Post by Peter T. Daniels Post by Daud Deden Post by Daud Deden
Previous research on lemur bones and archaeological artefacts suggested that humans first arrived in Madagascar 2,400-4,000 years ago. However, the new study provides evidence of human presence on Madagascar as far back as 10,500 years ago -- making these modified elephant bird bones the earliest known evidence of humans on the island.
Lead author Dr James Hansford from ZSL's Institute of Zoology said: "We already know that Madagascar's megafauna -- elephant birds, hippos, giant tortoises and giant lemurs -- became extinct less than 1,000 years ago. There are a number of theories about why this occurred, but the extent of human involvement hasn't been clear.
"Our research provides evidence of human activity in Madagascar more than 6,000 years earlier than previously suspected -- which demonstrates that a radically different extinction theory is required to understand the huge biodiversity loss that has occurred on the island. Humans seem to have coexisted with elephant birds and other now-extinct species for over 9,000 years, apparently with limited negative impact on biodiversity for most of this period, which offers new insights for conservation today."
Why couldn't the hypothesized "original inhabitants" have died out
millennia ago, and millennia before the Austronesian-speakers arrived
Ross, doesn't a cutoff in shared innovations with whichever family Malagasy
is closest to provide a more useful time frame than a 1600-year range?
Without digging out handouts I picked up at the recent Austronesian
conference, I'll say: The Malagasy connection to Southeast Borneo
languages is as certain as when first pointed out by O.C.Dahl in the
1950s. But I don't know how much chronology we have on those shared
innovations. Malagasy does have Sanskrit loanwords which much have
been acquired in Indonesia, so that gives us a terminus post quem.
The linguists who know something about it usually put the
arrival of the AN speakers in Madagascar not much before the mid-first
millennium AD. I don't find it surprising that people might have got there
from the mainland much earlier. As you say, they might have died out,
or simply been linguistically submerged by the later arrivals. Here's a
fairly recent piece by Alexander Adelaar, my go-to guy on Malagasy.