Austronesian peoples

Austronesian people
Taiwanese aborigines.JPG
Amis people performing a traditional dance
Total population
c. 400 million
Regions with significant populations
Languages
Austronesian languages
Religion
Animism, Buddhism, Christianity (Protestantism, Roman Catholicism), Folk religion, Hinduism (Balinese Hinduism), Indigenous religion, Islam, Shamanism

The Austronesian peoples, or more accurately Austronesian-speaking peoples,[14] are a group of various peoples in Southeast Asia, Oceania and East Africa that speak Austronesian languages. The nations and territories predominantly populated by Austronesian-speaking peoples are known collectively as Austronesia.[15]

Austronesians include the Taiwanese aborigines, the majority of ethnic groups in the Philippines, East Timor, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Polynesia, Micronesia and Madagascar, as well as the Malays of Singapore, the Polynesians of New Zealand, Hawaii, and Chile, the non-Papuan peoples of Melanesia and coastal New Guinea, the Shibushi-speakers of Comoros, and the Malagasy and Shibushi-speakers of Réunion. They are also found in the regions of Southern Thailand, the Cham areas in Vietnam and Cambodia, and parts of Myanmar.[16][17]

On top of that, modern-era migration brought Austronesian-speaking people to the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, mainland Europe, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Hainan, Hong Kong, Macau, and West Asian countries.[18] Ethnic Maldivians also possess a genetic connection to the Austronesian-speaking groups of maritime Southeast Asia via gene flow from the Malay Archipelago.[19][20]

Prehistory and history

Archaeological evidence demonstrates a technological connection between the farming cultures of the "south", meaning Southeast Asia and Melanesia, and sites that are first known from mainland China; whereas a combination of archaeological and linguistic evidence has been interpreted as supporting a "northern" origin for the Austronesian language family in mainland southern China and Taiwan.

Outrigger canoes and crab claw sails are hallmarks of Austronesian maritime culture
Best-fit genomic mixture proportions of Austronesians in Island Southeast Asia and their inferred population movements[21][22]

It is theoretically possible that a few thousand years before the southward expansion of the Han dynasty that Austronesian speakers spud down the coast of southern China past Taiwan as far as the Gulf of Tonkin. In time, the spread of other language groups such as Austroasiatic, Tai-Kadai, Hmong-Mien and Sino-Tibetan (such as Chinese) led to the assimilation and eventual sinicization of all (proto) Austronesian-speaking populations that remained on the mainland (a process which continues today in Taiwan).[23] In a recent treatment, all Austronesian languages were classified into 10 subfamilies, with all the extra-Formosan languages grouped in one subfamily and with representatives of the remaining nine known only in Taiwan.[24] It has been argued that these patterns are best explained by dispersal of an agricultural people from Taiwan into insular Southeast Asia, Melanesia, and, ultimately, the remote Pacific. This model has been termed the "express train to Polynesia"[25][26]— it is broadly consistent with available data,[27] despite concerns that have been raised.[28]

Alternatives to this model posit an indigenous origin for the Austronesian languages in Southeast Asia or Melanesia.[29][30][31][32]

Genetic analyses suggest that the Southeast Asian Austronesians had spread over Sundaland (the land mass of Southeastern Asia before rising sea-level created the archipelago of Southeast Asia) and evolved in situ over the last 35,000 years.[33] Nevertheless, in 2016, DNA analysis carried out found that one of the genetic markers used in the study but not the others supports a small-scale "out-of-Taiwan" hypothesis.[34] The studies suggest that only a small fraction of the Taiwan genetic lineages are found among the people of South East Asia, and it is argued that these movements of people from Taiwan, while smaller in scale, had a strong impact on the culture and language of the people.[35][36][37]

Migration and dispersion

Colorized photograph of a Tsou warrior wearing traditional clothing, pre-World War II

Genomic analysis of cultivated coconut (Cocos nucifera) has shed light on the movements of Austronesian peoples. By examining 10 microsatelite loci, researchers found that there are 2 genetically distinct subpopulations of coconut – one originating in the Indian Ocean, the other in the Pacific Ocean. However, there is evidence of admixture, the transfer of genetic material, between the two populations. Given that coconuts are ideally suited for ocean dispersal, it seems possible that individuals from one population could have floated to the other. However, the locations of the admixture events are limited to Madagascar and coastal east Africa and exclude the Seychelles and Mauritius. Sailing west from Maritime Southeast Asia in the Indian Ocean, the Austronesian peoples reached Madagascar by ca. 50–500 CE, and reached other parts thereafter. This forms a pattern that coincides with the known trade routes of Austronesian sailors. Additionally, there is a genetically distinct sub-population of coconuts on the eastern coast of South America which has undergone a genetic bottleneck resulting from a founder effect; however, its ancestral population is the pacific coconut, which suggests that Austronesian peoples may have sailed as far east as the Americas.[38][39][40]

"Out of Taiwan" model

Hōkūleʻa, a modern replica of a Polynesian double-hulled voyaging canoe, is an example of a catamaran, another of the early sailing innovations of Austronesians

An element in the ancestry of Austronesian-speaking peoples, the one which carried their ancestral language, originated on the island of Taiwan. This occurred after the migration of pre-Austronesian-speaking peoples from continental Asia between approximately 10,000–6,000 BCE.[41][24] Other research has suggested that, according to radiocarbon dates, Austronesians may have migrated from mainland China to Taiwan as late as 4000 BC (Dapenkeng culture).[42] Before migrating to Taiwan, Austronesian speakers originated from the Neolithic cultures of Southeastern China, such as the Hemudu culture or the Liangzhu culture of the Yangtze River Delta.[43][44][45]

Map showing the migration and expansion of the Austronesians
Māori poupou from the Ruato tomb of Rotorua

According to the mainstream "out-of-Taiwan model", a large-scale Austronesian expansion began around 3000–1500 BCE. Population growth primarily fuelled this migration. These first settlers may have landed in northern Luzon in the archipelago of the Philippines, intermingling with the earlier Australo-Melanesian population who had inhabited the islands since about 23,000 years earlier. Over the next thousand years, Austronesian peoples migrated southeast to the rest of the Philippines, and into the islands of the Celebes Sea, Borneo, and Indonesia. The Austronesian peoples of Maritime Southeast Asia sailed eastward, and spread to the islands of Melanesia and Micronesia between 1200 BCE and 500 CE, respectively. The Austronesian inhabitants that spread westward through Maritime Southeast Asia had reached some parts of mainland Southeast Asia, and later on Madagascar.[41][46]

Sailing to Micronesia and the previously uninhabited islands of remote Oceania by 1000 BCE, the Austronesian peoples founded Polynesia.[27] These people settled most of the Pacific Islands. They had settled Rapa Nui (Easter Island) by AD 300, Hawaii by AD 400, and into New Zealand by about 1280 CE. There is evidence, based in the spreading of the sweet potato, that they reached South America where they traded with the Native Americans.[47][48]

In the Indian Ocean they sailed west from Maritime Southeast Asia; the Austronesian peoples reached Madagascar by ca. 50–500 CE.[39][40]

Tianlong Jiao (2007)[49] notes that Neolithic peoples from the coast of southeastern China migrated to Taiwan from 6,500-5,000 B.P. The Neolithic period in southeastern China lasted from 6,500 B.P. until 3,500 B.P., and can be divided into the early (ca, 6500-5000 B.P.), middle (ca. 5000-4300 B.P.), and late (ca. 4300-3500 B.P.) Neolithic periods. The Neolithic in southeastern China started off with pottery, polished stone tools, and bone tools, with technology continuing to progress over the years. Neolithic peoples in Taiwan and mainland China continued to maintain regular contact with each other until 3,500 B.P., which was when bronze artefacts started to appear. Jiao (2013)[50] notes the Neolithic appeared on the coast of Fujian around 6,000 B.P. During the Neolithic, the coast of Fujian had a low population density, with the population depending on mostly on fishing and hunting, alongside with limited agriculture.

Taiwan melting pot hypothesis

Based on recent archaeological evidence as well as linguistic evidence, Roger Blench (2014)[51] considers the Austronesians in Taiwan to have been a melting pot of immigrants from various parts of the coast of eastern China that had been migrating to Taiwan by 4,000 B.P. These immigrants included people from the foxtail millet-cultivating Longshan culture of Shandong (with Longshan-type cultures found in southern Taiwan), the fishing-based Dapenkeng culture of coastal Fujian, and the Yuanshan culture of northernmost Taiwan which Blench suggests may have originated from the coast of Guangdong. Based on geography and cultural vocabulary, Blench believes that the Yuanshan people may have spoken Northeast Formosan languages. Thus, Blench believes that there is in fact no "apical" ancestor of Austronesian in the sense that there was no true single Proto-Austronesian language that gave rise to present-day Austronesian languages. Instead, multiple migrations of various pre-Austronesian peoples and languages from the Chinese mainland that were related but distinct came together to form what we now know as Austronesian in Taiwan. Hence, Blench considers the single-migration model to be inconsistent with both the archaeological and linguistic (lexical) evidence.

"Southeast Asian origin" model

Proposed migration waves from Sundaland in the Late Pleistocene based on mtDNA data; and later "back-migrations" into Island Southeast Asia during the early to mid-Holocene expansion of rice-farming Austronesians from mainland southern China. The extent of the coastlines of Sundaland during the last ice age is presented in light shading; while modern coastlines after the rise of sea levels in the Late Pleistocene to mid-Holocene is in dark shading. (Brandão et al., 2016)

A competing hypothesis to the "Out of Taiwan" model is the "Out of Sundaland" hypothesis, favored by a minority of authors. Notable proponents include William Meacham, Stephen Oppenheimer, and Wilhelm Solheim. For various reasons, they proposed that the homelands of Austronesians were within Island Southeast Asia (ISEA), particularly in the Sundaland landmass drowned during the end of the last glacial period by rising sea levels.[15][52][31]

The Manunggul Jar, a secondary burial jar from around 890-710 BCE excavated from a Neolithic burial site in the Manunggul cave of the Tabon Caves, Palawan

Stephen Oppenheimer's studies on Southeast Asian and Pacific genetics, in particular, focused on the discovery of a mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroup that have been evolving in the Indonesian archipelago for more than 40,000 years ago. He concluded that this meant that ancestral populations in the region of Sundaland were the primary ancestors of all Asians who migrated northwards as the sea levels rose, in opposition to the prevailing "Out of Taiwan" hypothesis.[31][53]

In 2008, a study by Soares et al., which included Oppenheimer, examined mtDNA lineages in ISEA and Taiwan and discovered that, at most, only around 20% of modern mtDNA were introduced during the Neolithic. They examined mtDNA Haplogroup E in particular, which they concluded likely evolved from Haplogroup M (specifically Haplogroup M9), that arrived in ISEA more than 50,000 years ago. Although sea level rise was mostly gradual starting from ~19,000 years ago in the last glacial period, other studies have shown that there were likely three episodes of catastrophic rise events at approximately ~14,500, ~11,500, and ~7,500 years ago caused by ice sheet collapse. They concluded that these sudden sea level floodings triggered mass population displacements from ISEA and were the initial conditions that triggered the development of the maritime technologies that later defined Austronesian culture.[33]

Toraja megaliths memorializing the deceased in Sulawesi

In particular they pinpointed the region between the Sulu Sea and the Sulawesi Sea, as the likely point of origin of a pre-adapted maritime culture that expanded north towards Taiwan and east to New Guinea and the Pacific, using the genetic evidence of the dispersal of Haplogroup E as well as putative archeological evidence with the "flake-blade" stone tool assemblages found in the Philippines and Taiwan. However, they also caution that their study only accounts for ~15% of mtDNA lineages in Southeast Asia and that it was not enough pinpoint other directions of dispersal from neighboring groups.[33]

Findings from HUGO (Human Genome Organization) in 2009 further corroborated the studies when it concluded that Asia was populated primarily through a single migration event out of Africa whereby an early population first entered South East Asia before they moved northwards to East Asia.[54][55][56]

However, in 2014, the results of a study by Lipson et al. contradicted these results. Unlike the earlier studies which focused only on mtDNA, the new study used whole genome data, allowing them to study hundreds of thousands of ancestors, not just one lineage. The team was also using more sophisticated statistical analysis methods that allowed the examination of genetic mixing between Southeast Asian populations. The new study found that all ISEA populations had genes originating from the aboriginal Taiwanese. Contrary to the claim of a south-to-north migration in the "Out of Sundaland" hypothesis, the new whole genome analysis strongly confirms the north-to-south dispersal of the Austronesian peoples in the prevailing "Out of Taiwan" hypothesis. The researchers further pointed out that while humans have been living in Sundaland for at least 40,000 years, the Austronesian people were recent arrivals, and the results of the previous studies failed to take into account admixture between them.[53][57]

While people have been in Sundaland for at least 40,000 years, Austronesian-speaking people arrived more recently from the north and continue spreading eastward. I think the scientists who claim an ‘Out of Sundaland’ origin for Austronesians are confusing the ancient presence of humans in Sundaland with the spread of Austronesians

— Mark Stoneking, ‘Out of Sundaland’ Assumption Disproved, Rochmyaningsih, Dyna (28 October 2014). "'Out of Sundaland' Assumption Disproved". Jakarta Globe
Ifugao hogang guardian spirits overlooking the Banaue Rice Terraces in the highlands of Luzon

In 2016, proponents of "Out of Sundaland" in Brandão et al. refined their earlier hypothesis after examining further mtDNA lineages by acknowledging that migrations from Taiwan did occur during the mid to late Holocene. But they proposed that rather than a monolithic "Austronesian expansion" as posited by the "Out of Taiwan" model, it was instead a process of cultural diffusion and assimilation that brought linguistic and cultural changes (particularly rice cultivation) but had relatively minor genetic impact (an average of 20%) on preexisting populations in ISEA. Their study also still concluded that populations from ISEA did expand northwards earlier during the catastrophic rise events of the Late Pleistocene, dispersing into mainland southern China and then into Taiwan. This was concurrent with other migrations of indigenous maritime-oriented ISEA populations entering Taiwan from the south through the Philippines.[34]

Furthermore, they interpret the low genetic contributions of Taiwanese aboriginals to ISEA mtDNA lineags as evidence that Taiwanese aborigines did not contribute significantly to the later southward expansion. Rather the expansion was largely the spread of rice-farming Austronesians from the south China passing through Taiwan at around 7000 to 6000 years ago before entering ISEA again at around ~4.5 thousand years ago. They propose that the admixture of Austronesian genes in Taiwanese populations happened after the Austronesian expansion from southern China, rather than before it.[34]

Formation of tribes and kingdoms

Queen Liliʻuokalani, the last sovereign monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii

By the beginning of the first millennium CE, most of the Austronesian inhabitants in Maritime Southeast Asia began trading with India and China. The adoption of Hindu statecraft model allowed the creation of Indianized kingdoms such as Tarumanagara, Champa, Langkasuka, Melayu, Srivijaya, Medang Mataram, Majapahit, and Bali. Between the 5th to 15th century Hinduism and Buddhism were established as the main religion in the region.

Borobudur, built under the reign of the Sailendra dynasty, which was bound by dynastic alliance with the city-state of Srivijaya

Muslim traders from the Arabian peninsula were thought to have brought Islam by the 10th century. Islam was established as the dominant religion in the Indonesian archipelago by the 16th century. The Austronesian inhabitants of Polynesia were unaffected by this cultural trade, and retained their indigenous culture in the Pacific region.[58]

Kingdom of Larantuka in Flores, East Nusa Tenggara was the only Christian (Roman Catholic) indigenous kingdom in Indonesia and in Southeast Asia, with the first king named Lorenzo.[59]

Western Europeans in search of spices and gold later colonized most of the Austronesian-speaking countries of the Asia-Pacific region, beginning from the 16th century with the Portuguese and Spanish colonization of some parts of Indonesia (present day East Timor), the Philippines, Palau, Guam, and the Mariana Islands; the Dutch colonization of the Indonesian archipelago; the British colonization of Malaysia and Oceania; the French colonization of French Polynesia; and later, the American governance of the Pacific.

Meanwhile, the British, Germans, French, Americans, and Japanese began establishing spheres of influence within the Pacific Islands during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Japanese later invaded most of Southeast Asia and some parts of the Pacific during World War II. The latter half of the 20th century initiated independence of modern-day Indonesia, Malaysia, East Timor and many of the Pacific Island nations, as well as the re-independence of the Philippines.

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