Amoeblog

Out of Africa - Austro-Melanesian History, Culture and Music

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 1, 2010 12:00pm | Post a Comment
Once upon a time, one or two hundred thousand years ago or so, anatomically human beings appeared on the scene in Africa. About 60,000 years ago, there may have been as many as 5,000 people living on the planet. A number, possibly around 150, decided to cross the Red Sea... following the lead of their cousins, Homo erectus, who'd decided to look for new real estate some 2 million years earlier.

Homo Erectus
Homo Erectus couple
 

The humans traveled along the Arabian coast and, once arriving in South Asia, decided to settle down for a while. Over thousands of years, physical differences would develop in humans that spread from this population; lighter skin allowed for the absorption of Vitamin D3 as people moved into less sunny climes. Nowadays we usually call these descendants Asians and white people. But the people that moved on through Southeast Asia to Australia don't have a name nearly as recognized. To my ears, Australoid sounds so clunky... does the "oid" suffix ever sound good? Some of the more widely used terms in their respective cultures include the vague "black," "negrito" and "aborigine." I'm going to stick with Austro-Melanesian (or Australo-Melanesian) for now... If that catches on, maybe future generations will shorten it to AMs, Ausmels or something catchier. But for now, I'd merely like to focus on both the diversity and solidarity of these various peoples.

Austronesia - Don't Tease Ya

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 28, 2010 11:25pm | Post a Comment
Austronesia

Until recently, Austronesian wasn't a self-designation. The name comes from Latin auster (south wind) plus Greek nêsos (island). Of course, historically, Inuits and Aztecs never referred to themselves, in collective solidarity, as "Indians" or "Native Americans," but that doesn't mean we can't see similarities now. Having just  just returned from Taiwan, I've observed a growing pride by some Taiwanese Austronesians in their culture. In June, the International Austronesian Conference was held in Taiwan.

It's probably happening amongst other Austronesians, too, and if anyone wants to buy me a plane ticket to see first hand, I will be there as soon as possible.

Outrigger canoe

Covering a vast area of the Earth, the Austronesians never established a large, centralized authority. Unlike the Mongols, Turks, English or Russians, the Austronesians didn't conquer and assert their sovereignty. Rather, they explored and spread, intermingling when they encountered natives, trading with neighbors and populating previously uninhabited islands. What they left is a vast cultural and linguistic umbrella, on par with the Bantu, Indo-Europeans, Afroasiatics and Uralics.

Andry Rajoelina
Madagascar's Austronesian President Andry Rajoelina