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Sunday, August 3, 2008

'Chicken and Chips' Theory of Pacific Migration

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A new study of DNA from ancient and modern chickens has shed light on
the controversy about the extent of pre-historic Polynesian contact
with the Americas.

Newswise — A new study of DNA from ancient and modern chickens has
shed light on the controversy about the extent of pre-historic
Polynesian contact with the Americas.

The study questions recent claims that chickens were first introduced
into South America by Polynesians, before the arrival of Spanish
chickens in the 15th century following Christopher Columbus.

It is published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy
of Sciences USA (July 28) by an international research group,
including scientists from the University of Adelaide’s Australian
Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD).

ACAD Director Professor Alan Cooper says there has been considerable
debate about the existence and degree of contact between Polynesians
and South Americans, with the presence of the sweet potato throughout
the Pacific often used as evidence of early trading contacts.

“Similarly, Polynesians are known to have spread chickens across the
Pacific at least as far as Easter Island, but were not thought to have
introduced them to South America,” he says

A recent study claimed to have found the first direct evidence of a
genetic link between ancient Polynesian and apparently pre-Columbian
chickens from archaeological sites in Chile, supporting the idea that
there was extensive contact between Polynesia and South America and
that chicken and ‘chips’ had been traded in opposite directions.

The current work challenges this conclusion however, by generating DNA
data from 41 native Chilean chicken specimens, and comparing these
with over 1000 modern domestic chickens from around the world, and the
previously published DNA from Polynesian and Chilean chicken bones.

“The results showed that the ancient Polynesian and Chilean chickens
possessed a genetic sequence that is the most common in the world
today, the so-called ‘KFC’ gene” Professor Cooper says. “This sequence
would undoubtedly have been common in the early Spanish chickens, and
therefore provides no evidence of Polynesian contact. So while we can
say the KFC chicken was popular amongst early Polynesian voyagers, we
certainly can’t use it as evidence for trade with South America”.

The researchers did find a highly unusual DNA sequence in the ancient
Easter Island chickens, which originate from Indonesia or the
Philippines, but this apparently did not get passed on to South
America. “This is important because Easter Island is commonly thought
of as a major jumping off point for Polynesian contact with South
America,” says team member and ACAD PhD student Nicolas Rawlence.

According to project leader Dr Jaime Gongora from Sydney University,
many people in South America like to believe they are descendants of
Polynesians. “This study does not disprove this idea, but we have
found no evidence to support pre-historic contact.”

World's Oldest Joke

World's Oldest Joke Traced Back to 1900 BC


The world's oldest recorded joke has been traced back to 1900 BC and
suggests toilet humor was as popular with the ancients as it is today.

It is a saying of the Sumerians, who lived in what is now southern
Iraq and goes: "Something which has never occurred since time
immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband's lap."

It heads the world's oldest top 10 joke list published by the
University of Wolverhampton Thursday.

A 1600 BC gag about a pharaoh, said to be King Snofru, comes second --
"How do you entertain a bored pharaoh? You sail a boatload of young
women dressed only in fishing nets down the Nile and urge the pharaoh
to go catch a fish."

The oldest British joke dates back to the 10th Century and reveals the
bawdy face of the Anglo-Saxons -- "What hangs at a man's thigh and
wants to poke the hole that it's often poked before? Answer: A key."

"Jokes have varied over the years, with some taking the question and
answer format while others are witty proverbs or riddles," said the
report's writer Dr Paul McDonald, senior lecturer at the university.

"What they all share however, is a willingness to deal with taboos and
a degree of rebellion. Modern puns, Essex girl jokes and toilet humor
can all be traced back to the very earliest jokes identified in this

The study was commissioned by television channel Dave. The top 10
oldest jokes can be viewed at