During ice ages, when sea levels were low, land bridges connected Sumatra, Java, Bali and Borneo with Southeast Asia. The Philippines and the Indonesian islands of Sulawesi, Lombok, Flores, Timor and the Moluccas were not connected by land bridges to Southeast Asia. Land bridges connected New Guinea and Australia with each other but not with Indonesia or Southeast Asia.

It was long thought that early man was unable to migrate past the 15-mile-wide Lombok Straight between Bali and Lombok. Stone flakes possibly produced by humans have been found in 730,000-year-old deposits on Flores, which has been offered as evidence that early man was able to cross the Lombok Strait.

The oldest evidence of early human habitation in Southeast Asia are stone hand-axes unearthed in the historical site of Lenggong in Malaysia dating back 1.83 million years. The earliest anatomically modern humans skeleton in Peninsular Malaysia, Perak Man, dates back 11,000 years and Perak Woman dating back 8,000 years, were also discovered in Lenggong. The site has an undisturbed stone tool production area, created using equipment such as anvils and hammer stones. The Tambun Cave paintings are also situated in Perak. From East Malaysia, Sarawak's Niah Caves, there is evidence of the oldest human remains in Malaysia, dating back 40,000 years. [Source: Wikipedia +]

The area's first known human-like inhabitant some 500,000 years ago was "Java Man" (first classified as Pithecanthropus erectus, then subsequently named a part of the species Homo erectus). Recently discovered was a species of human, dubbed "Flores Man" (Homo floresiensis), a miniature hominid that grew only three feet tall. Flores Man seems to have shared some islands with Java Man until only 10,000 years ago, when they became extinct. +

The earliest evidence of modern humans in Indonesia —63,000-73,000 years before present — is Lida Ajer cave in Sumatra. Teeth were found there in the 19th century. The earliest evidence of modern humans in Philippines —67,000 years before present — is Callao Cave. Archaeologists, Dr. Armand Mijares with Dr. Phil Piper found bones in a cave near Peñablanca, Cagayan in 2010 that were dated to be 67,000 years old. It's the earliest human fossil ever found in Asia-Pacific. The earliest evidence of modern humans in Laos — 46,000 years before present — was found in Tam Pa Ling. Cave. In 2009 an ancient skull was recovered from a cave in the Annamite Mountains in northern Laos which is at least 46,000 years old, making it the oldest modern human fossil found to date in Southeast Asia. +

The oldest human settlement in Malaysia has been discovered in Niah Caves. The human remains found there have been dated back to 40,000 BC. Another remain dated back to 9000 BC dubbed the "Perak Man" and tools as old as 75,000 years have been discovered in Lenggong, Malaysia. The oldest habitation discovered in the Philippines is located at the Tabon Caves and dates back to approximately 50,000 years; while items there found such as burial jars, earthenware, jade ornaments and other jewelry, stone tools, animal bones, and human fossils dating back to 47,000 years ago. Human remains are from approximately 24,000 years ago. +

Homo Erectus and Early Homos in Southeast Asia

“Homo erectus “ is believed to have migrated across the land bridges from Southeast Asia as far a Java 1.8 million years ago. There is also evidence that “Homo erectus “ may have survived in Southeast Asia until 25,000 years ago (See Java Man below). “Homo erectus “ had a considerably larger brain than its predecessor “Homo habilis”. It fashioned more advanced tools (double-edged, teardrop-shaped "hand axes" and "cleavers" ) and controlled fire (based on the discovery of charcoal with erectus fossils). Better foraging and hunting skills, allowed it to exploit its environment better than “Homo habilis “

In 2004, scientists announced the discovery of the remains of seven hominins on the island of Flores, east of Bali, dated to 95,000 and 12,000 years ago. The bones were first thought to be children but were later confirmed to be a new hominin species, considerably smaller than modern humans, and thus nicknamed Hobbits. The finding received headlines around the globe and caused jaws to drop in astonishment throughout the scientific community. [Source: Mike Norwood, Thomas Sutikna and Richard Robert, National Geographic, April 2005]

Discovered in 2003,the new hominins were given the name the “ Homo floresiernsis”. About 1.1 meters tall, they had unusually long, flat feet and a brain the size of a grapefruit. They existed at the same time as modern humans and are thought to have descended from “ Homo erectus” and arrived in Flores perhaps as long as 840,000 years, the period in which stone stools found on Flores have been dated. Hominins on the island had to have arrived by sea because even during ice ages reaching Flores required a 15 mile sea crossing. Dating was done with carbon dating of charcoal found near the fossils and luminescence dating of the sediments in which the fossils were found.

There is a good evidence that a relatively large human that lived 700,000 years ago and shrunk quickly and stayed that size ago is an ancestor of Homo floresiensis according to two studies published in Nature in June 2016. Marlowe Hood of AFP wrote: “A modest haul of teeth and bones from an adult and two children has bolstered the theory that Homo floresiensis arrived on Flores island as a different, larger species of hominin, or early man, probably about a million years ago. And then, something very strange happened. These upright, tool-wielding humans shrank, generation after generation, until they were barely half their original weight and height. [Source: Marlowe Hood, AFP, June 9, 2016 \^/]

The origin of Homo floresiensis (the hobbits of Indonesia) raises some interesting questions, one being that they could be descendants of predecessor of homo erectus —homo habalis or even a Australopithecus species — and this in turn could mean homo habalis or Australopithecus species could have emerged from Africa before Homo erectus.

Deborah Netburn wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “One hypothesis posits that Homo floresiensis descended from the large-bodied hominin Homo erectus that lived between 1.89 million and 143,000 years ago. Scientists say it is possible that Homo erectus may have arrived on Flores from Java, perhaps after being washed out to sea by a tsunami. Over time, this species began to shrink on its new island home – a relatively common phenomenon known as island dwarfism. “Lots of animals that end up on islands get smaller for a variety of reasons like limited food sources, or because there are no large predators to stay big for,” said Karen Baab, a paleoanthropologist at Midwestern University in Glendale, Ariz., who was not involved in the study. “We even see it in modern humans in certain environments that are home to pygmy populations.” [Source: Deborah Netburn, Los Angeles Times, June 8, 2016 */]

1.83 Million-year-old Stone Tools Found in Malaysia

The oldest evidence of early human habitation in Southeast Asia was discovered in 2008 when stone hand-axes were unearthed in the historical site of Lenggong in Malaysia dating back 1.83 million years. Archeology News reported: Mokhtar Saidin of the Universiti Sains Malaysia Centre for Archaeological Research and his team “found a suevite axe as well as flake and chopping tools in 2008, in rocks churned up by lorries in an area called Bukit Bunuh. The hand-held axe Mokhtar uncovered looked good for slicing hide, cutting meat or dismembering carcasses. [Source: New Straits Times, May 22, 2011, archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.jp ]

“The Lenggong Valley is home to a number of prehistoric sites, with important archaeological findings. These include Kota Tampan, Bukit Jawa at Kampung Gelok and Kampung Temelong. The most famous archaeological finding in Lenggong is Perak Man, the 11,000-year-old human skeletal remains discovered in 1991. The Lenggong Archaeological Museum at Kota Tampan is a trove of prehistoric Malaya. While the stone age of Lenggong has been well documented and said to go back 200,000 years, the recent tool finds are startling in their age. “I took back the axe to USM and sent it through a CT scan. It read 1.7 to 1.8 million years old,” says Mokhtar, holding up a suevite rock in the oil palm plantation. “We then sent it for fission track dating by the Geochronology Laboratory in Tokyo, which put it down to about 1.83 ± 0.61 million years old. Stone axe head “That makes the tools here the oldest in the world to date. The ones in Africa — the oldest stone hand axe — is 1.5 million years old.”

In 2010, Mokhtar found several fragments of bone, including a long bone and a finger, embedded in a suevite rock. He said, “I was here (in Bukit Bunuh) in 1987 and 1989. The area was a rubber plantation, then. It was turned into an oil palm plantation in 2001, and the workers started to terrace the hills... that’s when the stones started coming up.” After checking with a fellow professor, a meteor theory was reached. On checking the area, the theory was right. He tells us a meteor struck the area, which used to be part of Raban Lake, near Kuala Kangsar, about that time. This is metasediment rock in Bukit Bunuh showing meteor impact evidence “Lenggong Valley was all under Raban Lake then. When the meteor hit, it changed the course of Perak river.” The area under excavation is about 400 sq km. Mokhtar and his team started excavations from 2001, and unearthed a Palaeolithic culture. The suevite tools are found in rocks formed in and around impact craters. These rocks are recorded to exist in Europe so far, specifically Germany. There have been reports of similar craters in Langkawi, and the border between Terengganu and Pahang. Mokhtar points out the ridges of the crater, which is about four kilometres in diameter, and totally covered by oil palm trees.

“The main criteria for the paleolithic people to settle anywhere is food and water. This old lake must have been ideal. They needed river gravel to make stone tools. “The people who were making these tools, they had the hands-on technology. They knew how to choose which rock, to make what tool. They designed the tools. These people had the knowledge then, 1.83 million years ago,” he muses. “The distance from here to Africa is 1,800km. Maybe they came from Africa. That’s the out-of-Africa theory of homo erectus. Prof Dr Mokhtar Saidin pointing out that the impact rocks are easily unearthed beneath the top layer “Then there is the multiregional theory, where different regions had their own human evolution.”

Based on world evidence, some of the oldest hominin homo erectus remains, including tools and teeth, were found in Jawa, Indonesia (1.7 to 1.2 million years ago), Dmanisi, Georgia (1.8-1.7 million years), Longgupo, China (1.8-1.6 million years), and Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania (1.8 million years). He says there is new evidence which gives rise to the possibility that the hominids in Jawa could have come from Bukit Bunuh because of the impact of the meteor. “I think the paleolithic people in Bukit Bunuh —maybe about 1,000 of them lived here — are a new species of modern humans, homo sapiens. “We know now that the Lenggong Valley was inhabited from time to time for more than 1.83 million years. We have the oldest prehistoric settlement in the world after Africa, according to chronometric dating.”

Java Man

Java man was discovered by Eugene DuBois, a young Dutch military doctor, who came to Java in 1887 with the sole purpose of finding the "missing link" between humans and apes after hearing about discoveries of ancient human bones (which later turned out to belong to modern man) near the Javanese village of Wajak, near Tulung Agung, in eastern Java.

With the help of 50 East Indian convict laborers, he discovered a skull cap and thighbone—that clearly didn't belong to an ape—along the banks of the Sunngai Bengawan Solo River in 1891. After measuring the cranial capacity of the skull with mustard seeds, Dubois realized that the creature was more of an "ape-like man" than a "man-like ape." Dubois dubbed the find “Pithecanthropus erectus “, or "upright ape-man,” which is now regarded as an example of “Homo erectus “.

The discovery of Java Man was the first major hominid find, and helped launch the study of early man. His finding created such a storm of controversy that Dubois felt compelled to re-bury the bones for 30 years to protect them. DuBois was the student of Ernst Haeckel, a Charles Darwin disciple who wrote “History of Natural Creation “ (1947), which advocated the Darwinian view of evolution and speculated about primitive human beings. Dubois came to Indonesia with the ambition of confirming Haekel’s theories. He died a bitter man because his discoveries he felt weren't taken seriously.

After Dubois other Homo erectus bones were unearthed in Java. In the 1930s, Ralph von Koenigswald found fossils, dated at be 1 million years old, near the village of Sangiran, along the Solo river, 15 kilometers north of Solo. Other fossils have been found along the Sungai Bengawan Solo in Central and East Java and near Pacitan in East Java’s south coast. In 1936 a skull of a child was found at Perning neat Mojokerto.

In 1994, Berkeley scientist Carl Swisher shook up the paleontology world when he redated the volcanic sediments of a “Homo erectus “ Java man skull using a sophisticated mass spectrometer— that accurately measure the radioactive decay rates of potassium and argon found in volcanic sediments—and found that the skull was 1.8 million years old instead of 1 million years old as was previously reported. His discovery placed “Homo erectus “ in Indonesia, some 800,000 years before it was thought to have left Africa. Critics of Swisher's findings say that the skull may have been washed into older sediments. In response his critics Swisher has dated numerous sediment samples taken where hominid fossils were found in Indonesia and found that most of the sediments were 1.6 million years old or older.

In addition to that “Homo erectus “ fossils found at site called Ngandong in Indonesia, previously thought to be between 100,000 and 300,000 years old, were dated in strata between 27,000 and 57,000 years old. This implies that “Homo erectus “ live much longer than anyone thought and “Homo erectus “ and “Homo sapiens “ existed at the same time on Java. Many scientists are skeptical about the Ngandong dates.

Book: “Java Man “ by Carl Swisher, Garniss Curtis and Roger Lewis.

Out of Africa Theory

There are various theories describing how migration patterns played a part in the development of early humans. The traditional, widely-accepted "Single Origin, Out of Africa Theory" of human evolution posits that earliest hominids evolved in Africa; that Australopithecus species evolved into Homo species in Africa; that early Homo species migrated to Asia and the Old World from Africa between a million and two million years ago; and that Homo sapiens also evolved in Africa.

According to the “Out of Africa" theory there were two migration of African-born Homo species. First, Homo erectus began slowly moving into the Middle East, Europe and Asia between a million and two million years ago. Homo erectus splintered into numerous colonies that developed separately from one another. None of the colones outside of Africa contributed to the development of Homo sapiens , which also originally evolved in Africa.

Proponents of the Out of Africa theory argue that Homo erectus spread across Africa during the first 800,000 years after first appearing 1.8 million years ago. It moved to Asia but for some reason stayed out Europe. They argue that all modern humans have evolved from African Homo species. Recent dating of fossils in Georgia, China and Indonesia suggests that Homo erectus may have migrated into Asia as early as 2 million years ago and migrated across the continent very quickly. This conclusion is based on fossils found in Georgia, China and Indonesia that have been dated to be between 1.7 million and 1.9 million years old.

Hominids are thought to have most likely migrated across what is called the Levantine Corridor through what is now Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon. It embraces the Jordan River and the Dead Sea and a geologic zone that included the Red Sea which began opening up between the African and Arabian tectonic plates around 2 million years ago, the time the first migrants were thought to have emerged from Africa. At that time the Levantine Corridor was a verdant area with lakes and lots of animals and plants that could have been consumed as food.

Evidence for the “Out of Africa” theory includes a trail of stone tools, including carefully-crafted hand axes, that appear to have originated in Africa. Scientists also point out that many sophisticated hand ax are found in Africa but none have been found in Asia. Thousands of primitive 1.5-million- to 1.4-million-year-old hand axes have been found in Ubeidya, Israel in the Levantine Corridor. Ubeidya is a vanished lake just south of the Sea of Galilee. Stone tools and fossils of large mammals found near the tools have been dated to 1.4 million years ago. Hand axes similar to one found there have been found throughout Europe and Asia. Hand axes found north of Lake Tiberias suggests there was another round migration through the Levantine Corridor around 780,000 years ago.

Genetic studies of 28 of China's 56 ethnic groups, published by the Chinese Human Genae Diversity Project in 2000, indicate that the first Chinese descended from Africans who migrated their way along the Indian Ocean and made their way to China via Southeast Asia.

Multiregional and Out of Asia Theory

The redating of Java Man to be 1.7 million years old instead of 1 million years old and the discovery of some old hominid fossils in China has led some scientists question the "Out of Africa Theory" and suggest a more complex the "Multiregional Hypothesis." According to "Multiregional Hypothesis," separate regional populations of Homo Erectus may have evolved into Homo Sapiens while intermingling with one another. Other suggest that a separate Asian and African species arose and that the Asian species later died out. [Source: Michael Lemonick, Time, March 14, 1994]

According to the "Multiregional Theory" Homo erectus evolved in Africa but it was a highly variable species whose descendants formed regional races after it migrated into Asia and Europe. Traces of the regional difference can still be found in modern races today (i.e., the shovel-like shape of the incisor teeth of East Asian people). The races evolved in near isolation but there was enough intermingling so that did't evolve into separate species. Proponents of the Multiregional Theory refute the genetic diversity argument of the Out of Africa theorists by arguing that population size could account for the differences. In the 19th century viewpoints similar to the Multiregional Theory were used to support racist views that some races were inferior to others and to justify slavery. Recent discoveries of early modern man in Ethiopia and South Africa and Homo erectus in Dmanisi Georgia have led most scientists to throw out Multiregional Theory.

Some scientists have theorized that an early hominid such as homo habilis left Africa two million years ago and moved into Asia, where it evolved into Homo erectus then spread to Europe and back to Africa. This theory is based on the fact that the Homo erectus specimens found in Asia are older than those found in Africa.

Evidence for this theory includes extraordinarily old dates for Homo species that appeared in Indonesia and China just as Homo erectus was emerging in Africa. Berkeley's Carl Swisher told Time magazine that "elephants left Africa several times during their history" and "lots of animals expand their ranges. the main factor may have been an environmental change that made the expansion easier. No other animals needed stone tools to get out of Africa." [Source: Michael Lemonick, Time, March 14, 1994]

One primatologist told National Geographic: "The idea that all hominids originated in Africa is a myth created by people working in Africa. Sure, they've found a lot there, but if we'd invested that much time and money in Asia we would find fossil hominids just as old there too." Some Homo erectus tools have been found in Africa and Europe but not in Asia. Scientists say that the reason for this is that they may have used equally effective bamboo tools—instead of stone ones—that decay and leave behind no evidence.

Early Modern Man Migrates to Asia

The fact that some of earliest evidence of modern humans outside of Africa and the Middle East is in Australia suggests that the early man followed a coastal route through South Asia and Southeast Asia to Australia. It is believed that the migration was not a caravan-like journey but rather one in which some huts were set up on the beach and the migrants lived there for a while moving and then moved to a new location further to the east every couple of years. Traces of such a migration if it took place were covered in water and sediments when sea levels rose at the end of the Ice Age.

Around 40,000 years ago, it is thought, humans reached the steppes of Central Asia and pushed on into Siberia. There is evidence of human habitation on the northern Yana River in Siberia dated to 30,000 years ago.

Some genetic evidence indicates that a group of 4,000 modern humans left Africa between 75,000 and 50,000 years ago and ultimately populated Asia. All non-Africans share genetic markers (the M168 marker in particular) carried by these early immigrants. The descendants of these people replaced all earlier types of humans, notably Neanderthals. All-non Africans are descendants of these people. The Onge from the Andaman Islands in India carry some of the oldest genetic markers found outside Africa.

Many scientists believe the migration took place rather late and humans that took part in it spread very far, very quickly, This theory is backed in part by the features of skulls of ancient modern men found in Europe, Asia and even Australia with those of the Hofmeyr skull found in South Africa in the 195's and dated to be 33,000 to 42,000 years old. This finding was reported in a January 2007 article in the journal Science by team led by Frederick Grine at State University of New York at Stony Brook.

The dating of the Hofmeyer skull has provided an important piece of the puzzle. Before it was dated no human fossil existed for the period between 15,000 and 70,000 years ago when the great migration out of Africa was taking place. The skull was dated by Richard Baily at Oxford University using a new technology that measures the amounts of radiation absorbed by sand grains that filled its braincase after burial. When the skull was found this technology did not exist and it was originally thought to be undatable because no other bones were found near it and its original resting place had been disrupted by river sediments.

North-South Genetic Divide Among Native Populations in East Asia

Chinese researchers Feng Zhang, Bing Su, Ya-ping Zhang and Li Jin wrote in an article published by the Royal Society: “East Asia is one of the most important regions for studying evolution and genetic diversity of human populations. Its importance is associated with the extensive presence of humans and their claimed ancestors over the last 2 million years, and with being the crossroads connecting America and the Pacific Islands. [Source: “Genetic studies of human diversity in East Asia” by 1) Feng Zhang, Institute of Genetics, School of Life Sciences, Fudan University, 2) Bing Su, Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Evolution, Kunming Institute of Zoology, 3) Ya-ping Zhang, Laboratory for Conservation and Utilization of Bio-resource, Yunnan University and 4) Li Jin, Institute of Genetics, School of Life Sciences, Fudan University. Author for correspondence (ljin007@gmail.com), 2007 The Royal Society, [Source: Genetic studies of human diversity in East Asia ncbi.nlm.nih.gov


“China, one of the centres of human civilization, comprises most of the geographical span, ethnic groups and languages of East Asia. In the past two decades, much effort has been made by researchers in China and their international collaborators to characterize the structure of genetic diversity of human populations in China. The most significant progress of such studies started with the observation of genetic distinction between the southern and the northern East Asian populations (Zhao et al. 1987). ***

In recent years researchers in China have made substantial efforts to collect samples and generate data especially for markers on Y chromosomes and mtDNA. The hallmark of these efforts is the discovery and confirmation of consistent distinction between northern and southern East Asian populations at genetic markers across the genome. With the confirmation of an African origin for East Asian populations and the observation of a dominating impact of the gene flow entering East Asia from the south in early human settlement, interpretation of the north–south division in this context poses the challenge to the field. Other areas of interest that have been studied include the gene flow between East Asia and its neighbouring regions (i.e. Central Asia, the Sub-continent, America and the Pacific Islands), the origin of Sino-Tibetan populations and expansion of the Chinese. ***

Genetic markers are the tools in studying genetic variations. The most important genetic markers in human genetic diversity research (Du 2004) are: (I) blood groups that can be detected in red blood cells, including ABO, Rh and MNSs, (ii) human lymphocyte antigens and immunoglobulins, including Gm, Km and Am, (iii) isozyme markers, (iv) classic DNA polymorphisms using restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP), and (v) contemporary DNA markers, including short tandem repeat (STR or microsatellite) and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). However, it is the introduction of mtDNA and Y chromosome markers that has made a profound impact on our understanding of the genetic diversity of human populations (Wallace et al. 1999; Jobling & Tyler-Smith 2003; Pakendorf & Stoneking in press). ***

The north–south division raises the question of whether the southern and northern East Asians (NEAS) are descendants of the same ancestral population in East Asia or originated from different populations that arrived in East Asia via different routes. To date, three main hypotheses have been brought forward on the entry of modern humans into East Asia: (I) entry from Southeast Asia followed by northward migrations (Turner 1987; Ballinger et al. 1992; Chu et al. 1998; Su et al. 1999; Yao et al. 2002; Shi et al. 2005), (ii) entry from northern Asia followed by southward migrations (Nei & Roychoudhury 1993), and (iii) southern and NEAS are derived from different ancestral populations, i.e. southern populations from Southeast Asia and northern populations from Central Asia (Cavalli-Sforza et al. 1994; Xiao et al. 2000; Karafet et al. 2001). Therefore, to understand the mechanism of genesis and maintenance of the north–south division, much needs to be learnt about the origin and migration of the East Asians. ***

Autosomes are inherited from both the parents and recombination makes it hard to trace a particular autosomal segment in human evolution. In the past decade, the utilities of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and the non-recombining region of the Y chromosome (NRY) in studying population origin and divergence have been well recognized by both geneticists and anthropologists. Their advantages, including small effective population size and population-specific haplotype distribution, are powerful tools in tracing the demographic events of human evolution. NRYs are paternally inherited without recombination; therefore, they are transmitted completely to the next generation. In addition, the effective population size (Ne) of NRYs is smaller than that of autosomes. Therefore, genetic drift would result in more dramatic shifts of the frequencies of Y chromosome markers than autosomal markers during human migration and, in turn, lead to more prominent specific regional distributions of NRY variations.

Genetic Evidence of the Out of Africa Theory of Modern Men

Chinese researchers Feng Zhang, Bing Su, Ya-ping Zhang and Li Jin wrote in an article published by the Royal Society: “ The ‘out of Africa’ hypothesis asserts that modern humans originate from an ancestral population in Africa, which expanded and spread out of Africa and completely replaced archaic human populations (H. sapiens or H. erectus) outside Africa (Cann et al. 1987; Wilson & Cann 1992). Some anthropologists have claimed that anthropological evidence in China supported a regional evolution from H. erectus to modern human (Wu 1988). However, the phylogenetic tree of human mtDNA variations suggested that the ancestor of modern humans came out of Africa (Cann et al. 1987). From then on, more and more genetic data have been accumulated, most of which supported the out of Africa hypothesis (e.g. Bowcock et al. 1994; Hammer 1995; Tishkoff et al. 1996; Chu et al. 1998; Quintana-Murci et al. 1999; Su et al. 1999; Ingman et al. 2000; Ke et al. 2001). ***[Source: “Genetic studies of human diversity in East Asia” by 1) Feng Zhang, Institute of Genetics, School of Life Sciences, Fudan University, 2) Bing Su, Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Evolution, Kunming Institute of Zoology, 3) Ya-ping Zhang, Laboratory for Conservation and Utilization of Bio-resource, Yunnan University and 4) Li Jin, Institute of Genetics, School of Life Sciences, Fudan University. Author for correspondence (ljin007@gmail.com), 2007 The Royal Society ***]

As the mtDNA data supporting the out of Africa hypothesis were formerly restricted to the control region and RFLP in the coding region, Ingman et al. (2000) utilized the complete mtDNA sequences of 53 humans of diverse origins in tracing human evolution. As before, the newly generated mtDNA phylogeny indicated an African origin of modern humans (Ingman et al. 2000). ***

By analysing the markers on NRYs in over 1000 male individuals, Underhill et al. (2000) constructed a parsimonious genealogy to trace the evolution of modern humans. According to the phylogenetic tree, all the tested men from outside Africa share the same mutation (M168), which arose in Africa between 35 000 and 89 000 years ago. There are three parallel mutations (M89, M130 and Y Alu polymorphism, YAP) downstream of M168. Ke et al. (2001) examined these markers in 12 127 men from 163 populations in Asia and found that every sample had inherited one of these markers. This finding indicates that all of them are descendants of a relatively recent common ancestor in Africa, which supports a complete replacement of local archaic populations by modern humans from Africa from the perspective of paternal lineages. ***

Migration Routes into East Asia

While more and more genetic evidence supports the out of Africa hypothesis, the migration route which leads to the peopling of Eurasia remains controversial. As mentioned previously, there are two possible migration routes (from Central Asia and Southeast Asia) that were involved in three hypothetical models of the entry of modern humans into East Asia. By the phylogenetic analysis of 30 autosomal microsatellite loci in 28 populations, Chu et al. (1998) showed that northern and southern Chinese belong to distinct clusters and indicated that the colonization of East Asia might be mainly attributed to the northward migration of the settlers from Southeast Asia. Yao et al. (2002) analysed the mtDNA gene pool of Han Chinese and observed a south-to-north cline based on the haplogroup frequency. In addition, the haplogroups in southern East Asians (SEAS) were found to be more ancient than those in the northern population (Yao et al. 2002). This evidence suggested that the southern route might play an important part in the peopling of East Asia. ***

On the paternal side, Su et al. (1999) examined 19 Y-SNPs and 3 Y-STRs in 925 males from a wide area of Asia and observed that SEAS are much more polymorphic than NEAS, which suggested the southern origin of northern populations and the migratory route from south to north after the initial Palaeolithic peopling of East Asia. Recently, in a systematic sampling and genetic screening of one East Asian-specific Y chromosome haplogroup (O3-M122) in 2332 males from diverse East Asian populations, Shi et al. (2005) showed that this haplotype was more polymorphic in SEAS than in NEAS, which suggested a southern origin of the O3-M122 mutation. According to the Y-STR data, it was estimated that the early northward migration of the O3-M122 lineages in East Asia occurred ca 25 000–30 000 years ago (Shi et al. 2005). ***

Though the evidence of various genetic markers suggests that the southern route makes the main contribution to the gene pool of East Asians, the effect of genetic admixture in Central Asia (including the northwest part of China) cannot be neglected. Different proportions of lineages in the admixture from Central Asia appears to be a reason for the division between NEAS and SEAS. ***

Similarity of some NEAS to Central Asians indicates that the genetic admixture associated with trade along the Silk Road might have played an important role in the diversity in East Asia. Zhao & Lee (1989) studied the Gm allotypes and found some Caucasian-related haplotypes in populations of Northwest China. Similarly, Yao et al. (2000) studied the HVS-I region of mtDNA and melanocortin 1 receptor-gene polymorphisms in the ethnic populations of Northwest China (including Uighur, Kazak and Tu), and extensive gene admixture of northern East Asian and West Eurasian along the Silk Road was indicated. In a consequent study, Yao et al. (2004) analysed 252 mtDNAs of five ethnic groups (Uygur, Uzbek, Kazak, Mongolian and Hui) from Xinjiang, China and divided them into the eastern and western Eurasian pools according to previous studies. Their results suggested that Central Asia is the main location of genetic admixture of the east and west. In addition, the frequency of the western Eurasian-specific haplogroups ranges from 42.6 to 6.7 percent across populations, indicating the different contributions of the west and east gene pools in the admixture process (Yao et al. 2004). ***

Recently, by examining mtDNA and physical characters of 134 human remains excavated from nine sites (dating from 2500 BC to AD 200) in Northwest China, Jin and colleagues found that both the genetic and physical characters of the East and West Eurasians could be observed in some individuals of these Bronze Age populations, indicating a genetic interaction of the East and West Eurasians before the rise of the Silk Road (Li Jin 2005, unpublished data). ***

Hominids Cross the Wallace Line

Stone flake tools, found near a stegodons (ancient elephant), dated to 840,000 years ago, were found in the Soa Basin on Indonesian island of Flores. The tools are thought to have belonged to Homo Erectus. They only way to get the island is by boat, through sometimes turbulent seas, which implies “Homo erectus “ built seaworthy rafts or some other kind of vessel. This discovery is regarded with caution but may mean that early hominids may have cross the Wallace Line 650,000 years earlier than previously thought.

During several ice ages when sea levels dropped Indonesia was connected to the Asian continent. It is believed that Homo erectus arrived in Indonesia during one of the ice ages.

The Wallace Line is an invisible biological barrier described by and named after the British naturalist Alfred Russell Wallace. Running along the water between the Indonesia islands of Bali and Lombok and between Borneo and Sulawesi, it separates the species found in Australia, New Guinea and the eastern islands of Indonesia from those found in western Indonesia, the Philippines and the Southeast Asia.

Because of the Wallace Line Asian animals such as elephants, orangutans and tigers never ventured further east than Bali, and Australian animals such as kangaroos, emus, cassowaries, wallabies and cockatoos never made it to Asia. Animals from both continents are found in some parts of Indonesia.

The first people to cross the Wallace line from Bali to Lombok, Indonesia, scientists speculate, arrived in a kind of paradise free of predators and competitors. Crustaceans and mollusks could be collected from tidal flats and pygmy elephants unafraid of man could be easily hunted. When food supplies ran low, the early inhabitants moved on to the next island, and the next until the finally reached Australia.

The discovery of the Hobbits in Flores is thought to confirm that Homo Erectus crossed the Wallace Line. See Hobbits of Indonesia.

Early People in Southeast Asia

The first modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) arrived in Southeast Asia around 50,000 years ago. Their stone-age technology remained little changed until a new Neolithic culture evolved about 10,000 years ago. Stone tools discovered in Houaphanh and Luang Prabang provinces in Laos attest to the presence of prehistoric man in the hunter-gatherer stage in Lao territory from at least 40,000 years ago. The Hoabinhian culture is named after an archaeological site in northern Vietnam. Hoabinhian hunter-gatherers spread throughout much of Southeast Asia, including Laos. Their descendants produced the first pottery in the region, and later bronze metallurgy. In time they supplemented their hunting, fishing and gathering by horticulture and eventually rice cultivation, introduced down the Mekong River valley from southern China.

Evidence of human habitation, estimated at around 33,000 years old, has been found at Golo and Wetef Island (northwest of New Guinea), coastal Sulawesi (Indonesia), the northern coast of New Guinea, the Bismark Archipelago (northeast of New Guinea), and the northern Solomon Islands (southeast of New Guinea),

Land ridges existed as late as 20,000 years, when seas levels were 120 to 130 meters lower than they are now. Some scholars have speculated that flood myths, common among many Southeast Asian minorities, as well as in the Bible, may have originated in Southeast Asia and refer to flooding caused by rising seas after the Ice Age. Most well-known early Neolithic sites in Southeast Asia are in protected caves. Many good sites are believed to date back to the ice age and are now underwater. [Book: “The Drowned Continent of Southeast Asia “ by Stephen Oppenheimer (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1999)]

The first people to inhabit Southeast Asia, anthropologists believe, were dark-skinned, curly-haired hunter-gatherers similar to people found in New Guinea, the Solomon Islands Australia and Melanesia. They were late displaced by Chinese. The only survivors of the original hunter gathers that inhabited Southeast Asia are Semang Negritos of peninsular Malaysia and the Negritos of the mountains of Luzon and some islands of the Philippines.

Niah Cave

Niah Caves in Sarawak is an important prehistoric site where human remains dating to 40,000 years ago have been found. Archeologists have claimed a much earlier date for stone tools found in the Mansuli valley, near Lahad Datu in Sabah, but precise dating analysis has not yet been published.

The oldest evidence of human habitation in Southeast Asia is in Niah Cave in northern Borneo. Modern humans lived there 40,000 years ago and ate orangutans, based on the presence of charred bones found in the cave. A skull found in Niah Cave in the 1950s was first described as resembling Melanesians and native Australians. This supports the notion that earlier human species living in the region were absorbed via interbreeding as Homo sapiens spread out of Africa. Ancient genetic markers are found in indigenous groups in the Andaman Inlands, in Malaysia and Papua New Guinea and among Australian aborigines.

In the 1950s and 60s, Niah Cave was the focus of several intense and active archaeological field seasons led by Tom Harrisson, Curator of Sarawak Museum, who excavated a large area on the northern side of the West Mouth. The excavations were admirable for their time, particularly given the considerable logistical difficulties that had to be overcome because of the isolation of the site and the difficulties of working in tropical environments. [Source: ABC.net; Barker G, The Niah Caves Project: Preliminary report on the first (2000) season, The Sarawak Museum Journal, Vol 55(76), December 2000]

Their most notable discovery was a human skull (the so-called 'Deep Skull') uncovered in a deep trench dubbed 'Hell Trench' by Harrisson's excavators because of the heat and humidity in this particular part of the cave's entrance. The skull was approximately at a level where stone tools had been found previously together with charcoal that yielded a radiocarbon date of around 40,000 years ago. But there are doubts about the reliability of the data collected and recorded by the Harrissons. Remains at Niah Cave show that men have been living on Borneo for a long time. In the karst interior of Borneo are networks of caves with rock art and hand prints, some of the dated to 12,000 years ago.

40,000 Year Old Cave Art Found in Sulawesi

Rock art and hand prints found in caves in Sulawesi have been dated to nearly 40,000 years ago. Deborah Netburn wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Archaeologists working in Indonesia say prehistoric hand stencils and intricately rendered images of primitive animals were created nearly 40,000 years ago. These images, discovered in limestone caves on the island of Sulawesi just east of Borneo, are about the same age as the earliest known art found in the caves of northern Spain and southern France. The findings were published in the journal Nature. "We now have 40,000-year-old rock art in Spain and Sulawesi," said Adam Brumm, a research fellow at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, and one of the lead authors of the study. "We anticipate future rock art dating will join these two widely separated dots with similarly aged, if not earlier, art." [Source: Deborah Netburn, Los Angeles Times, October 8, 2014 ~\~]

“The ancient Indonesian art was first reported by Dutch archaeologists in the 1950s but had never been dated until now. For decades researchers thought that the cave art was made during the pre-Neolithic period, about 10,000 years ago. "I can say that it was a great -- and very nice -- surprise to read their findings," said Wil Roebroeks, an archaeologist at Leiden University in the Netherlands, who was not involved in the study. "'Wow!' was my initial reaction to the paper." ~\~

The researchers said they had no preconceived ideas of how old the rock art was when they started on this project about three years ago. They just wanted to know the date for sure. To do that, the team relied on a relatively new technique called U-series dating, which was also used to establish minimum dates of rock art in Western Europe. We have seen a lot of surprises in paleoanthropology over the last 10 years, but this one is among my favorites. - Wil Roebroeks, Leiden University archaeologist

First they scoured the caves for images that had small cauliflower-like growths covering them -- eventually finding 14 suitable works, including 12 hand stencils and two figurative drawings. The small white growths they were looking for are known as cave popcorn, and they are made of mineral deposits that get left in the wake of thin streams of calcium-carbonate-saturated water that run down the walls of a cave. These deposits also have small traces of uranium in them, which decays over time to a daughter product called thorium at a known rate. "The ratio between the two elements acts as a kind of geological clock to date the formation of the calcium carbonate deposits," explained Maxime Aubert of the University of Wollongong in Australia's New South Wales state, the team's dating expert. ~\~

“Using a rotary tool with a diamond blade, Aubert cut into the cave popcorn and extracted small samples that included some of the pigment of the art. The pigment layer of the sample would be at least as old as the first layer of mineral deposit that grew on top of it. Using this method, the researchers determined that one of the hand stencils they sampled was made at least 39,900 years ago and that a painting of an animal known as a pig deer was at least 35,400 years old. In Europe, the oldest known cave painting was of a red disk found in a cave in El Castillo, Spain, that has a minimum age of 40,800 years. The earliest figurative painting, of a rhinoceros, was found in the Chauvet Cave in France; it goes back 38,827 years. ~\~

“The unexpected age of the Indonesian paintings suggests two potential narratives of how humans came to be making art at roughly the same time in these disparate parts of the world, the authors write. It is possible that the urge to make art arose simultaneously but independently among the people who colonized these two regions. Perhaps more intriguing, however, is the possibility that art was already part of an even earlier prehistoric human culture that these two groups brought with them as they migrated to new lands. One narrative the study clearly contradicts: That tens of thousands of years ago prehistoric humans were making art in Europe and nowhere else "The old 'Europe, the birthplace of art' story was a naive one, anyway," said Roebroeks. "We have seen a lot of surprises in paleoanthropology over the last 10 years, but this one is among my favorites." ~\~

Rock Art Caves in Borneo

After an expedition to a site called Ilas Kenceng in East Kalimantan, Luc-Henri Fage wrote in National Geographic, “During the past decade we've discovered about 1,500 negative handprints in 30 caves in East Kalimantan. Most of them were found not in the lowest caves beside rivers—which we know from archaeological evidence were used as dwellings as long as 12,000 years ago—nor in the caves higher up, where we discovered bones and ceramic jars from much later funerary rites. Instead, they were mainly found in the loftiest, hardest to reach caves, leading me to believe they were probably connected to special rituals open to a limited number of participants. [Source: Luc-Henri Fage, National Geographic, August 2005 ]

“As we know from studies of many cultures, such secluded, forbidden spots would be perfect for the instruction and initiation of traditional healers, or shamans, often involving fasting, dancing, singing, storytelling, the inducing of trances, or the painting of symbols. The large number of hands found in some caves may record the training of new shamans, maybe only one in each generation, over thousands of years.

“Handprints are a common motif in prehistoric rock art around the world. But unlike hands discovered at sites in France, Australia, and elsewhere, many in Kalimantan caves are decorated with dots, dashes, and other patterns, the significance of which is yet unknown. In some designs the hands are linked to other hands, or to drawings of people or animals, by long curving lines. Luc-Henri Fage sketched one design, which we called the "tree of life," from a painting in Gua Tewet. This design may depict the ties that bind individuals, families, territories, or spirits to one another. A similar pattern appears in a painting from Ilas Kenceng, which may show a shaman's path between the world of the living and the world of spirits or of the dead, perhaps hidden behind the cave's walls.

“A painting in Gua Tewet records a shaman's trek into the spirit world, Chazine says. The lizard in the center represents the shaman. The jagged line under the lizard—a sort of stairway—stands for the shaman's difficult path. The smooth lines on the right symbolize the successful completion of the journey, when the shaman attains an altered state of consciousness that affects all parts of his body and allows him to communicate with spirits. The hand stencils themselves evoke traditional healing rituals in which a shaman lays his hands on a sick person, then sprays medicine from his mouth onto the patient to cure him.

“I find a remarkable similarity between the act of creating these handprints and traditional healing practices in Borneo. To create the design, a painter would place a hand on the wall, then spray it by mouth with pulverized pigments made of ochre. A traditional healer would do much the same, laying hands on the affected part of a patient's body, then expelling his breath to spray on therapeutic ingredients. Both processes resulted in a kind of magic.

“Near the end of our expedition, after we'd spent many hours photographing, measuring, and documenting the paintings at Ilas Kenceng, I woke up one morning on my groundsheet in the mouth of the cave. The forest below was bathed in a soft morning mist, monkeys were screaming, and birds swirled in circles, feeding on insects. High above me in an alcove was a magical piece of art, six hand stencils spread like a bouquet. Each print was delicate, but together they seemed vibrant with energy as if they'd been created only moments ago. In 2000 a piece of calcite covering a hand in another part of the cave had been tested in a mass spectrometer at France's National Center for Scientific Research. It proved to be at least 10,000 years old, meaning that the hand beneath the calcite had to be even older.”

Early People in the Philippines

Its estimated that the first people reached the Philippines at least 30,000 years ago, perhaps by a land bridge from Asia that was exposed when oceans receded during the Ice Age. Hominid remains dating back to around 28,550 B.C. old have were found in Tabon Cave on the island of Palawan. It is possible there were people much earlier than this. People have lived in Australia for 60,000 years.

Negrito, proto-Malay, and Malay peoples were the principal peoples of the Philippine archipelago. The Negritos are believed to have migrated by land bridges some 30,000 years ago, during the last glacial period. Later migrations were by water and took place over several thousand years in repeated movements before and after the start of the Christian era. [Library of Congress]

The Philippines were probably first occupied by people who arrived in small migrations from mainland Southeast Asia. The first of these were believed to be Negritos. Only Negroid Pygmies of the mountains of Luzon and some islands of the Philippines are the Semang Negritos of peninsular Malaysia and the survivors of the original hunter gathers that inhabited Southeast Asia and the Pacific before the Chinese arrived. But even these Negritos adopted the Chinese language. The ancestors of the hunter-gatherers lives on in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands and other Pacific islands.

The origin of the forest dwelling Negritos of Luzon is obscure. As is also true with the Negroid tribes of the Malaysia, and the Indian Ocean islands are of an unknown origin, some anthologist believe they are descendants of wandering people that "formed an ancient human bridge between Africa and Australia.” It was originally thought that the first settlers were people who resembled the Melanesians on Papua New Guinea and the Aboriginals in Australia. But these theories have largely been discredited because there is no firm evidence to back them up.

According to Lonely Planet: “Thanks to 'Tabon Man', who left a bit of his (or her, according to some) skull in a cave in Palawan at least 47, 000 years ago, a sliver of light shines into the deep, dark prehistory of the Philippines. The oldest known human relic of the islands, this bone fragment suggests that the Tabon Caves helped early Homo sapiens survive the last ice age. The longest-held theory on the origins of Tabon Man is based on distinct waves of migration. Assuming that much of modern-day Asia was linked by land bridges, this theory posits that around 250, 000 years ago our earliest human ancestors simply walked over to what is now the Philippines. About 200, 000 years later, in strode the nomadic Negrito groups from the Malay Peninsula, Borneo and perhaps even Australia. After an interval of roughly 2000 years, the Neolithic Age arrived in the form of the seafaring, tool-wielding Indonesians. The Indonesian groups brought with them formal farming and building skills.

Negritos and the First People of the Malay Peninsula

Indigenous groups on the Malay Peninsula can be divided into three ethnicities, the Negritos, the Senois, and the proto-Malays. The first inhabitants of the Malay Peninsula were most probably Negritos, Mesolithic hunters were probably the ancestors of the Semang, an ethnic Negrito group who have a long history in the Malay Peninsula. [Source: Wikipedia +]

The Negritos are of an unknown origin. Some anthologist believe they are descendant of wandering people that "formed an ancient human bridge between Africa and Australia.” But it turn their genetic affinities are much more similar to the people around them. This suggests that Negritos and Asians had the same ancestors but that Negritos developed feature similar to Africans independently or that Asians were much darker and developed lighter skin and Asian features, or both. The Semang are probably descendants of the Hoabinhian rain forest foragers who inhabited the Malay Peninsula from 10,000 to 3,000 year ago. After the arrival fo agriculture about 4,000 years, some became agriculturalist but enough remained hunter gatherers that they survived as such.

The Senoi appear to be a composite group, with approximately half of the maternal DNA lineages tracing back to the ancestors of the Semang and about half to later ancestral migrations from Indochina. Scholars suggest they are descendants of early Austroasiatic-speaking agriculturalists, who brought both their language and their technology to the southern part of the peninsula approximately 4,000 years ago. They united and coalesced with the indigenous population. +

The Proto Malays have a more diverse origin, and were settled in Malaysia by 1000 B.C. Although they show some connections with other inhabitants in Maritime Southeast Asia, some also have an ancestry in Indochina around the time of the Last Glacial Maximum, about 20,000 years ago. Anthropologists support the notion that the Proto-Malays originated from what is today Yunnan, China. This was followed by an early-Holocene dispersal through the Malay Peninsula into the Malay Archipelago. Around 300 BC, they were pushed inland by the Deutero-Malays, an Iron Age or Bronze Age people descended partly from the Chams of Cambodia and Vietnam. The first group in the peninsula to use metal tools, the Deutero-Malays were the direct ancestors of today's Malaysian Malays, and brought with them advanced farming techniques. The Malays remained politically fragmented throughout the Malay archipelago, although a common culture and social structure was shared. +

In the early days the Semang may have interacted and traded with the Malay settlers when the arrived but relations soured when the Malays began taking them as slaves and then they retired into the forests. The Semang and other similar groups became known as the Orang Asli in peninsular Malaysia. Even though they were regarded as supposedly "isolated" they traded rattan, wild rubbers, camphor and oils for goods from China

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

Last updated June 2015

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