Austronesian peoples

Austronesian people
Total population
c. 400 million
Regions with significant populations
Austronesian languages
Animism, Buddhism, Christianity (Roman Catholicism, Protestantism), 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.

They include Taiwanese aborigines, the majority of ethnic groups in the Philippines, East Timor, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Polynesia, Micronesia and Madagascar, as well as the Malays of Singapore, the Polynesians of New Zealand and Hawaii, the non-Papuan peoples of Melanesia. All of these peoples can be connected through the Austronesian language family. They are also found in the regions of Southern Thailand, the Cham areas in Vietnam and Cambodia, and the Hainan island province of China, parts of Sri Lanka, southern Myanmar, the southern tip of South Africa, Suriname, and some of the Andaman Islands. On top of that, modern-era migration brought Austronesian-speaking people to the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Hong Kong, Macau and Mauritius, as well as the West Asian countries. Ethnic Maldivians also possess a genetic connection to the Austronesian-speaking groups of maritime Southeast Asia via gene flow from the Malay Archipelago.[15][16]

The nations and territories predominantly populated by Austronesian-speaking peoples are known collectively as Austronesia.

Prehistory and history

Map showing the migration and expansion of the Austronesians.
Colorized photograph of a Tsou warrior wearing traditional clothing, pre-World War II

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.

It is theoretically possible that a few thousand years before the southward expansion of the Han dynasty that Austronesian speakers spread 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).[17] 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.[18] 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"[19][20]— it is broadly consistent with available data [21], despite concerns that have been raised.[22]

Alternatives to this model posit an indigenous origin for the Austronesian languages in Southeast Asia or Melanesia.[23][24][25][26]

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.[27] 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.[28] 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.[29][30][31]

Migration and dispersion

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.[32][33][34]

"Out of Taiwan" model

An Atayal tribal woman from Taiwan with tattoo on her face as a symbol of maturity, which was a tradition for both males and females.
A Rukai village chief visiting the Department of Anthropology in the Tokyo Imperial University during Imperial Japanese rule.

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.[35][18] 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).[36] 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.[37][38][39]

Based on recent archaeological evidence as well as linguistic evidence, Roger Blench (2014)[40] 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.

Tianlong Jiao (2007)[41] 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)[42] 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.

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.[35][43]

Sailing to Micronesia and the previously uninhabited islands of remote Oceania by 1000 BCE, the Austronesian peoples founded Polynesia.[44] 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.[45][46]

In the Indian Ocean they sailed west from Maritime Southeast Asia; the Austronesian peoples reached Madagascar by ca. 50–500 CE.[33][34]

"Southeast Asian origin" model

This "out of Taiwan model" has been challenged by a 2008 study. Examination of mitochondrial DNA lineages shows that they have been evolving within Island Southeast Asia (ISEA) for a longer period than previously believed. Population dispersals occurred at the same time as sea levels rose, which may have resulted in migrations to the Philippines as far north as Taiwan within the last 10,000 years.[27] The migrations were likely driven by climate change — the effects of the drowning the Sundaland subcontinent (which had extended the Asian landmass as far as Borneo and Java). This happened during the period 15,000 to 7,000 years ago following the Last Glacial Maximum. Rising sea levels in three massive pulses caused flooding and the partial submergence of the Sunda subcontinent, creating the Java and South China Seas and the thousands of islands that make up Indonesia and the Philippines today.[25] Genetic evidence found in 2016 indicates that movements of people from Taiwan to the islands of South East Asia did occur, albeit smaller in scale, which nevertheless may have brought about linguistic and cultural changes.[28]

Findings from HUGO (Human Genome Organization) in 2009 also show 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.[47][48][49] They found genetic similarities between populations throughout Asia and an increase in genetic diversity from northern to southern latitudes. Although the Chinese population is very large, it has less variation than the smaller number of individuals living in South East Asia, because the Chinese expansion occurred very recently, following the development of rice agriculture — within only the last 10,000 years.[citation needed]

Formation of tribes and kingdoms

A Tagalog Maginoo (noble class) couple, both wearing blue-coloured clothing (blue being the distinctive colour of their class).
Borobudur, the world's largest Buddhist temple, was built under the reign of the Sailendra dynasty, which was bound by dynastic alliance with the city-state of Srivijaya.

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.

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.[50]

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.[51]

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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