The world’s earliest seafarers who set out to colonise remote Pacific islands nearly 3,000 years ago were a matrilocal society with communities organised around the female lineage, analysis of ancient DNA suggests.
The research, based on genetic sequencing of 164 ancient individuals from 2,800 to 300 years ago, suggested that some of the earliest inhabitants of islands in Oceania had population structures in which women almost always remained in their communities after marriage, while men left their mother’s community to live with that of their wife. This pattern is strikingly different from that of patrilocal societies, which appeared to be the norm in ancient populations in Europe and Africa.
“The peopling of the Pacific is a longstanding and important mystery as it’s the last great expansion of humans into unoccupied areas,” said David Reich, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, who led the work.
“Today, traditional communities in the Pacific have both patrilocal and matrilocal population structures and there was a debate about what the common practice was in the ancestral populations,” he said. “These results suggest that in the earliest seafarers, matrilocality was the rule.” [Continue reading…]