The Negrito (//) are several different ethnic groups who inhabit isolated parts of a region known today as Austronesia. Their current populations include the Andamanese peoples of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Semang ethnic groups of Peninsular Malaysia, the Maniq people of Southern Thailand, and the Aeta people, Ati people, and 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|
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 occasionally been used also 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.
The Y-chromosome Haplogroup C-M130, as seen, for example, in the Semang of Malaysia, and Haplogroup D-M174 among Andaman Islanders, are more prominent among Negritos than the general populations surrounding them. Haplogroup O-P31 is also common among Austroasiatic-speaking Negrito peoples, such as the Maniq and the Semang.
Aeta men 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.
Genetic research has shown that the Negritos have existed as a separate group for a long time, comparable to the Australoid and Southwest Pacific groups.
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".
Bulbeck (2013) likewise noted that the Andamanese's nuclear DNA clusters with that of other Andamanese Islanders, as they carry Haplogroup D-M174 and maternal mitochondrial Haplogroup M unique to their own. However, this is a subclade of 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 M32 mtDNA, a subgroup of M, which is unique to Onge people. Their parental Y-DNA is exclusively Haplogroup D, which is also only found in Asia.
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 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 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'."
A number of features would seem to suggest a common origin for the Negrito and Negrillo, including short stature, dark skin, scant body hair, and occasional steatopygia. 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.
Andamanese Negrito peopleEdit
According to both Wells and Mason, the Australoid Negritos, similar to the Andamanese adivasis of today, were the first identifiable human population to colonize India, likely 30–65 thousand years before present (kybp). This first colonization of the Indian mainland and the Andaman Islands by humans is theorized to be part of a great coastal migration of humans from Africa along the coastal regions of the Indian mainland and towards Southeast Asia and Oceania.
The Negrito peoples may be descended from ancient Australoid-Melanesian settlers of Austronesia, or represent an early split-off from the earliest Africans who dispersed out of Africa along this southern coastal route.
Negritos may have also lived in Formosa (Taiwan). The Negrito population shrank to the point that, up to 100 years ago, only one small group lived near the Saisiyat tribe. Evidence of their former habitation is a Saisiyat festival celebrating the black people in a festival called Pas-ta'ai.
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Our data indicate that the Andamanese have closer affinities to Asian than to African populations and suggest that they are the descendants of the early Palaeolithic colonizers of Southeast Asia ... All Onge and Jarawa had the same binary haplotype D ... Great Andaman males had five different binary haplotypes, found previously in Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and MelanesiaCS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
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In our completely sequenced 966-mitochondrial genomes from 26 relic tribes of India, we have identified seven genomes, which share two synonymous polymorphisms with the M42 haplogroup, which is specific to Australian Aborigines…direct genetic evidence of an early colonization of Australia through south Asia
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About 3% to 5% of the DNA of people from Melanesia (islands in the southwest Pacific Ocean), Australia and New Guinea as well as aboriginal people from the Philippines comes from the Denisovans.
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…the population of south-east Asia prior to 6000 years ago was composed largely of groups of hunter-gatherers very similar to modern Negritos… So, both the Y-chromosome and the mtDNA paint a clear picture of a coastal leap from Africa to south-east Asia, and onward to Australia… DNA has given us a glimpse of the voyage, which almost certainly followed a coastal route via India
- Jim Mason (2005), An Unnatural Order: The Roots of Our Destruction of Nature, Lantern Books, ISBN 978-1-59056-081-5,
Australia's 'aboriginal' peoples are another case in point. At the end of the Ice Age, their homeland stretched from the middle of India eastward into southeast Asia and as far south as Indonesia and nearby islands. As agriculture spread from its centers in southeast Asia, these pre-Australoid forager people moved farther southward to New Guinea and Australia.
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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
- Historycooperative.org: Africans and Asians: Historiography and the Long View of Global Interaction
- The Southeast Asian Negrito