A full review of the evidence for these impacts from throughout Polynesia is beyond the scope of this article. Here we limit our review to the archeological and paleoecological evidence for transformation—from pristine ecosystems to anthropogenic landscapes—of three representative Polynesian islands and one archipelago: Tonga, Tikopia, Mangaia, and Hawai’i. Burley et al. (2012) pinpointed the initial human colonization of Tongatapu Island, using high-precision U–Th dating, to 880–896 B.C. From this base on the largest island
of the Tongan archipelago, Lapita peoples rapidly explored and established small settlements throughout the Ha’apai and Vava’u islands to the north, and on isolated Niuatoputapu (Kirch, 1988 and Burley et al., 2001). This rapid phase of discovery and colonization is archeologically attested by small hamlet sites containing distinctive Early Eastern Lapita pottery. Excavations in these hamlet sites and in the more BMS-387032 supplier extensive middens that succeeded them in the Ancestral Polynesian period (marked by distinctive Polynesian Plain Ware ceramics) reveal a sequence of rapid impacts on the indigenous and endemic birds and reptiles (Pregill and Dye, 1989), including the local extinction of an iguanid lizard, megapodes, and other birds (Steadman, 2006). Burley (2007) synthesized settlement-pattern data from Tongatapu, Ha’apai,
and Vava’u to trace the steady growth of human populations, demonstrating that by the Polynesian Plainware phase (700 B.C. to A.D. 400) these islands were densely settled. The L-gulonolactone oxidase intensive dryland agricultural systems necessary to support such large populations selleck screening library would have transformed much of the raised limestone landscapes of these “makatea” type islands into a patchwork of managed gardens and secondary growth. Historically, native forest is restricted to very small areas on these islands, primarily on steep terrain not suitable for agriculture.
The prehistory and ecology of Tikopia, a Polynesian Outlier settled by a Lapita-pottery making population at approximately the same time as Tongatapu (ca. 950 B.C.), was intensively studied by Kirch and Yen (1982). As in the Tongan case, the initial phase of colonization on this small island (4.6 km2) was marked by a significant impact on the island’s natural biota, including extirpation of a megapode bird, introduction of rats, pigs, dogs, and chickens, and presumably a suite of tuber, fruit, and tree crop plants. The zooarchaeological record exhibits dramatic declines in the quantities of fish, mollusks, sea turtles, and birds over the first few centuries, the result of intensive exploitation (Kirch and Yen, 1982 and Steadman et al., 1990). Pigs, which were introduced at the time of initial colonization, became a major food source during the first and early second millennia A.D., but were extirpated prior to European contact.