Did Rapa Nui people sail to South America prior to European contact?

One of the greatest mysteries about Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island, concerns the identity of its earliest inhabitants, the architects of the stoic moai (statues). Did they have genetic ties to natives on the South American land mass thousands of miles away, or were their origins solely in the Pacific islands to the west?

A recently published study, co-authored by Geology and Geophysics professor Brian Popp, found only evidence of Polynesian DNA in human remains on the island that predate European contact in 1722. Though the sample size was small, the findings may change what we know about the early explorers who found the remote island and constructed perhaps some of the most iconic statues in the world.

Read more in The New York Times and Science Magazine.