Soares, Pedro A., Trejaut, Jean A., Rito, Teresa, Cavadas, Bruno, Hill, Catherine, Eng, Ken Khong, Mormina, Maru, Brandão, Andreia, Fraser, Ross M., Wang, Tse-Yi, Loo, Jun-Hun, Snell, Christopher, Ko, Tsang-Ming, Amorim, António, Pala, Maria, Macaulay, Vincent, Bulbeck, David, Wilson, James F., Gusmão, Leonor, Pereira, Luísa, Oppenheimer, Stephen, Lin, Marie and Richards, Martin B. (2016) Resolving the ancestry of Austronesian-speaking populations. Human Genetics, 135 (3). pp. 309-326. ISSN 0340-6717

There are two very different interpretations of the prehistory of Island Southeast Asia (ISEA), with genetic evidence invoked in support of both. The “out-of-Taiwan” model proposes a major Late Holocene expansion of Neolithic Austronesian speakers from Taiwan. An alternative, proposing that Late Glacial/postglacial sea-level rises triggered largely autochthonous dispersals, accounts for some otherwise enigmatic genetic patterns, but fails to explain the Austronesian language dispersal. Combining mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), Y-chromosome and genome-wide data, we performed the most comprehensive analysis of the region to date, obtaining highly consistent results across all three systems and allowing us to reconcile the models. We infer a primarily common ancestry for Taiwan/ISEA populations established before the Neolithic, but also detected clear signals of two minor Late Holocene migrations, probably representing Neolithic input from both Mainland Southeast Asia and South China, via Taiwan. This latter may therefore have mediated the Austronesian language dispersal, implying small-scale migration and language shift rather than large-scale expansion.

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