Tag Archives: Andamanese

The Jarawa, Onge and Sentinelese of the Andaman islands.

Picture by Salome.

Two women from the Jarawa people.

These near pygmy sized ‘Negrito’ people live on the Andaman and Nicobar islands south of Myanmar. there are thought to be less then 300 of them now, and possibly even fewer, as a recent measles epidemic devasted their population. No-one has ever been able to get enough to the Sentinelese for a photo, as they tend to shoot at helicopters and careless fishermen with arrows, which is very sensible of them. This was how the outside world realised the Sentinelese had survived the tsunami, they were still being fired upon.

They live in groups of about 40 to 50 people, in a hunter gatherer lifestyle, eating berries, pig, monitor lizard, fish and other wild foods.

They look very out of place in the Indian ocean, physically they look a lot like pygmies, with jet black black skin, peppercorn hair and ocassionally steatopygous buttocks on the women. But as far as DNA goes they are definitely Asian. they occasionaly show an epicanthic eye fold. The average height for the men is about 4’10”.

They are thought to have been living in more or less isolation from the rest of the world on their islands for about 60,000 years. The Europeans recoreded them as being the only group of people in the world, other than Tasmanian Aborigines, that didn’t know how to create fire, the depended on lightening strikes and preserving the embers from previous fires.

They seem to live their lives at a faster pace than the rest of us, the women hiting menopause in their thirties. Currently, they are being wiped out by outside diseases and exploitation. The Indian gov needs to put armed guards around their territory to protect them, or in another fifty years they’ll just be a memory .

This site on the Andamanese is well worth a look. It has a lot of very old photos and descriptions of tribal customs, I recommend going there right now.



There have been some DNA studies involving the Jarawa and Onge. No-ones been able to get close enough to the Sentinlese to see them, let alone swab them. This wobbly footage is the closest anyone’s ever got to the Sentinelese, they seem to be very fond of coconuts and will tolerate outsiders on boats while collecting them. I’d just like to comment that handholding between the men and women seems very common from this vid.






Filed: 12/11/2002, 12:23:50 AM
Source: The New York Times

Inhabitants of the Andaman Islands, a remote archipelago east of India, are direct descendants of the first modern humans to have inhabited Asia, geneticists conclude in a new study.

But the islanders lack a distinctive genetic feature found among Australian aborigines, another early group to leave Africa, suggesting they were part of a separate exodus.

The Andaman Islanders are “arguably the most enigmatic people on our planet,” a team of geneticists led by Dr. Erika Hagelberg of the University of Oslo write in the journal Current Biology.

Their physical features short stature, dark skin, peppercorn hair and large buttocks  are characteristic of African Pygmies. “They look like they belong in Africa, but here they are sitting in this island chain in the middle of the Indian Ocean,” said Dr. Peter Underhill of Stanford University, a co-author of the new report.

Adding to the puzzle is that their language, according to Joseph Greenberg, who, before his death in 2001, classified the world’s languages, belongs to a family that includes those of Tasmania, Papua New Guinea and Melanesia.

Dr. Hagelberg has undertaken the first genetic analysis of the Andamanese with the help of two Indian colleagues who took blood samples and by analyzing hair gathered almost a century ago by a British anthropologist, Alfred Radcliffe-Brown. The islands were isolated from the outside world until the British set up a penal colony there after the Indian mutiny of 1857.

Only four of the dozen tribes that once inhabited the island survive, with a total population of about 500 people. These include the Jarawa, who still live in the forest, and the Onge, who have been settled by the Indian government.

Genetic analysis of mitochondrial DNA, a genetic element passed down only through women, shows that the Onge and Jarawa people belong to a lineage, known as M, that is common throughout Asia, the geneticists say. This establishes them as Asians, not Africans, among whom a different mitochondrial lineage, called L, is dominant.

The geneticists then looked at the Y chromosome, which is passed down only through men and often gives a more detailed picture of genetic history than the mitochondrial DNA. The Onge and Jarawa men turned out to carry a special change or mutation in the DNA of their Y chromosome that is thought to be indicative of the Paleolithic population of Asia, the hunters and gatherers who preceded the first human settlements.

The mutation, known as Marker 174, occurs among ethnic groups at the periphery of Asia who avoided being swamped by the populations that spread after the agricultural revolution that occurred about 8,000 years ago. It is found in many Japanese, in the Tibetans of the Himalayas and among isolated people of Southeast Asia, like the Hmong.

The discovery of Marker 174 among the Andamanese suggests that they too are part of this relict  paleolithic population, descended from the first modern humans to leave Africa.

Dr. Underhill, an expert on the genetic history of the Y chromosome, said the Paleolithic population of Asia might well have looked as African as the Onge and Jarawa do now, and that people with the appearance of present-day Asians might have emerged only later. It is also possible, he said, that their resemblance to African Pygmies is a human adaptation to living in forests that the two populations developed independently.

A finding of particular interest is that the Andamanese do not carry another Y chromosome signature, known as Marker RPS4Y, that is common among Australian aborigines. This suggests that there were at least two separate emigrations of modern humans from Africa, Dr. Underhill said. Both probably left  Northeast Africa by boat 40,000 or 50,000 years ago and pushed slowly along the coastlines of the Arabian Peninsula and India. No archaeological record of these epic journeys has been found, perhaps because the world’s oceans were 120 meters lower during the last ice age and the evidence of early human passage is under water.

One group of emigrants that acquired the Marker 174 mutation reached Southeast Asia, including the Andaman islands, and then moved inland and north to Japan, in Dr. Underhill’s reconstruction. A second group, carrying the Marker RPS4Y, took a different fork in Southeast Asia, continuing south toward Australia.

I’d just to point out what a steaming heap of crap the 40,000 year date for modern humans is. It’s at least 80, 000, and probably over 100,000. I keep seeing 40,000 years on published news items. Do these journalists not bother to read up on the latest dates?