Friday, July 16, 2010

More Africa to Asia

Any discussion and information about migration from East Africa to India catches my ears, but when the destination stretches as far as Vietnam and the Philippines, even more so.

This video, featuring a speaker I've never heard of, is very interesting. It's the third part of a series.

So, that led me to do a quick search about blacks in Vietnam, and sure enough, some here is research by Runoko Rashidi: the black Vietnamese were known as the Champa, original conquerors of the region. They defeated the Chinese, who referred to them as k'un-lun (a phrase I've come across a few times online) and found their way to the Philippines later, theorizes H. Otley Beyer.

More of Rashidi's work reveals his conviction that the Agta of the Philippines — known more commonly as Negritos and Aeta — are descendants of those early seafarers from Africa by way of South India. (Note that the same South India/Andaman Islands connection is also theorized to be the connection point for the Ainu of Japan, according to DNA comparisons.)

"They were the aborigines of the Philippines, and for a long time had been master of Luzon.  At a time not very far distant, when the Spaniards conquered the country, the Aetas levied a kind of blackmail from the Tagalog villages situated on the banks of the lake of Bay (Laguna de Bay).  At a fixed period they quitted their forests, entered the village, and forced the inhabitants to give them a certain quantity of rice and maize....After the conquest of the Philippines by the Spaniards, the latter took upon themselves the defense of the Tagalogs, and the Aetas, terrified by their firearms, remained in the forests, and did not reappear among the Indians."

—Dr. Pedro A. Gagelonia, a Filipino scholar

Here's an interesting quote from the foreign minister of Papua New Guinea back in 1976: 
"Africa is our motherland.  All of the Black populations which settled in Asia over the hundreds of thousands of years, came undoubtedly from the African continent.  In fact, the entire world was populated from Africa.  Hence, we the Blacks in Asia and the Pacific today descend from proto-African peoples.  We were linked to Africa in the past. We are linked to Africa in the present.  We will be linked to Africa in the future."

—Ben Tanggahma 

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wherefore thou ark?

Going back to movie lore of the 1980s, which seems like a few blinks of the eye now, the Ark of the Covenant has stirred imagination and possibility. Go back a few millennia and it's impossible to discourage the mystery of where the original Ark was taken. How many places was it transported to? Was there really more than one version of the Ark?

There are all kinds of theories, but the one that would make most sense is likely one that took the relic far away from population centers. After all, in Hawaii, we have our mystery about the bones of great King Kamehameha I. Nobody has uncovered the location of his remains, and nobody's talking, either. If his mana, or power, from the bones of his body have remained a secret in such a small place for more than 200 years, imagine how well guarded the Ark is after far more time.

Wherever the ark(s), it's encouraging to know that through time, regardless of culture and religion, there remains a fascination with the 10 Commandments and their origins. My guess is that the Ark is in Ethiopia, a place quite far away from the original site of the Ark, at least in Old Testament times. If it is there, how much longer can it remain a mystery rather than a fact, especially in today's world of instant communication and media?

Maybe there really are copies upon copies of not one, but two versions of the Ark, as the theory goes, and they've been spread about the world, as many other claims go. But I'd say Ethiopia is where it is, if I were to guess. Just a hunch.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Rapa Nui: A warning from history

One of the last islands to be inhabited/conquered/settled in Polynesia was Rapa Nui. So interesting in several ways. Though DNA shows islanders had Polynesian blood, masonry and the existence of sweet potato make it very likely that they either traded with South Americans (Peru) or voyaged there.

I don't care for anthropological theories that discount that possibility. Anything is possible with human willpower. Even the extreme theory that it was seafaring Chinese traders who brought sweet potato to Rapa Nui (I don't believe it, but...) is possible.

What's most interesting, though, is how Rapa Nui destroyed itself, prioritizing its behemoth stone structures so high that the land was deforested and society crumbled. Basically, a parallel of modern Western society in the making.

Genographic or xenophobic?

On the surface, it seems odd that anyone would oppose a study of mankind's footprints and paths. 

But National Geographic's Genographic Project will probably always face the element fear. There are tribes, particularly in Alaska, who fear potential consequences of the project. My interest is, of course, solely as a very curious individual who has always been interested in origins and migratory routes. Almost all my childhood friends are descendants of immigrants, if not immigrants themselves. Even Native Hawaiians were once new to these islands. We all came from somewhere else. But this New York Times story notes how the concern about discovering DNA denominators that cross oceans and mountains could have political repercussions, inadvertent as they may be in purpose. 
"What if it turns out you're really Siberian and then, oops, your health care is gone?" said Dr. David Barrett, a co-chairman of the Alaska Area Institutional Review Board, which is sponsored by the Indian Health Service, a federal agency. "Did anyone explain that to them?"

There are all kinds of points and counterpoints to be made. It's unfortunate that the project may not proceed without obstruction. But ideals are simply temporary. Reality always kicks the gall out of idealists, and there is red tape — and sensitivity to an issue like health care — to weave through. A more recent word from the project's leader, Spencer Wells:
"Many of the crises we see in the 21st century, I would argue, have their roots in the dawn of the Neolithic," he says. "We spent an enormous amount of time as hominids and as primates living as hunter-gatherers. That is the natural way for us to live, and we're suddenly living in this profoundly unnatural way, and we're still in the process of adapting to it and working out how to live with it."

(See the series here.)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Origins of the Japanese

This is probably one of the most readable and succinct pieces I've seen online about Japanese origins. I write that as plural because there is more than one major group of DNA in Japan. 
During the last Ice Age, which ended approximately 15,000 years ago, Japan was connected to the continent through several land bridges, notably one linking the Ryukyu Islands to Taiwan and Kyushu, one linking Kyushu to the Korean peninsula, and another one connecting Hokkaido to Sakhalin and the Siberian mainland. In fact, the Philippines and Indonesia were also connected to the Asian mainland. This allowed migrations from China and Austronesia towards Japan, about 35,000 years ago. These were the ancestors of the modern Ryukyuans (Okinawans), and the first inhabitants of all Japan.

I love how the Ainu dude with the mouth harp is playing along with the Hawaiians (at the 4:15 mark).

Some interesting documentary footage from Japan about the Ainu.

This video is more about the warfare between the Ainu and later settlers of Japan. Lots of cultural information, photos, music.

I can't think of another ethnic group that actually hunts (or used to hunt) bears. Gnarly!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Myth or fact: Giants of Solomon Islands

I'm much more into non-fiction than tall tales (pun intended), but this is too much to ignore.

Myth, legend — whatever you'd like to call it — there is one about giants in the South Pacific. An adventuresome writer named Jonathan Gray pens this story about the 15-foot original inhabitants of Guadalcanal and the Solomons.

There's much, much more to be read, but Gray's piece is just short enough to whet the appetite ... or completely disappoint. Me? I find it intriguing. Where did these legends come from? And why would so many people have so many first-hand accounts of encounters with these giants?