Austronesians out of the cauldron


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.

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