It's Getting Better All the Time: Comparative Perspectives from Oceania and West Africa on Genetic Analysis and Archaeology
McIntosh, Susan Keech
Scheinfeldt, Laura B.
Technological advances are making genetic data collection and analysis feasible on a scale unimaginable only a few years ago. Early genetic research using mitochondrial DNA and the Y chromosome provided important insights for macroscale modeling of regional and continent-wide population movements, but the capacity to study the entire genome now opens an era of finer-grained,mesoscale studies of regional and local population histories that are more compatible with the scale of archaeological analysis. The utility of integrating both types of data is illustrated by a case study from Oceania, where genetic studies were used to evaluate two models for the geographic origins of the populations that colonized Polynesia beginning ca. 3000 BP, bringing with them the distinctive Lapita cultural assemblage. A second case study considers the application of genetic studies to an understanding of Fulbe history, especially that of the pastoral Fulbe. Both archaeological and genetic data are underdeveloped for the key Fulbe homeland regions of Mauritania and Senegal, but recent research in the Middle Senegal Valley permits some conjectures on the history of Fulbe nomadic pastoralism. The article concludes with suggestions for a multidisciplinary research agenda to expand and upgrade the quality of relevant archaeological data, incorporate biodistance studies of human skeletal material, and improve and expand genetic sampling using more historically sensitive collection protocols.