|Regions with significant populations|
(Andaman and Nicobar Islands)
(Luzon, Palawan, Panay, Negros, and Mindanao)
|Andamanese languages, Aslian languages, Nicobarese languages, Philippine Negrito languages|
|Animism, folk religions|
The Negrito are several diverse ethnic groups who inhabit isolated parts of Southeast Asia and the Andaman Islands. Their current populations include: the Andamanese peoples of the Andaman Islands, the Semang peoples (among them, the Batek people) of Peninsular Malaysia, the Maniq people of Southern Thailand, as well as the Aeta, Ati, and about 30 other officially recognized ethnic groups in the Philippines.
Based on their physical similarities, Negritos were once considered a single population of related people. Some studies suggest that they include several separate groups, as well as demonstrating that they are not closely related to the Pygmies of Africa, while more recent studies find evidence for a close genetic relation between the various Negrito groups. The pre-Neolithic Negrito populations of Southeast Asia were largely replaced by the expansion of Southern East Eurasian populations, beginning about 5,000 years ago.
Historically they engaged in trade with the local population that eventually invaded their lands and were also often subjected to slave raids while also paying tributes to the local Southeast Asian rulers and kingdoms. Some Negrito pygmies from the southern forests were enslaved and exploited from AD 724 until modern times. While some have lived in isolation others have become assimilated with the general local population.
The word Negrito is the Spanish diminutive of negro, used to mean "little black person". This usage was coined by 16th-century Spanish missionaries operating in the Philippines, and was borrowed by other European travellers and colonialists across Austronesia to label various peoples perceived as sharing relatively small physical stature and dark skin. Contemporary usage of an alternative Spanish epithet, Negrillos, also tended to bundle these peoples with the pygmy peoples of Central Africa, based on perceived similarities in stature and complexion. (Historically, the label Negrito has also been used to refer to African pygmies.) The appropriateness of using the label "Negrito" to bundle peoples of different ethnicities based on similarities in stature and complexion has been challenged.
Most Negrito groups lived as hunter-gatherers, while some also used agriculture. Today most Negrito tribes live assimilated to the majority population of their homeland. Discrimination and poverty are often problems.
The main paternal haplogroup of the Negritos is K2b in the form of its rare primary clades K2b1* and P* (a.k.a. K2b2* or P-P295*). Most Aeta males (60%) carry K-P397 (K2b1), which is otherwise uncommon in the Philippines and is strongly associated with the indigenous peoples of Melanesia and Micronesia. Basal P* is rare outside the Aeta and some other groups within Maritime Southeast Asia.
Some Negrito populations are Haplogroup D-M174*, a branch of D-M174 among Andaman Islanders, as well as Haplogroup O-P31 which is also common among the now Austroasiatic-speaking Negrito peoples, such as the Maniq and the Semang in Malaysia. The Onge and all the Adamanan Islanders belong strictly to the mitochondrial Haplogroup M it is also the predominant marker of other Negrito tribes as well as Aboriginal Australians and Papuans. Analysis of mtDNA, which is inherited exclusively by maternal descent, confirms the above results. All Onge belong to mDNA M, which is unique to Onge people.
A 2009 study by the Anthropological Survey of India and the Texas Biomedical Research Institute identified seven genomes from 26 isolated "relic tribes" from the Indian mainland, such as the Baiga tribe, which share "two synonymous polymorphisms with the M42 haplogroup, which is specific to Australian Aborigines". These were specific mtDNA mutations that are shared exclusively by Australian aborigines and these Indian tribes, and no other known human groupings.
Bulbeck (2013) shows the Andamanese maternal mtDNA is entirely mitochondrial Haplogroup M . Their Y-DNA belongs to the D haplogroup, which has only been found in Japan and Tibet at low frequencies outside of the Andaman Islands, a fact that underscores the insularity of these tribes.
A study of human blood group systems and proteins in the 1950s suggested that the Andamanese peoples were more closely related to Oceanic peoples than African pygmy peoples. Genetic studies on Philippine Negritos, based on polymorphic blood enzymes and antigens, showed that they were similar to their surrounding populations.
Negrito peoples may descend from the first settlers of South and Southeast Asia. Despite being isolated, the different peoples do share genetic similarities with their neighboring populations. They also show relevant phenotypic (anatomic) variations which require explanation.
This has often been interpreted to the effect that they are remnants of the original expansion from Africa some 70,000 years ago. Studies in osteology, cranial shape and dental morphology have connected the Semang to Australoid populations, while connecting the Andamanese to Africans in craniometry and to South Asians in dental morphology, and Philippine Negritos to Southeast Asians. A possible conclusion of this is that the dispersal of mitochondrial haplogroup B4a1a is connected to the distinction between Philippine and other Negritos. However, another study suggests that the Onge (indigenous to Little Andaman) are more closely related to Southeast Asian Negritos, Melanesians, and Southeast Asians than they are to present-day South Asians, and that the Great Andamanese (of the northern Andamans, as opposed to the Onge or other Andamanese groups) "appear to have received a degree of relatively recent admixture from adjacent regional populations but also share a significant degree of genetic ancestry with Malaysian negrito groups".
A recent genetic study found that unlike other early groups in Oceania, Andamanese Negritos lack Denisovan hominin admixture in their DNA. Denisovan ancestry is found among indigenous Melanesian and Aboriginal Australian populations at between 4-6%.
Some studies have suggested that each group should be considered separately, as the genetic evidence refutes the notion of a specific shared ancestry between the "Negrito" groups of the Andaman Islands, the Malay Peninsula, and the Philippines. Indeed, this sentiment is echoed in a more recent work from 2013 which concludes that "at the current level of genetic resolution ... there is no evidence of a single ancestral population for the different groups traditionally defined as 'negritos'.
Recent studies, concerning the population history of Southeast Asia, suggest that most modern Negrito populations in Southeast Asia show a rather strong Eastern Eurasian admixture (Austronesian and Austroasiatic), ranging between 30% to 50% of their ancestry.
Narasimhan et al. 2018 observe that samples from the Indus Valley Civilisation population in northern India are always mixes of the same two proximal sources of AASI (ancient ancestral south Indian: Andamanese-related hunter gatherers) and Iranian agriculturalist-related ancestry; with "one of the Indus Periphery individuals having ~42% AASI ancestry. According to Narasimhan the genetic makeup of the ASI (Ancestral South Indian) population consisted of about 73% AASI/Andamanese-related and about 27% Iranian-related ancestry.
In 2019, Narasimhan shows that the ASI (Ancestral South Indians) are descendants of the AASI with following admixture from Iranian-related agriculturalists. He further notes that the high correlation between Dravidian and ASI ancestry may suggest that the Dravidians (and the proto-Dravidian language) originated from the AASI component and is native to the peninsula of India.
A number of features would seem to suggest a common origin for the Negrito and Pygmy peoples, including short stature, dark skin, scant body hair, and occasional steatopygia (large, curvaceous buttocks and thighs). The claim that the Andamanese more closely resemble African pygmies than other Austronesian populations in their cranial morphology in a study of 1973 added some weight to this theory, before genetic studies pointed to a closer relationship with their neighbours.
In our completely sequenced 966-mitochondrial genomes from 26 relic tribes of India, we have identified seven genomes, which share two synonymous polymorphisms with the M42 haplogroup, which is specific to Australian Aborigines ... direct genetic evidence of an early colonization of Australia through south Asia
About 3% to 5% of the DNA of people from Melanesia (islands in the southwest Pacific Ocean), Australia and New Guinea as well as aboriginal people from the Philippines comes from the Denisovans.