This August 2012 photo shows heads at Rano Raraku, the quarry on Easter Island. (AP Photo/Karen Schwartz)
Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, is such a remote speck of rock in the Pacific Ocean that it has been nicknamed “navel of the world.” Yet a review of genetic data of 27 natives suggests the islanders made contact with outsiders hundreds of years before the first Europeans arrived from Holland in 1722.
In fact, the Rapa Nui people appear to have had significant intermixing with Native Americans as far back as the late 13th century, researchers report in the journal Current Biology.
The findings indicate “an ancient ocean migration route between Polynesia and the Americas,” says the study’s lead author. Though the nearly 2,500-mile journey would have been perilous in their wooden outrigger canoes, the researchers say it’s more likely the islanders ventured to South America and back than others finding their way to Easter Island, reports Reuters.
Today’s Rapa Nui people are genetically about 76% Polynesian, 16% European, and 8% Native American, though the European intermingling dates back only to the 19th century, while the Native American intermingling appears to go back 19 to 23 generations.
A separate study also published in Current Biology this week details the genetic makeup of two ancient human skulls from Brazil’s indigenous Botocudo tribe. The skulls were genetically Polynesian without any Native American mixing, further suggesting that islanders traveled to the Americas.
In a reverse Tower of Babel, mankind is consolidating its languages with globalism. Our species speaks over 7,000 languages right now, but those are quickly being reduced to 20 or fewer. Below is an article on some of the most endangered languages. I was kind of surprised to find that Rapa Nui (the Easter Island language) was not already extinct. If you look up my Irish history post on St. Patrick’s Day, you will find my ancestral language of Gaelic is nearly snuffed out on purpose by the Brits.
Irish Gaelic, Rapa Nui And More Endangered Languages From Around The World
There are nearly 7,000 languages spoken throughout the world today, the majority of which are predicted to become extinct by the end of this century. Half the world’s population speaks the top 20 world languages – with Mandarin, Spanish and English leading the charge, in that order – and most linguists point to globalization as the main cause for the rapid pace languages are falling off the map.
The problem is, when a language dies so does much of the knowledge and traditions that were passed won using it. So when Mental Floss used data from the Alliance for Linguistic Diversity to post a list of several at-risk languages, we here at Gadling were saddened by the disappearing native tongues and decided to use data from the Alliance for Linguistic Diversityto highlight some in our own list.
Irish Gaelic: Despite the fact that the government requires Irish students to learn this language and it currently has an estimated 40,000 native speakers, it is still classified as vulnerable.
Rapa Nui: The mother tongue of Chile’s famous Easter Island has fewer than 4,000 native speakers, and is quickly being taken over by Spanish.
Seneca: Only approximately 100 people in three Native American reservation communities in the United States speak this language, with the youngest speaker in his 50s.
Yaw: Most young people living in the Gangaw District of Burma understand but do not speak this critically endangered language that has less than 10,000 native speakers.
Francoprovençal: There are only about 130,000 native speakers of this language, mostly in secluded towns in east-central France, western Switzerland and the Italian Aosta Valley.
Yagan: This indigenous language of Chile purportedly has only one remaining native speaker. Others are familiar with the language, but it will likely disappear soon.
Patuá: Derived from Malay, Sinhalese, Cantonese and Portuguese, less than 50 people in Macau, China and their diaspora speak this language. It is now the object of folkloric interest amongst those who still speak it.