What part of the world was the last to have permanent settlement by humans?

I was wondering which “landmass” was the last to have permanent settlement by humans.

To narrow down my question:
I am looking for a landmass separated from water from other landmasses. I.e. for the purpose of my question, each continent would count as one area, so if someone lived in what is now Iraq since xxx B.C., that date would apply to the whole Asian continent. But a single island would be considered separately from other islands nearby.

I am also trying to restrict the answers to areas with permanent prehistoric settlements, not places that were settled (or resettled in the absence of the original population) in historical times. (For historical times, let’s take the definition of being settled before the humans arriving there had invented writing.) So I would exclude the following:
[list=A][li]Places that had formerly been inhabited by several generations of humans, but when found by modern-day explorers, had no human population, e.g. Pitcairn Islands[/li][li]Places that had no permanent human settlements until found by modern-day explorers, e.g. Christmas Island or Antarctica.[/list][/li]
Keeping that in mind, is there a single well-accepted answer to my question?
I imagine that the answer, if there is one, will be a Pacific Island somewhere in the vicinity of Hawaii or Easter Island.

For larger land masses, apart from Antarctica, the answer probably is New Zealand, which was first settled around 1280 A.D. It was the last major island group to be reached by Polynesians – long after they’d reached Hawaii and Easter Island.

I would have guessed that New Zealand had been colonized by people from Australia. I’ll have to go read up on that.

A quick glance through Wikipedia would make me believe that the answer might then be the Chatham Islands, which were settled by people coming from New Zealand.

No – the Aboriginal people of Australia did not have boats that could go that distance away from land. They got to Tasmania by walking there about 10,000 years ago: when the sea level rose, the Tasmanian Aborigines were cut off from contact with the rest of the human race until the Europeans arrived.

New Zealand was much harder to get to than Australia, because you need to be able to navigate long distances across the open ocean. The Polynesians learned how to do that, and so they were the first to get to a lot of the Pacific islands, including New Zealand.

I’m still amazed by how many people assume this. It’s about 2, 000 km fro Australia to New Zealand, about the same distance as from Ireland to Africa, or from the US to South America, and only about 1/4 less than the distance between Europe and North America.

They’re scarcely neighbouring countries, there’s a damn big pond in the way.

What is astounding is that the Polynesians did manage to get there on at a least two separate occasions, an probably managed to return home again.

Madagascar was also pretty late IIRC (though not as late as New Zealand much less the Chathams); some of the smaller islands in the region might be in the right general time frame.

Iceland was likewise rather late, though it again doesn’t beat New Zealand. And probably doesn’t qualify on the pre-writing count in any case. I can’t remember if the Scandinavian languages had a written form by then, but they’d certainly been exposed to writing as a concept.

Madagascar was settled about at least 10, 000 years ago, which means that people have been on Madagascar longer than they have been on Eire. Agricultural people settled the island around 2, 500 years ago, about 2, 000 years earlier than people arrived on Hawaii.

Basically, Madagsacar was only settled pretty late when compared to the continental landmasses.

I would guess it’s because many people are (like me) woefully ignorant of geographical distances in the Southern Hemisphere, and also because, in the western world, Australia and New Zealand are often mentioned together (as in ANZAC) and that gives rise to the misconception that they are closer than they really are.

Antartica is a separate land mass which is still not permanently settled. There are people living there temporarily. See #11 in this page.

Iceland already had Irish monks living there when the Norse arrived, and that was well before 1000 AD – 896 is the number that sticks in my mind, but may not be accurate. So Ennzedd and the Chathams have it beat by quite a lot in the last-settled sweepstakes. (Greenland itself had Inuit from settlements beginning several centuries BC.)

Necker Island, which would otherwise be a contender, is ruled out by exception A in the OP – though settled “several centuries” after 800 AD and with a small but persistent population for many years, it was left uninhabited by the time it was rediscovered by LaPerouse in 1786.

I was going to say the Azores, which were settled in the 1430’s, but Wikipedia gives the Chatham Islands a settlement year of around 1500. I think that’s the latest we’ll probably be able to get.


Silly me, forgot about Cape Verde (1462).

Would the Falklands be a candidate?

They were thought to be uninhabited when the English & French established colonies in the 1760s.

No. We were asked to exclude places that had no permanent human settlements until found by modern-day explorers.

And those “agricultural people” were, deep down, the “same” in both cases: Austronesians. The difference being, as you said, that Madagascar already had people on it (who left a genetic heritage, but lost their language), while New Zealand and Hawaii did not.

How about Tristan da Cunha?

It does not seem to have had any indigenous population. Wiki gives the 2009 population as 275.

ETA: Oh sorry, modern settlers don’t count apparently. How long ago does it have to have been populated to count then?

The OP is basically looking for the last places that were settled by pre-literate people, and where that population survived until the place was discovered by Europeans (or other literate peoples) post 1492.

Calling Polynesians Austronesian is a bit simplistic IMO. They are a complex blend of Austronesian, Australoid, Mongolid and Melanesian, and that gets even more muddied when talking about NZ Maori.

The most recent wave of Inuit settlers in Greenland are thought to have arrived there around 1200 A.D., (well after the Norse arrived further south) the previous waves all having died out centuries before.

Also the common Mercator Projection maps make New Zealand look to be pretty close. This is the same type of flat map that makes Greenland look bigger than South America.