New research forces U-turn in population migration theory





Research led by the University of Leeds has discovered genetic evidence that overturns existing theories about human migration into Island Southeast Asia (covering the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysian Borneo) - taking the timeline back by nearly 10,000 years.

Prevailing theory suggests that the present-day populations of Island Southeast Asia (ISEA) originate largely from a Neolithic expansion from Taiwan driven by rice agriculture about 4,000 years ago - the so-called "Out of Taiwan" model.

However an international research team, led by the UK's first Professor of Archaeogenetics, Martin Richards, has shown that a substantial fraction of their mitochondrial DNA lineages (inherited down the female line of descent), have been evolving within ISEA for a much longer period, possibly since modern humans arrived some 50,000 years ago.

Moreover, the lineage can be shown to have actually expanded in the opposite direction - into Taiwan - within the last 10,000 years.

Says Professor Richards: "I think the study results are going to be a big surprise for many archaeologists and linguists on whose studies conventional migration theories are based. These population expansions had nothing to do with agriculture, but were most likely to have been driven by climate change - in particular, global warming and the resulting sea-level rises at the end of the Ice Age between 15,000-7,000 years ago."


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