Topics: Southeast Asia, Philippines, Austronesian languages Pages: 21 (5758 words) Published: March 17, 2013
The peopling of the Philippines: A cartographic synthesis

Jean-Christophe Gaillard[1] and Joel P. Mallari[2]

Abstract: This paper aims to plot cartographically the different theories proposed to explain the peopling of the Philippines. The first map locates the existing Pleistocene and Paleolithic archaeological sites while the next seven figures compile the different theories dealing with the evolution or dispersal of the Austronesian speakers. A final figure tends to summarize and formalize the different approaches of the Austronesian dispersal.


The way the Philippine islands have been peopled has long been a controversial ground. As soon as they set foot on this “dust of islands” at the western edge of the Pacific Ocean, the Spaniards tried to explain the presence of different kinds of people that they respectively called Negrillos (now known as Negritos), Indios (non-Negritos pagans) and Moros (Muslims) (Colin 1903-09). During the 19th century a new classification of people came out. This includes Negritos, Proto-Malays (or Indonesians) and Deutero-Malays (or Malays), for whom J. Montano (1886) and F. Blumentritt (1882) were among the main defenders. Noteworthy is that, in his reference work on the Malay Archipelago, Wallace (1890) only referred to Malay and Negrito people. This above-mentioned arrangement first included the notion of waves of migrations that would have come successively into the Philippines. In 1897, R. Virchow (1899) made the first critical assessment of the existing data about the peopling of the Philippines and explored new ways in physical anthropology using skull analysis data. Two years later, in 1899, Wilhelm Schmidt first referred to the family of languages spoken from Taiwan to New Zealand and Madagascar to Eastern Islands as “Austronesian” – a term which marked the beginning of a new era of research and which is being used up to this time. Indeed, with the rapid development of sciences like archaeology, anthropology, linguistics, biology and genetics, many new theories eventually came out during the 20th century. Most of them deal with the Austronesian speakers issue since very little is known about the first layer of population that occupied the Philippines during the Pleistocene period.

This article aims to compile and plot cartographically all these theories. It does not tend to discuss the validity of the different approaches. Attempts to discuss the different hypotheses and theories have recently been made but did not lead to cartographic synthesis (Montillo-Burton, 2000). However, this topic, which is eminently geographic by essence (movements of people), requires uniform mapping for fair comparison. This paper tends to fill this gap. First, we will map the sites that have yielded physical and cultural remains dated back to the Pleistocene period. Afterward, we will review the theories related to the Austronesian speakers evolution or dispersal by looking at the different possibilities regarding the homeland and routes followed by these seafarers. A final figure will summarize and formalize the different approaches of the Austronesian evolution or dispersal.

The Pleistocene-Early Holocene period and Paleolithic cultural stage

A. Pleistocene environmental conditions

The Pleistocene period began around 1.6 million years ago and extended until 12,000 years ago. It is characterized by mid-latitude glaciations interspersed with short interglacial periods. In Southeast Asia, the climatic changes have been better recorded for the late Pleistocene period since 240,000 years ago. It is acknowledged that glacial maxima were reached around 135,000 years ago and again around 18,000 years ago. At these times, the sea level in Southeast Asia may have been as low 120 or 140m below its present level. Eventually, it rapidly rose during the early Holocene to reach its present level (or slightly higher) around 6,000 years ago (Chappell and Thom, 1977). At...
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