Southeast Asia is one of the most genetically diverse areas of the world and for more than 100 years researchers have been debating which theory of origins of the human population there is correct. One theory holds the view that indigenous Hoabinhain hunter-gatherers populated the area 44 kya and developed farming techniques on their own without input from early farmers from East Asia. The opposing theory holds the view that migrating rice farmers from China replaced the indigenous Hoabinhian people. However, new research and evidence now suggests that BOTH theories are WRONG!! At least neither is completely correct let me say more specifically.
The new study spearheaded by the University of Cambridge has found modern SE Asian people derive their ancestry from at least four ancient populations! Researchers used DNA from human skeletal remains found in Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, Indonesia, and Japan dating back to 8 kya. DNA samples also included samples from the indigenous Hoabinhian people and from the Jomon people of Japan. This is all a scientific first, notably, as previously the oldest DNA collected only dated back to around 4 kya.
Twenty-six ancient human genomes were sequenced successfully and compared with modern DNA from people living in SE Asia today. The environment of SE Asia is NOT conducive to DNA preservation so this study is significant for that reason alone. Jungles have few skeletal remains and that’s one big reason we have such a difficult time finding the remains of ancient human ancestors in that area.
Analysis of the DNA showed a long suspected genetic link between the Jomon of Japan and the Hoabinhian people. The research also showed BOTH Hoabinhian people and East Asian farmers contributed to the current diversity of SE Asian people. Thus, what we thought was simple is turning out to be rather complex!
Once again we find that the evolution of humanity is not some straight line but is more akin to a twisted vine or braided river! The more we discover about our ancient past, the more we discover that our story is NOT so simple as we once thought but is, in fact, far more COMPLEX than we ever thought.