Madagascar: ancient melting pot

by Jan Ligthart

ANTANANARIVO11 January 2014 - Only ten percent of the languages spoken on Madagascar proofs to be of African origin, mainly Bantu. The other 90 percent of the vocabulary is a mix of Barito and other Austranesian languages. Genetical research by a group of scientists showed that the original inhabitants of the island have a mixture of genes: 60 percent Bantu (African) and 30 percent Austranesian. The latter derives from the currentday Indonesian islands of Java, Borneo and Sulawesi.   Only ten percent of the languages spoken on Madagascar proofs to be of African origin, mainly Bantu. The other 90 percent of the vocabulary is a mix of Barito and other Austranesian languages. Genetical research by a group of scientists showed that the original inhabitants of the island have a mixture of genes: 60 percent Bantu (African) and 30 percent Austranesian. The latter derives from the currentday Indonesian islands of Java, Borneo and Sulawesi.  According to an article published by the scientists in PNAS, three ethnic groups studied: the Mikea, Vezo and Temoro people.  Their genes all have the same origin.  Of the three groups, the Mikea are a curious people in a class of their own. The Mikea used to be farmers like the other groups and tribes on the island. But only fairly recently - the 17th up to maybe even the 19th Century - they reverted to hunting and gathering, making them the only hunting/gathering culture left on Madagascar. According to the scientists they probably fell back on their own old life style, due to territorial pressure or because of the arrival of the French.