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March 25 2013

Coral Clocks

Uranium dating of coral tools used by the earliest settlers of the South Pacific island kingdom of Tonga offers unprecedented precision in reconstructing their history.

About 3,000 years ago, inhabitants of New Guinea set their sights east and headed out to sea, sparking an expansion of humanity across thousands of miles to islands scattered across the South Pacific. Archaeologists have been able to track the migration of these pioneers, a group called the Lapita, by their distinctive pottery. But now, researchers are using advanced chemistry involving the coral tools used by these early explorers to more accurately reconstruct their maritime peregrinations.

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