The Negrito (//) are several diverse ethnic groups who inhabit isolated parts of Maritime Southeast Asia. Their current populations include: the Andamanese peoples of the Andaman Islands, the Semang and Batek peoples of Peninsular Malaysia, the Maniq people of Southern Thailand, the Aeta people, Ati people, as well as 30 other official recognized ethnic groups in the Philippines.
|Regions with significant populations|
(Andaman and Nicobar Islands)
(Luzon, Palawan, Panay, Negros, and Mindanao)
|Andamanese languages, Aslian languages, Nicobarese languages, Philippine Negrito languages|
|Animism, folk religions|
Based on their physical similarities, Negritos were once considered a single population of related people. Recent research, however, suggests that they include several separate groups, as well as demonstrating that they are not closely related to the Pygmies of Africa. The pre-Neolithic Negrito populations of Southeast Asia were largely replaced by the expansion of Southern Mongoloid populations, beginning about 5,000 years ago.
Historically they engaged in trade with the local population that eventually invaded their lands and were also often subjugated to slave raids while also paying tributes to the local Southeast Asian rulers and kingdoms. Some Negrito pygmies from the southern forests were enslaved and exploited until modern times since 724 AD. While some have lived in isolation others have become assimilated with the general local population.
The word Negrito is the Spanish diminutive of negro, used to mean "little black person". This usage was coined by 16th-century Spanish missionaries operating in the Philippines, and was borrowed by other European travellers and colonialists across Austronesia to label various peoples perceived as sharing relatively small physical stature and dark skin. Contemporary usage of an alternative Spanish epithet, Negrillos, also tended to bundle these peoples with the pygmy peoples of Central Africa, based on perceived similarities in stature and complexion. (Historically, the label Negrito has also been used to refer to African pygmies.) The appropriateness of using the label "Negrito" to bundle peoples of different ethnicities based on similarities in stature and complexion has been challenged.
Most Negrito groups lived as hunter-gatherers, while some also used agriculture. Today most Negrito tribes live assimilated to the majority population of their homeland. Discrimination and poverty are often problems.
Paternal haplogroups found in some Negrito populations are Haplogroup D*, a branch of D-M174 among Andaman Islanders, as well as Haplogroup O-P31 which is also common among the now Austroasiatic-speaking Negrito peoples, such as the Maniq and the Semang in Malaysia. These two haplogroups may have arrived with non-Negrito male migrations, following a genetic drift. The Onge and all the Adamanan Islanders belong strictly to the mitochondrial Haplogroup M it is also the predominant marker of other Negrito tribes and Australian aborigines, Papuans. Analysis of mtDNA, which is inherited exclusively by maternal descent, confirms the above results. All Onge belong to mDNA M, which is unique to Onge people.
Most other Negritos, like the Aeta or Ati people are of great interest to genetic, anthropological and historical researchers because at least 83% of them belong to haplogroup K2b, in the form of its rare primary clades K2b1* and P* (a.k.a. K2b2* or P-P295*). Most Aeta males (60%) carry K-P397 (K2b1), which is otherwise uncommon in the Philippines and is strongly associated with the indigenous peoples of Melanesia and Micronesia. Basal P* is rare outside the Aeta and some other groups within Maritime Southeast Asia.
This has often been interpreted to the effect that they are remnants of the original expansion from Africa some 70,000 years ago. Studies in osteology, cranial shape and dental morphology have connected the Semang to Australoid populations, while connecting the Andamanese to Africans in craniometry and to South Asians in dental morphology, and Philippine Negritos to Southeast Asians. A possible conclusion of this is that the dispersal of mitochondrial haplogroup B4a1a is connected to the distinction between Philippine and other Negritos. However, another study suggests that the Onge (indigenous to Little Andaman) are "more closely related to Southeast Asians than they are to present-day South Asians", and that the Great Andamanese "appear to have received a degree of relatively recent admixture from adjacent regional populations but also share a significant degree of genetic ancestry with Malaysian negrito groups".
A study of human blood group systems and proteins in the 1950s suggested that the Andamanese peoples were more closely related to Oceanic peoples than African pygmy peoples. Genetic studies on Philippine Negritos, based on polymorphic blood enzymes and antigens, showed that they were similar to their surrounding populations.
Negrito peoples may descend from Australoid-Melanesian settlers of Austronesia. Despite being isolated, the different peoples do share genetic similarities with their neighboring populations. They also show relevant phenotypic (anatomic) variations which require explanation.
In contrast, a recent genetic study found that unlike other early groups in Malesia, Andamanese Negritos lack Denisovan hominin admixture in their DNA. Denisovan ancestry is found among indigenous Melanesian and Aboriginal Australian populations at between 4–6%.
Some studies have suggested that each group should be considered separately, as the genetic evidence refutes the notion of a specific shared ancestry between the "Negrito" groups of the Andaman Islands, the Malay Peninsula, and the Philippines. Indeed, this sentiment is echoed in a more recent work from 2013 which concludes that "at the current level of genetic resolution ... there is no evidence of a single ancestral population for the different groups traditionally defined as 'negritos'."
Recent studies, concerning the population history of Southeast Asia, suggest that most Negrito populations in Southeast Asia show a rather strong "Mongoloid" admixture (Austronesian and Austroasiatic), ranging between 30% to 50% of their ancestry.
Bulbeck (2013) shows the Andamanese maternal mtDNA is entirely mitochondrial Haplogroup M . Their Y-DNA belong to the D haplogroup which has not been seen outside of the Andamans, a fact that underscores the insularity of these tribes. Analysis of mtDNA, which is inherited exclusively by maternal descent, confirms the above results. All Onge belong to tmDNA M, which is unique to Onge people.
A 2010 study by the Anthropological Survey of India and the Texas Biomedical Research Institute identified seven genomes from 26 isolated "relic tribes" from the Indian mainland, such as the Baiga tribe, which share "two synonymous polymorphisms with the M42 haplogroup, which is specific to Australian Aborigines". These were specific mtDNA mutations that are shared exclusively by Australian aborigines and these Indian tribes, and no other known human groupings.
A number of features would seem to suggest a common origin for the Negrito and Pygmy peoples, including short stature, dark skin, scant body hair, and occasional steatopygia (large, curvaceous buttocks and thighs). The claim that the Andamanese more closely resemble African pygmies than other Austronesian populations in their cranial morphology in a study of 1973 added some weight to this theory, before genetic studies pointed to a closer relationship with their neighbours.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Negrito.|
|Wikisource has the text of the 1879 American Cyclopædia article Negritos.|
- Negritos of Zambales—detailed book written by an American at the turn of the previous century holistically describing the Negrito culture
- Andaman.org: The Negrito of Thailand
- Africans and Asians: Historiography and the Long View of Global Interaction, originally published in Journal of World History, March 2005. Written by Maghan Keita (Villanova University,) archived March 7, 2009.
- The Southeast Asian Negrito