Dental Indications of Polynesian Affinity for Prehistoric Rotuma Islanders, South Pacific

Main Article Content

Christy G. Turner II


Human skeletal reburial, reasonable from a religious and personal point of view, nevertheless diminishes the physical record of human evolution. The present study preserves some information for a small but rare Pacific Basin skeletal assemblage. Prehistoric human tooth-bearing cranial and jaw fragments and loose teeth of probably 19 individuals excavated on Rotuma Island were examined for crown and root morphology. The purpose of the examination was to assess whether these individuals were morphologically more like Melanesians or Polynesians. Rotuma is in the Polynesian culture area north of the Fiji group, which exhibits archaeological and ethnographic evidence of colonists from both Oceanic populations. Polynesians belong to the Malayo-Polynesian language family, so if the Rotuma teeth are similar to Polynesians they should also be more similar to Southeast Asian teeth than to those of linguistically different Melanesians or Australians. Indeed, this seems to be the case, although the small Rotuma sample size reduces confidence somewhat in this finding of Rotuma similarity with Polynesians and Southeast Asians.