Ancient DNA and Archaeology: Parallels in the spread of agriculture between the Pacific, Asia, Africa and Europe

Presented by ANU College of Asia & the Pacific

Ancient DNA (aDNA) on the genomic scale is rapidly changing our understanding of past human movements, and would seem to be as 'game changing' as the development and then calibration of radiocarbon dates for archaeology. The first successful genomic work on samples from anywhere in the Tropical world was published in October last year in the journal Nature, in a collaboration involving the Vanuatu Cultural Centre, the ANU, Harvard, University College Dublin, the Max Planck Institute in Jena, Germany and several other collaborating institutions. Samples from 3000-year-old Lapita contexts in Vanuatu (and Tonga) appear to have 'solved' some major questions of the origin of Pacific peoples. So do we still need archaeology? Especially when equally revolutionary results from aDNA studies in Africa and Europe seem to have answered long-standing historical questions there as well. Yes, of course we still need archaeology, and I'll tell you why in the talk.

Matthew Spriggs is Professor of Archaeology and ARC Laureate Fellow at The Australian National University, leading a research team examining the history of Pacific archaeology and ideas about the settlement of the Pacific. He is also Honorary Curator of Archaeology at the Vanuatu Cultural Centre, Port Vila and an Affiliate Professor at the University of Uppsala, Sweden. He currently holds a Leverhulme Visiting Professorship at the University of Cambridge and will be returning there for three months in April.