Most ancient Taiwan people were small and black & the larger picture

Ancient Taiwan was inhabited by ‘short, dark-skinned’ people that also populated South Africa

This is not a one-off: small-statured black people lived across much of Indonesia and parts of Southeast Asia in very ancient times. Some remain in the Philippines, the Ayta people, and in inland / highland areas of other islands.

"Taiwan today is very much the product of colonial history. Although settled for at least 25,000 years, the island’s population today is predominantly Han Chinese in ethnicity, after a dramatic influx of population from the mainland in Western Taiwan during Dutch colonization of the island in the 17th century. But the ancient history of the island is slowly coming back to light. A newly-published study helps us gain a better understanding of the original inhabitants of the island, whose story is now part of Taiwan’s local folklore. This study describes the discovery of a 6,000-year-old human skull and femur in a cave in the mountains of Taiwan by an international team of researchers.

"Taiwanese folklore tells of a tribe of short, dark-skinned people who once lived in the mountainous regions of the island. Until now, however, there was no archeological evidence to substantiate these stories. But the new discovery may change that completely.

“The cranial morphometric study of human skeletal remains unearthed from the Xiaoma Caves in eastern Taiwan, for the first time, validates the prior existence of small-stature hunter-gatherers 6000 years ago in the preceramic phase,” the study reads.

"These folk tales could possibly refer to a group that descended from an even older initial population, one that predates the Austronesian ‘indigenous’ populations of Taiwan. Somehow, the paper explains, this descendant group survived in the isolated, mountainous area of the island up to around one or two centuries ago.

"Mentions of these small and “dark-skinned people” were found in documents dating back to the Qin Dynasty (around 200 B.C.), the authors explain, adding that 15 of the 16 Austronesian groups living in Taiwan today also have stories of the same people who once lived in the mountains.

"This would seem to confirm local folk tales regarding the existence of small, ancient people in Taiwan. However, it doesn’t help us in any way understand what happened to those people. Our evidence so far suggests that they were gone or almost completely gone by the time early Austronesian groups of people began arriving on the island.

“The observations of the Xiaoma burial remains, together with 258 traditional Austronesian legends, indicate that ‘little dark people’ at one time had lived in Taiwan, resembling the Negrito groups in Southeast Asia,” the paper explains. “The new findings bring attention to the period of co-existing overlap of the older hunter-gatherer communities with the new immigrant Austronesian-speaking farmers in Taiwan.”

"The paper “Negritos in Taiwan and the wider prehistory of Southeast Asia: new discovery from the Xiaoma Caves” has been published in the journal World Archeology."

This map shows the small-statured black populations in Philippines and within the southern Malay peninsula: the Semang, Kensiu, Orang Asli ("forest people"). Leaves out finds in Cambodia and some parts of southern China, before it was China, and in highland interiors of parts of Indonesia and Melanesia.

I've lost the source for this map, which shows a more extensive presence of small-statured black people, who appear to be the earliest settlers of southernmost Asia, Indonesia, parts of Melanesia, and the Philippines.

"Batek" people (term refers to uplanders, since these ancient peoples were driven into the interior hills by later settlers). Kechau, Kuala Lipis, Pahang in the Central Malay Peninsula (south of Thailand).

Some of these people lived in Burma in modern times, possibly captives raided from the Andaman Islands, off the coast of Burma in the Bay of Bengal.

Jarawa woman, Andaman Islands. The peoples of these islands have tried to ward off invaders; their latest challenge is anthropologists who bring in exogenous diseases.

Jarawa women. Other ethnic groups in the island are the Onge and Sentinelese (a name that suggests their vigilence in keeping intruders from landing.

Batak woman (same name, different spelling, widely used for interior highlanders from Sumatra to Philippines) doing a scarification, Palawan, southeastern Philippines. Women do the tattoos over much of this region.

Agta huntress, northern Philippines (see map above for variations on the name, preferable to the Spanish term Negritos, "little blacks."

Agta family

Batek girl, Malay peninsula. The more common name now is Orang Asli, "People of the Forest," which however refers to a variety of ethnic groups, some black like the Kensiu and Semang, others more similar to Southeast Asians.

Peoples of the interior forest, Malay Peninsula. The Jarai are another group resembling Southeast Asians.

Complete and Continue