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Many years ago I mentioned offhand the idea of the Bantu Expansion on Jonathan Edelstein’s weblog Head Heeb. To this someone responded that the idea of the Bantu Expansion was contested. By who I asked? My interlocutor declined to say. The point of bringing up this old exchange is that on questions prehistorical the scholarly field is such that obfuscation and revisionism are the things of doctorates and controversial high cited papers. And yet the truth Is. The archaeological, linguistic, and now genetic, evidence for the Bantu Expansion is overwhelming. There can be no denying it, no matter how much one deconstructs the semantics or argues about the historical context in which the paradigm crystallized.

And so it is with the emergence of Austronesians. Linguistics and archaeology already were rather clear on the pattern of expansion, and when. But now an ancient DNA remain from off the coast of Fujian dated to ~8,000 years ago solidifies in totality the where and when. This is not an argument anymore. Early Austronesians: Into and Out Of Taiwan:

A Taiwan origin for the expansion of the Austronesian languages and their speakers is well supported by linguistic and archaeological evidence. However, human genetic evidence is more controversial. Until now, there had been no ancient skeletal evidence of a potential Austronesian-speaking ancestor prior to the Taiwan Neolithic ∼6,000 years ago, and genetic studies have largely ignored the role of genetic diversity within Taiwan as well as the origins of Formosans. We address these issues via analysis of a complete mitochondrial DNA genome sequence of an ∼8,000-year-old skeleton from Liang Island (located between China and Taiwan) and 550 mtDNA genome sequences from 8 aboriginal (highland) Formosan and 4 other Taiwanese groups. We show that the Liangdao Man mtDNA sequence is closest to Formosans, provides a link to southern China, and has the most ancestral haplogroup E sequence found among extant Austronesian speakers. Bayesian phylogenetic analysis allows us to reconstruct a history of early Austronesians arriving in Taiwan in the north ∼6,000 years ago, spreading rapidly to the south, and leaving Taiwan ∼4,000 years ago to spread throughout Island Southeast Asia, Madagascar, and Oceania.

It is done.

• Category: Science • Tags: Austronesians 
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  1. Im surprised by the link to southern China given the connection of the Austronesian folk to the cultures of Shandong.

  2. What is the current state of theory on the origins of the Melanesians – in terms of how they came to be Austronesian speakers but with obvious differences in biological heritage? Are they descendants of Papuans who adopted Austro culture?

  3. Are they descendants of Papuans who adopted Austro culture?

    basically. some genetic admixture from austronesians though. but the secondary element.

  4. I’m not sure I agree that the Liangdao Man’s mtDNA haplogroup (E) “solidifies in totality the where …” when it is not present in China.

  5. I’m not sure I agree that the Liangdao Man’s mtDNA haplogroup (E) “solidifies in totality the where …” when it is not present in China.

    relatives are. in any case, it’s OLD. should be extinct due to higher rate of substitution at mtDNA.

  6. Im surprised by the link to southern China given the connection of the Austronesian folk to the cultures of Shandong.

    you mean *modern* populations of the region. who knows who was in shandong then vs. now?

  7. This seems to fit with the “pop-sci” model of the peopling of Asia and Oceania:

    – a “first wave” of out-of-Africa dark-skinned, oval-eyed migrants (ASI, Andamaners, Papuans, Australians, Melanesians etc.)

    – several distinct “second waves” coming from secondary explosion of population in agricultural centers (western Eurasia for India, China for East Asia and Oceania) and carrying the highly derived traits of these agricultural population (pale skin, epicanthal folds, etc.) to a very high frequency over large swathes of land.

    That still doesn’t explain why some areas were so refractory to the second waves – like Papua, as shown in your graph.

  8. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Papua had its own Neolithic revolution and their technological package was probably robust enough for them not to be invaded. There is evidence for the development of taro and yam culture from as early as 11K BCE there. Banana and sugar cane culture were also developed in Papua not much later. If anything, Papuans probably traded with Austronesians in the area, considering how quickly all these crops spread into mainland Asia, while pigs were imported into Papua.

  9. following previous comment, the highlands of papua don’t have the same ecology as most of southeast asia. don’t know if rice farming would have adapted well to them. though who knows? might just be first mover advantage.

  10. “That still doesn’t explain why some areas were so refractory to the second waves – like Papua, as shown in your graph.”

    More extreme environments providing a bigger home team advantage?

  11. I’ve been reading up on this a bit lately. Seems to match what I’ve been finding.

    -Laurent Sagart considered Dawenkou “early pre-Austronesian” in his STAN linguistic/archaeological model

    -In ‘Prehistoric settllements of the Pacific’, it was noted that Austronesian cultures were both “Hemudu-like” and “Longshan-like”. (Dawenkou likely predecessor to Longshan)


    -In ‘Quests of the Dragon and Bird Clan’ Austronesians are again linked with Dawenkou:

    The migration route goes from the Dawenkou Zone into the Hemudu zone into Fujian and next of course is the Austronesian expansion into ISEA.

  12. From the article:
    “Haplogroup E is not observed in more than 6,000 individuals across 84 populations in China,41 and therefore the occurrence of this haplogroup at the Liangdao Man’s location is highly unusual. In fact, haplogroup E is prevalent outside China among Austronesian-speaking groups from Taiwan, Philippines,32 Malay Peninsula,33 Island Southeast Asia,3,35 and Guam and Marianas in Micronesia,42 spreading as far west as Madagascar43 and as far east as the Bismarck Archipelago, but it has not yet been reported in Polynesia.44”

    Haplogroup E is considered to have diverged from M9 which is found at it’s highest frequency, by far, in Tibet. For that reason, ‘E’ is thought to have originated around Thailand rather than the east coast of China.

    Liangdao Man’s ancestors might came from Taiwan.

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