1988. Archaeological Research Centre, University of California, Berkeley.Google Scholar
  51. Kirch PV, Yen DE (1982) Tikopia: The prehistory and ecology of a Polynesian outlier. Bernice P. Bishop Museum, Honolulu.Google Scholar
  52. Knapp M, Horsburgh KA, Prost S et al (2012) Complete mitochondrial DNA genome sequences from the first New Zealanders. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 109: 18350-18354.Google Scholar
  53. Larson G, Cucchi T, Fujita M et al 2007. Phylogeny and ancient DNA of Sus provides insights into neolithic expansion in Island Southeast Asia and Oceania. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 104: 4834-4839.Google Scholar
  54. Lum JK, Rickards O, Ching C et al (1994) Polynesian Mitochondrial DNAs Reveal Three Deep Maternal Lineage Clusters. Human Biol 66: 567-590.Google Scholar
  55. Maricic T, Whitten M, Pääbo S (2010) Multiplexed DNA Sequence Capture of Mitochondrial Genomes Using PCR Products. PLoS One 5
  56. Matisoo-Smith E (1994) The Human Colonisation of Polynesia. A Novel Approach: Genetic Analyses of the Polynesian Rat (Rattus exulans). J Poynesian Soc 103: 75-87.Google Scholar
  57. Matisoo-Smith E, (2002) Something old, something new: Do genetic studies of contemporary populations reliably represent prehistoric populations of Pacific Rattus exulans? Human Biol 74: 489-496.Google Scholar
  58. Matisoo-Smith E, (2007) Animal translocations, genetic variation and the human settlement of the Pacific, in: Friedlaender JS (Ed.), Genes, Language and Culture History in the Southwest Pacific. Oxford University Press, Oxford, p 157-170.Google Scholar
  59. Matisoo-Smith E, Robins JH (2004) Origins and dispersals of Pacific peoples: Evidence from mtDNA phylogenies of the Pacific rat. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 101: 9167-9172.Google Scholar
  60. Matisoo-Smith E, Ancient DNA and the human settlement of the Pacific: A review. J Hum Evol 79:93-104.Google Scholar
  61. Matisoo-Smith E, Hingston M, Summerhayes G et al (2009) On the Rat Trail in Near Oceania: Applying the Commensal Model to the Question of the Lapita Colonization. Pac Sci 63: 465-475.Google Scholar
  62. Matisoo-Smith E, Roberts RM, Irwin GJ, et al (1998) Patterns of prehistoric human mobility in Polynesia indicated by mtDNA from the Pacific rat. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 95: 15145-15150.Google Scholar
  63. Matisoo-Smith E, Sutton DG, Ladefoged TN et al (1999) Prehistoric mobility in Polynesia: MtDNA variation in Rattus exulans from the Chatham and Kermadec Islands. Asian Perspect 38: 186-199.Google Scholar
  64. McNiven IJ, David B, Richards T et al (2011) New Direction in Human Colonisation of the Pacific: Lapita Settlement of South Coast New Guinea. Austral Archaeo 72: 1-6.Google Scholar
  65. Melton T, Peterson R, Redd AJ et al (1995) Polynesian genetic affinities with Southeast-Asian populations as identified by mtDNA analysis American J Human Genet 57: 403-414.Google Scholar
  66. Merriman TR (2011) Population Heterogeneity in the Genetic Control of Serum Urate. Seminars Nephrol 31: 420-425.Google Scholar
  67. Metzker ML, (2010) Sequencing technologies - the next generation. Nat Rev Genet 11: 31-46.Google Scholar
  68. Mirabal S, Herrera KJ, Gayden T et al (2012) Increased Y-chromosome resolution of haplogroup O suggests genetic ties between the Ami aborigines of Taiwan and the Polynesian Islands of Samoa and Tonga. Gene 492: 339-348.Google Scholar
  69. Moncada X, Payacán C, Arriaza F et al (2013) DNA Extraction and Amplification from Contemporary Polynesian Bark-Cloth. PLoS ONE 8: e56549.Google Scholar
  70. Murray-McIntosh RP, Scrimshaw BJ, Hatfield PJ et al (1998) Testing migration patterns and estimating founding population size in Polynesia by using human mtDNA sequences. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 95: 9047-9052.Google Scholar
  71. O’Connell JF, Allen J (2015) The process, biotic impact, and global implications of the human colonization of Sahul about 47,000 years ago. J Archaeo Sci 56: 73-84.Google Scholar
  72. Oskarsson MCR, Klutsch CFC, Boonyaprakob U, et al (2012). Mitochondrial DNA data indicate an introduction through Mainland Southeast Asia for Australian dingoes and Polynesian domestic dogs. Proc Royal Soc Biol Sci 279: 967-974.Google Scholar
  73. Perry GLW., Wheeler AB, Wood JR, et al (2014) A high-precision chronology for the rapid extinction of New Zealand moa (Aves, Dinornithiformes). Quat Sci Rev 105: 126-135.Google Scholar
  74. Pool I, (2013) Te Iwi Maori: Population Past, Present and Projected. Auckland University Press.Google Scholar
  75. Rawlence NJ, Cooper A (2012) Youngest reported radiocarbon age of a moa (Aves: Dinornithiformes) dated from a natural site in New Zealand. J Roy Soc NZ, 43: 100-107.Google Scholar
  76. Rawlence NJ, Kennedy M, Anderson CNK et al (2015a) Geographically contrasting biodiversity reductions in a widespread New Zealand seabird. Molecular Ecol 24: 4605-4616.Google Scholar
  77. Rawlence NJ, Perry GLW, Smith IWG et al (2015b) Radiocarbon-dating and ancient DNA reveal rapid replacement of extinct prehistoric penguins. Quat Sci Rev 112: 59-65.Google Scholar
  78. Roullier C, Benoit L, McKey DB (2013) Historical collections reveal patterns of diffusion of sweet potato in Oceania obscured by modern plant movements and recombination. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 110: 2205-2210.Google Scholar
  79. Savolainen P, Leitner T, Wilton AN et al 2004. A detailed picture of the origin of the Australian dingo, obtained from the study of mitochondrial DNA. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 101: 12387-12390.Google Scholar
  80. Scaglion R (2005) Kumara in the Ecuadorian Gulf of Guayaquil?, in: Ballard C, Brown P, Bourke, RM, Harwood T (Eds.), The Sweet Potato in Oceania: A reappraisal. Oceania Publications, Sydney, p 35-42.Google Scholar
  81. Schuster S (2008) Next-generation sequencing transforms today’s biology. Nat Meth 5: 16 - 18.Google Scholar
  82. Seelenfreund D, Clarke A, Oyanedel N et al (2010) Paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera) as a commensal model for human mobility in Oceania: anthropological, botanical and genetic considerations. NZ J Bot 48: 231- 247.Google Scholar
  83. Shaw B, Buckley H, Summerhayes G et al (2010) Migration and mobility at the Late Lapita site of Reber-Rakival (SAC), Watom Island using isotope and trace element analysis: a new insight into Lapita interaction in the Bismarck Archipelago. J Archaeo Sci 37: 605-613.Google Scholar
  84. Soares P, Rito T, Trejaut J (2011) Ancient Voyaging and Polynesian Origins. American J Human Genetics 88: 239-247.Google Scholar
  85. Storey AA (2008) Migrations Most Fowl: Archaeological and Ancient Mitochondrial DNA Signatures of Pacific Chickens, Department of Anthropology. University of Auckland, Auckland, p. 228.Google Scholar
  86. Storey AA, Athens JS, Bryant D (2012) Investigating the Global Dispersal of Chickens in Prehistory Using Ancient Mitochondrial DNA Signatures. PLoS One 7: e39171.Google Scholar
  87. Storey AA, Matisoo-Smith EA (2014) No evidence against Polynesian dispersal of chickens to pre-Columbian South America. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 111: E3583, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1410780111
  88. Storey AA, Quiroz D, Beavan N et al (2013) Polynesian chickens in the New World: a detailed application of a commensal approach. Archaeol Oceania 48: 101-119.Google Scholar
  89. Storey AA, Quiroz D, Ramirez JM et al (2008) Pre-Colombian chickens, dates, isotopes, and mtDNA. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 105: E99 doi: 10.1073/pnas.0807625105
  90. Storey AA, Ramirez JM, Quiroz D et al (2007) Radiocarbon and DNA evidence for a pre-Columbian introduction of Polynesian chickens to Chile. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 104: 10335-10339.Google Scholar
  91. Storey AA, Spriggs M, Bedford S et al (2010) Mitochondrial DNA from 3000-year old chickens at the Teouma site, Vanuatu. J Archaeol Sci 37: 2459-2468.Google Scholar
  92. Su B, Jin L, Underhill P et al (2000) Polynesian origins: Insights from the Y chromosome. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 97: 8225-8228.Google Scholar
  93. Summerhayes G, Matisoo-Smith E, Mandui H et al (2010) Tamuarawai (EQS): An early Lapita site on Emirau, New Ireland, PNG. J Pacific Archaeo 1: 62-75.Google Scholar
  94. Terrell J, (1988) History as a family tree, history as an entangled bank - Constructing images and interpretations of prehistory in the South-Pacific Antiquity 62: 642-657.Google Scholar
  95. Thomson VA, Lebrasseur O, Austin JJ et al (2014) Using ancient DNA to study the origins and dispersal of ancestral Polynesian chickens across the Pacific. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 111: 4826–4831, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1320412111
  96. Tipene-Matua B, Wakefield B, Henaghan M (2007) Establishing a Maori Ethical Framework for Genetic Research with Maori. Genes, Soc Future 1: 380-422.Google Scholar
  97. Valentin F, Détroit F, Spriggs MJT et al (2015) Early Lapita skeletons from Vanuatu show Polynesian craniofacial shape: Implications for Remote Oceanic settlement and Lapita origins. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 113: 292-297 doi: 10.1073/pnas.1516186113.
  98. van Holst Pellekaan S (2013) Genetic evidence for the colonization of Australia. Quat Int 285: 44-56.Google Scholar
  99. van Oven M, Kayser M (2009) Updated Comprehensive Phylogenetic Tree of Global Human Mitochondrial DNA Variation. Human Mutation 30: E386-394.Google Scholar
  100. Walter R (1994) The Cook Islands - New Zealand Connection. in: Sutton DG (Ed.), The origins of the First New Zealanders. University of Auckland Press, Auckland, p 220-229.Google Scholar
  101. Whyte ALH, Marshall SJ, Chambers GK (2005) Human evolution in Polynesia. Human Biol 77: 157-177.Google Scholar
  102. Wilmshurst JM, Anderson AJ, Higham TFG et al (2008) Dating the late prehistoric dispersal of Polynesians to New Zealand using the commensal Pacific rat. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 105: 7676-7680.Google Scholar
  103. Wilmshurst JM, Hunt TL, Lipo CP et al (2011) High-precision radiocarbon dating shows recent and rapid initial human colonization of East Polynesia. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 108: 1815-1820.Google Scholar
  104. Wollstein A, Lao O, Becker C et al (2010) Demographic History of Oceania Inferred from Genome-wide Data. Current Biol 20: 1983-1992.Google Scholar
  105. Yen DE (1974) The Sweet Potato in Oceania: An Essay in Ethnobotany. Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu, HI.Google Scholar
  106. Zimmer C (2016) Eske Willerslev is Rewriting History With DNA, New York Times, 17 May 2016. New York. Accessed 27/5/16.

Copyright information

© Atlantis Press and the author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnatomyUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations