For decades, scientists have debated how the chicken crossed the ocean. Now, a new analysis of chicken bones shows that Polynesians brought the non-native fowls to the Americas more than a century before Columbus made landfall.
Researchers in southcentral Chile worked with University of Auckland, New Zealand, scientists to make the discovery. The bones were found at a Chilean archaelogical site and analyzed using both DNA and carbon-dating. The bones were both very old (dated around A.D. 1350) and--more importantly--were a perfect DNA match with chicken bones found in Samoa, Tonga and Easter Island from the same era.
The discovery confirms many scientists' belief that someone reached the "New World" well before the Europeans (though the shards of Chinese pottery found in pre-Columbian archaeological digs were a hint). The voyage from the South Pacific to South America would have taken the Polynesians about two weeks, half as long as Columbus...and a century earlier.