Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thirty Founding Mothers of Madagascar!

It's absolutely fascinating what we are learning these days through DNA analysis! 

I had NO idea that Madagascar was settled only about 1200 years ago!  If asked, I would have suggested that since it was so close to the east coast of Africa, and since we know that early man sailed all over the place 50,000 years ago (maybe even further back but 50,000 is the number that is lodged in my memory), that Madagascar had been settled by so-called "modern" humans about the same time they allegedly started trekking "out of Africa" (anywhere from 100,000 to 60,000 years ago).

I find this very interesting. What I would have expected given what is generally accepted as truth regarding evolution and the "out of Africa" thing, is that the "out of Africa" exodus people would have settled Madagascar early on.  It is closer to the eastern coast of Africa than Athens is to Crete, for instance.  So, what were all of those early ancestors of ours doing instead of casting eyes upon a large piece of land so close by (only about 225 miles away from the nearest point off the coast of Africa to Madascar)?  I don't get it. 

We know people were travelling from the Anatolian peninsula (Turkey), the Greek islands, and Egypt to Crete, thousands of years ago -- much earlier than circa 900 CE when the hypothesized shipwreck occurred!  Check out some of these distances between population hot spots back in the "olden days:"
  • Approximate distance as the crow flies in miles from Cairo Egypt to Nikolaos Crete Greece is 509 miles or 818.98 Kilometers
  • Distance between Athens (Greece) and Crete is 319.78 km.
    This distance is equal to 198.7 miles, and 172.55 nautical miles (island-hopping would make the relative distance longer but would make each individual journey from Athens to island, from island to island, etc., shorter than the shortest distance between two points: Athens to near Heraklion, Crete)
  • Approximate distance as the crow flies in miles from Nikolaos Crete Greece to Izmir Turkey is 230 miles or 370.07 Kilometers
So, I can't help but wonder what the full story is.  Is there a reason why humans never settled Madagascar until about 800 CE, evidently only because of a fricking shipwreck of a boatload of women with a few men from Indonesia?  Are you kidding me?  OHMYGODDESS!

Story from Discovery News

Madagascar Founded By Women
The discovery negates a prior theory about how the island was first found.
By Jennifer Viegas
Tue Mar 20, 2012 07:01 PM ET
Madagascar was first settled and founded by approximately 30 women, mostly of Indonesian descent, who may have sailed off course in a wayward vessel 1200 years ago.

The discovery negates a prior theory that a large, planned settlement process took place on the island of Madagascar, located off the east coast of Africa. Traditionally it was thought to have been settled by Indonesian traders moving along the coasts of the Indian Ocean.

Most native Madagascar people today, called Malagasy, can trace their ancestry back to the founding 30 mothers, according to an extensive new DNA study published in the latest Proceedings of the Royal Society B,. Researchers focused on mitochondrial DNA, passed down from mothers to their offspring. Scientists assume some men were with the women.

“I’m afraid this wasn’t a settlement by Amazon seafarers!” lead author Murray Cox told Discovery News. “We propose settlement by a very small group of Indonesian women, around 30, but we also presume from the genetics that there were at least some Indonesian men with them. At this stage, we don’t know how many.”

Cox, a senior lecturer at Massey University’s Institute of Molecular BioSciences, and his colleagues analyzed genetic samples from 2745 individuals hailing from 12 Indonesian archipelago island groups. They then compared the results with genetic information from 266 individuals from three Malagasy ethnic groups: Mikea hunter-gatherers, semi-nomadic Vezo fishermen and the dominant Andriana Merina ethnic group.

Many Malagasy carry a gene tied to Indonesia. The DNA detective work indicates just 30 Indonesian women founded the Malagasy population, with a much smaller biological contribution from Africa. The women may have mated with their male Indonesian travel companions, or with men from Africa. [Well, duh!  Where else would the African DNA have come from?]

“The small number of Indonesian women is consistent with a single boatload of voyagers,” Cox said, adding that “typical Indonesian trading ships in the mid first millennium A.D. could hold around 500 people. “ [Compare the early Indonesian ships to the "high technology" of the day when Columbus set sail with his puny little ships the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, nearly 700 years later!]

The distance between Indonesia and Madagascar is close to 5000 miles, so the women and their travel mates must have had quite a journey, especially if it was unintended. 

“The small founder population of Indonesian women makes this scenario fairly unlikely,” Cox said. “Instead, our new evidence favors a small movement of people, and perhaps even an unplanned crossing of the Indian Ocean.” [Or, there is a whopping good story to be told that, unfortunately, we will never know. Perhaps they were a boatload of prostitutes shipped off from some city or other because they were considered "unclean."  The possibilities for dramatic story-telling is endless....]

Scant archaeological evidence, consisting of a few bones marked by stone tools and an increased rate of forest fires, suggests people may have first visited, but not settled, Madagascar around 2000 years ago. Even that is very recent in terms of overall human history.

Madagascar was one of the last places on earth to have been settled, with remote islands like New Zealand, Hawaii and Easter Island being in the short group of places that were settled later -- about 900 years ago.

“Our best argument is that these islands were just extremely difficult to get to,” Cox said.
Matthew Hurles, a senior group leader at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, has also studied the genetic heritage of Madagascar’s native people. He and his team also noted the Indonesian connection.

"Malagasy peoples are a roughly 50:50 mix of two ancestral groups: Indonesians and East Africans,” Hurles said. “It is important to realize that these lineages have intermingled over intervening centuries since settlement, so modern Malagasy have ancestry in both Indonesia and Africa."
Cox concluded, “It is worth emphasizing that Madagascar wasn’t a ‘sealed box’ after its initial settlement. There are notable later contributions by Africans, Arabs and Europeans. All of these contributions show up in the DNA of Malagasy today.”
Come on!  The article comes right out and says that the admixtures of different DNA (Africans, Arabs and Europeans) can pretty much be pin-pointed generationally, so why even bring it up?  People of African, Arabic and European descent were showing up at Madagascar at some point AFTER these Indonesian women showed up - or they were there when the Indonesian women arrived.  So, at some point, travel to Madagascar was not impossible!

How difficult could it have been to get to Madagascar from the east coast of Africa, some 225 miles away?  I don't get it!  Is it a tidal thing?  A prevailing wind thing?  Horrible sea monsters devouring all floating vessels that set out toward Madagascar from the east coast of Africa for the past 50,000 years?  WHAT? 

In any event, Hail to the Founding Mothers of Madagascar!  I think someone should start a petition (maybe me) to change the national flag of Madagascar to two breasts and a "delta." 

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...