"We've been able to date the founding population of Polynesia to within a very narrow window of 16 years," Prof Marshall Weisler, an archaeologist from the University of Queensland said.
Polynesia - which stretches from Hawaii in the north, New Zealand in the south and Easter Island in the east - is believed to be the last place on Earth to become inhabited by humans.
People known as Lapita were previously estimated to have arrived in Tonga sometime around 3,000 years ago.
"We have done a lot of archaeology on this people that we refer to as the Lapita peoples and it is defined by a very distinctive type of ceramics with complex motifs," lead author Dr David Burley, a professor of Archaeology at Simon Fraser University in Canada, told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program.
"And this type of ceramic occurs first in the Bismarck archipelago off the New Guinea coast and then it proceeds east and we can track it all the way across the Pacific to Tonga, which is the end of the line for this kind of pottery."
The pottery was subjected to radiocarbon dating which gave an arrival date within of 178-year window between 2,769 and 2,947 years ago.
Prof Weisler proposed using another dating method to get a more precise date on first settlement.
During excavations at Nukuleka, Dr Burley found numerous fingers of acropora coral, which had been used by Lapita people as files and rasps.
"They'd break living coral fingers off the reef and use these for abrading shell and wood for shaping and forming these raw materials into various tools and artefacts," Prof Weisler said.
The researchers dated the coral using a method known as uranium/thorium dating, often used to study long-term changes in climate.
The method relies on the decay products of uranium to calculate the age of the coral.
"It's very, very much more precise," Prof Weisler said.
The result suggested Lapita people arrived within a 16-year window between 2,830 and 2,846 years ago.
"This technique now allows us the possibility of looking at, very precisely, when early settlement occurred in pretty much all of the island nations from New Guinea all of the way east as far as west Polynesia," Dr Burley said.
The corals have been sitting in the ground for almost 3,000 years and dirt could easily have contaminated the pores of the coral, Prof Weisler explained to ABC Science.
To make sure they didn't get a bogus date, the research team developed a special protocol that involved washing the coral with hydrogen peroxide and then only selecting the purest samples.
"When we cut off a centimetre-long sample, we'd crush it and process it and look at it under high magnification and only pick out those very small pieces that were pristine, that hadn't been affected by any erosion processes," Prof Weisler said.
Prof Weisler says the research lays the way for more precise dating of human colonisation of the Pacific.
"This is a great opportunity to date the speed of Lapita colonisation which is the broadest migration of people anywhere in the world - across the widest expanse of ocean over the fastest period of time ever in human history," he says.
The research was funded by the Australian Research Council and also involved Professor Jian-xin Zhao from the University of Queensland's Radiogenic Isotope Facility.