Rice in Madagascar point to Southeast Asian origin

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Excavations in Madagascar. Source: ABC Science 20160531

A new paper in PNAS describes the first tangible evidence that Madagascar was colonised by Southeast Asians who probably spoke an Austronesian language. Charred rice and mung beans found in Madagascar are slightly older than their first appearance in East Africa.

Excavations in Madagascar. Source: ABC Science 20160531

Excavations in Madagascar. Source: ABC Science 20160531

Ancient crops provide first archaeological signature of the westward Austronesian expansion
PNAS, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1522714113

Ancient rice ‘first evidence’ Madagascan ancestors crossed Indian Ocean from South-East Asia
ABC Science, 31 May 2016


The Austronesian settlement of the remote island of Madagascar remains one of the great puzzles of Indo-Pacific prehistory. Although linguistic, ethnographic, and genetic evidence points clearly to a colonization of Madagascar by Austronesian language-speaking people from Island Southeast Asia, decades of archaeological research have failed to locate evidence for a Southeast Asian signature in the island’s early material record. Here, we present new archaeobotanical data that show that Southeast Asian settlers brought Asian crops with them when they settled in Africa. These crops provide the first, to our knowledge, reliable archaeological window into the Southeast Asian colonization of Madagascar. They additionally suggest that initial Southeast Asian settlement in Africa was not limited to Madagascar, but also extended to the Comoros. Archaeobotanical data may support a model of indirect Austronesian colonization of Madagascar from the Comoros and/or elsewhere in eastern Africa.

News story here; download the article here.

New research suggests Madagascar seeded by some 30 Indonesian women

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Archaeologists have long known about the linguistic and genetic links between Madagascar and Indonesia; new research suggests that Madagascar was populated fairly recently from a small pool of approximately 30 Indonesian women. At 1,200 years ago, this would put it right at the time when Srivijaya was the dominant power in the islands. Interesting, but also not surprising!

A small cohort of Island Southeast Asian women founded Madagascar
Murray P. Cox, Michael G. Nelson, Meryanne K. Tumonggor, François-X. Ricaut and Herawati Sudoyo
Published online before print March 21, 2012, doi: 10.1098/rspb.2012.0012
Proc. R. Soc. B

30 Indonesian Women (Accidentally) Founded Madagascar
Live Science, 20 March 2012
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