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The prehistoric peopling of Southeast Asia

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Science  06 Jul 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6397, pp. 88-92
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat3628

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Ancient migrations in Southeast Asia

The past movements and peopling of Southeast Asia have been poorly represented in ancient DNA studies (see the Perspective by Bellwood). Lipson et al. generated sequences from people inhabiting Southeast Asia from about 1700 to 4100 years ago. Screening of more than a hundred individuals from five sites yielded ancient DNA from 18 individuals. Comparisons with present-day populations suggest two waves of mixing between resident populations. The first mix was between local hunter-gatherers and incoming farmers associated with the Neolithic spreading from South China. A second event resulted in an additional pulse of genetic material from China to Southeast Asia associated with a Bronze Age migration. McColl et al. sequenced 26 ancient genomes from Southeast Asia and Japan spanning from the late Neolithic to the Iron Age. They found that present-day populations are the result of mixing among four ancient populations, including multiple waves of genetic material from more northern East Asian populations.

Science, this issue p. 92, p. 88; see also p. 31

Abstract

The human occupation history of Southeast Asia (SEA) remains heavily debated. Current evidence suggests that SEA was occupied by Hòabìnhian hunter-gatherers until ~4000 years ago, when farming economies developed and expanded, restricting foraging groups to remote habitats. Some argue that agricultural development was indigenous; others favor the “two-layer” hypothesis that posits a southward expansion of farmers giving rise to present-day Southeast Asian genetic diversity. By sequencing 26 ancient human genomes (25 from SEA, 1 Japanese Jōmon), we show that neither interpretation fits the complexity of Southeast Asian history: Both Hòabìnhian hunter-gatherers and East Asian farmers contributed to current Southeast Asian diversity, with further migrations affecting island SEA and Vietnam. Our results help resolve one of the long-standing controversies in Southeast Asian prehistory.

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