The Out of Taiwan human migration

5 Aug 2010

An article in Current Anthropology (April 2010) (see www.physorg.com/print190043379.html ) disputes the consensus model of human colonisation of the Philippines, Malaysia and islands of Indonesia by farming communities with an origin in Taiwan, otherwise the Out of Taiwan hypothesis. This model was particularly favoured by some environmentalists (such as author Jared Diamond) who seems to think prehistoric farming cultures expanded their territories and impacting on hunter-gatherer groups by bring with them a specific cultural baggage that included language as well as specific cultural traditions. Advocates of the model think farmers sspread also spread languages into Europe and sub-Sahara Africa. In this paper the model is refuted, and claims that genes, languages and material culture (which includes agriculture) did not spread together, hand in hand, as a result of migration, but island SE Asia was itself the home of diverse groups of people with a maritime network of social interaction that led to the spread of Austronesian languages. Although some genetic variation might be attributed to Taiwan, the island closest to the mainland, the proportion is small and does not represent wholesale replacement or absorption of pre-existing populations (or marginalisation). In fact, they maintain that many domesticated plants and animals common to the region were already there prior to 5000 years ago - when the great Taiwanese expansion is thought to have begun. Chickens and pigs, for example, and bananas and sugar cane.