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It assumed a small founding population (≈10–20 individuals) with a low population growth rate (1,000 years until the 13th century A. There is no direct archaeological evidence to support this model, which assumes that any early settlements have long been destroyed (27). However, these disturbances are common throughout the Holocene in many New Zealand pollen records and have more convincing natural explanations (19).Instead, it relies on minor short-term forest disturbances (19) that occur well before deforestation began in the 13th century A. In 1996, the first series of AMS radiocarbon dates (hereafter “dates”), the oldest ≈200 B. The dates were also used to propose circumstantially that there was an earlier wave of rat-induced faunal extinctions before permanent settlement (7, 20, 21).

The devastating ecological consequences of human arrival are well documented on many East Polynesian islands and show striking similarities in terms of deforestation (2) and faunal extinctions or declines (3–11), with one model suggesting dispersal from West Polynesia as early as 200 B. (1, 9, 10) after a pause of ≈500–1,000 years and another suggesting it began ≈800 A. after a delay of several thousand years (8, 12–16).These divergent chronologies and their related models of ecological and anthropological change result directly from various interpretations of conflicting radiocarbon dates on the earliest-dated archaeological sites, deforestation, Pacific rat introduction, and faunal extinctions from East Polynesia and have created many hotly debated “long” and “short” settlement chronologies (e.g., refs. These unresolved and contradictory age models currently hinder our understanding of the timing and processes of prehistoric human dispersal from West Polynesia (17) and rates of anthropogenic environmental change, faunal extinction, population growth, technological change, development of regionality in material culture and horticultural expansion on each island (18).