I am looking for historical instances of a rather specific and strange scenario:

Settlers who settled a wild/unclaimed territory (ideally 100-300 in number) who after settling in the new place, were largely uncontacted and undisturbed for at least 300 years. No additional arrivals of settlers to inflate population, or supplies to augment them. No interaction or interbreeding with a native population.

Why? I am trying to model the population growth of a hypothetical poorly-equipped but hardy band of 200 settlers, in basic family units, in an area without a native population, moderate predators, moderate climate, and basic knowledge of 1730s-era tech. This research is for the purposes of a novel.

My research so far: My research initially led me to the viking expansion - particularly the family group settling of Shetland, near Faroe. However, historical census data is not available. I also have been reading about remote communities, the genetic "founder effect", etc. All very interesting and relevant, but I haven't yet found any population data that fits this inquiry.

Edit: In terms of how severe a "break in contact" I'm looking for, it doesn't have to be immediate and absolute. It is not the 'contact' that I'm trying to model, but rather the population growth. So, the settlers may have correspondence or visitations by other groups, as long as there are not large influxes of new settlers or mate potentials. I'm trying to understand A) how high population can grow in ~300 years from the initial settlers, and B) how robust the settlers might build their village. After 300 years, would the initial 200 people marooned in the strange land be reduced to just 50 descendants, in a hunter/gatherer tribe? Or would the 200 people balloon to 10,000 and have developed their own infrastructure and technology?

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    Welcome to History:SE. What has your research shown you so far? Where have you already searched? What did you find? Please help us to help you. You might find it helpful to review the site tour and Help Centre and, in particular, How to Ask. Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 2:47
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    I don't have any evidence, but I would bet very strong against this. It is extremely uncharacteristic of humans to sever all ties with family.
    – MCW
    Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 3:02
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    There is very little documented information available, yet I suggest to read into the history of Easter Island, which might tick some of the boxes.
    – Dohn Joe
    Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 11:42
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    It depends on how strict you want to be about the break in contact. Many island settlements were isolated for centuries. There's Hawaii as Aaron mentioned, but also plenty more: New Zealand, Catham, Easter Islands, just to name a few, because geography makes it unprofitable to engage in long distance trade. However, the settlers generally, remembered family ties and stayed in contact for generations afterwards, which as Mark says, is human nature. Losing contact after 25 years is an instant for world history but a lifetime for a colony.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 11:49
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    If you are looking to understand historical demography, nothing that I can write as an answer here will allow you to do so, and to create a model/narrative. Keeping in mind the 18th century tag, you might want to look at "Life under Pressure: Mortality and Living Standards in Europe and Asia, 1700-1900" (MIT Press, 2004). However, it is about historical demographics, not migration or re-settlement. The focus is on communities, not nation-states.
    – J Asia
    Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 21:34

3 Answers 3


The peopling of Hawaii in the 1100s or 1200s may qualify. Drifters or shipwrecks could have arrived in the following centuries (for which see Braden's On the Probability of Pre-1778 Japanese Drifts to Hawaii), but the local culture was seemingly isolated from its Polynesian relatives, with its language and religion diverging significantly. James Cook's arrival in 1778 was novel as no foreign visitors had been seen in living memory.

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    New Zealand is a similar example, where the Maori became isolated for centuries until European discovery. Note however that in both cases, contact was not immediately lost - voyages back and forth to the Polynesian core continued for several more generations before ties gradually died out (it is thought that such travel was mainly for kinship purposes). I'm not sure how sudden of a break OP's looking for here.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 11:37
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    @Semaphore - ...and to piggyback on that example, there's the Moriori of the Chatham Islands, who settled there from New Zealand sometime in the 1500's, developed a unique pacifist culture, and were subsequently so forgotten about that when the Maori first heard about them from European sailors in the 1830's, they promptly swiped some European ships, sailed there, and enslaved them.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 14:34
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    Hawaii is a little cheating in a few respects to your question. The settlers were most likely well equipped and intending to settle. The climate is extremely generous. There were zero predators. Anyways, in a time period between around 300 to 450 years population went from several hundred (no one knows exact number) to over 100,000 (highest estimates go as high as a million).
    – Pace
    Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 18:27

It doesn't reach the bars in the OP of 200 settlers and 3 centuries, but in case you are interested in a smaller experience, Pitcairn Island was settled in 1790 by 27 people. The community they built remained uncontacted for decades and developed independantly for about half a century.

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    The linked article seems to contradict your narrative. There were several visits, firstly being 18 years after landing. I suppose technically that's "decades", but still... Just 24 years later, others arrived and contributed to the society, so it was not independently developing for a century. Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 12:24
  • @LightnessRaces You're quite right, my claim was exagerrated. Small edit for now. Anyway, if the OP judges the figures to be too low to be relevant for the question, I might delete this answer later.
    – Evargalo
    Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 13:18

Sentinelese people from Andamans Sentineli and the North Sentinel Islanders, are an indigenous people who inhabit North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal in India. They are considered one of the world's last uncontacted peoples.


Apart from these, Brazil and New Guinea have some of the largest uncontacted tribes in the world.


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