Madagascar was first colonized by a small group of Indonesians who crossed the Indian Ocean some 1,200 years ago, reports a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
The research, which adds to the body of evidence showing that Indonesians — not Africans — first colonized Madagascar, is based on analysis of mitochondrial DNA from 266 Malagasy and 2,745 Indonesian women. Mitochondrial DNA passes from generation to generation through mothers and is commonly used to determine genetic origin.
The study concluded that about 30 Indonesian women, and an unknown number of men, founded Madagascar’s human population.
In the coastal areas of Madagascar, populations are dominated by people of African-descent like this Vezo child. In the highlands, people are more commonly of Indonesian-descent.
The results are not a surprise. Dominant ethnic groups in Madagascar bear a physical resemblance to modern-day Indonesians and speak a language most similar to Ma’anyan which is used in the Barito River valley of Indonesian Borneo. They also share common cultural practices, including burial rituals and strong preference for rice. Archeologists have also found artifacts with Indonesian origin in Madagascar, including outrigger boats and iron tools.
The latest research was unable to determine how Indonesian colonists originally reached Madagascar, but other studies suggest that they may have sailed across the Indian Ocean in boats. Seasonal wind patterns would facilitate a cross-ocean voyage from Southeast Asia.
Other ethnicities — including black Africans and Arabs — arrived later, contributing to Madagascar’s present-day rich cultural diversity.
People of Madagascar have origins in Borneo, Africa
(5/3/2005) A new study in the American Journal of Human Genetics confirms that the people of Madagascar have origins in both East Africa and also distant Borneo. Despite the island’s proximity to southern Africa, some anthropologists believe it was ethnic Indonesians who first settled Madagascar 1500-2000 years ago. The language of Madagascar, called Malagasy, can be traced back to Indonesia where it most closely resembles the modern Malayo-Polynesian language of Ma’anyan, which is spoken by people in the Barito Valley of southern Borneo.
(7/8/2005) Half of the genetic lineages of human inhabitants of Madagascar come from 4500 miles away in Borneo, while the other half derive from East Africa, according to a study published in May by a UK team. The island of Madagascar, the largest in the Indian Ocean, lies some 250 miles (400 km) from Africa and 4000 miles (6400 km) from Indonesia. Its isolation means that most of its mammals, half of its birds, and most of its plants exist nowhere else on earth. The new findings, published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, show that the human inhabitants of Madagascar are similarly unique – amazingly, half of their genetic lineages derive from settlers from the region of Borneo, with the other half from East Africa. Archaeological evidence suggests that this settlement was as recent as 1500 years ago – about the time the Saxons invaded Britain.