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Ati girl going around the town of Kalibo on Panay island in central Philippines.
Regions with significant populations

(Andaman and Nicobar Islands)

(Peninsular Malaysia)
(Luzon, Palawan, Panay, Negros, and Mindanao)

(Southern Thailand)

Animism, traditional
Negrito group photo (Malaysia, 1905).
Negritos in a fishing boat (Philippines, 1899).
A young Onge mother with her baby (Andaman Islands, 1905).

The Negrito () are several ethnic groups who inhabit isolated parts of Southeast Asia.[1] Their current populations include Andamanese peoples of the Andaman Islands, Semang peoples of Malaysia, the Mani of Thailand, and the Aeta, Agta, Ati, and 30 other peoples of the Philippines.

Negritos are believed to descend from ancient Australoid-Melanesian settlers of Southeast Asia. Genetically, they are most similar to neighboring populations.


  • Etymology 1
  • Origins 2
  • Historical distribution 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7


The word "Negrito" is the Spanish diminutive of negro, i.e. "little black person", referring to their small stature, and was coined by early European explorers.[2]

Occasionally, some Negritos are referred to as Negrillos (pygmies), bundling them with peoples of similar physical stature in Central Africa, and likewise, the term Negrito was previously occasionally used to refer to African Pygmies.[3]

Many on-line dictionaries give the plural in English as either 'negritos' or 'negritoes', without preference. The plural in Spanish is 'negritos'.[4][5]


Great Andamanese couple (1876).

Negritos are believed to descend from Australoid Melanesian settlers of Southeast Asia. Negritos are the most genetically similar to neighboring populations.[6][7]

A number of features would seem to suggest a common origin for the Negritos and Negrillos (African Pygmies). No other living human population has experienced such long-lasting isolation from contact with other groups.[8]

Features of the Negrito include short stature, dark skin, woolly hair, scant body hair, and occasional steatopygia. The claim that Andamanese pygmoids more closely resemble Africans than Asians in their cranial morphology in a study of 1973 added some weight to this theory, before genetic studies pointed to a closer relationship with Asians.[8]

Multiple studies also show that Negritos from Southeast Asia to New Guinea share a closer cranial affinity with Australo-Melanesians.[9][10]

It has been suggested that the craniometric similarities to Asians could merely indicate a level of interbreeding between Negritos and later waves of people arriving from the Asian mainland. This hypothesis is not supported by genetic evidence that has shown the level of isolation which populations such as the Andamanese have experienced. However, some studies have suggested that each group should be considered separately, as the genetic evidence refutes the notion of a specific shared ancestry between the "Negrito" groups of the Andaman Islands, the Malay Peninsula, and the Philippines.[11]

A study of blood groups and proteins in the 1950s suggested that the Andamanese were more closely related to Oceanic peoples than Africans. Genetic studies on Philippine Negritos, based on polymorphic blood enzymes and antigens, showed they were similar to surrounding Asian populations.[8] However, genetic testing places all the Onge and all but two of the Great Andamanese in the mtDNA Haplogroup M found in East Africa, East Asia, and South Asia, suggesting that the Negritos are at least partly descended from a migration originating in eastern Africa 60,000 years ago. This migration is hypothesized to have followed a coastal route through India and into Southeast Asia, and is sometimes called the Great Coastal Migration.

Analysis of mtDNA coding sites indicated that these Andamanese fall into a subgroup of M not previously identified in human populations in Africa and Asia. These findings suggest an early split from the population of migrants from Africa whose descendants would eventually populate the entire habitable world.[8] Haplogroup C-M130, Haplogroup O-2 seen in dark-skinned Negritos like the Semang of Malaysia and Phillipeans Negritos, and haplogroup D-M174 are believed to represent Y-DNA in the migration.[12]

A recent genetic study found that unlike other early groups in Malesia, Andamanese Negritos lack the Denisovan hominin admixture in their DNA. Denisovan ancestry is found among indigenous Melanesian and Australian populations between 4–6%.[13]

Historical distribution

Negritos may have also lived in Taiwan.[14] The Negrito population shrank to the point that, up to 100 years ago, only one small group lived near the Saisiyat tribe.[14] Evidence for to their former habitation is a Saisiyat festival celebrating the black people in a festival called Pas-ta'ai.[14]

Chinese people are said to have a Negrito element in their ancestry.[15][16][17] Anthropologist Neil Gordon Munro also noted a Negrito element in Japanese people.[18]

Vietnamese people have many racial and ethnic sources, including Mongolian, Chinese, Thai, Negrito, Melanesian, and Austro-Asian, not just Lac Viet as sometimes claimed by Vietnamese themselves.[19] Semang Negritos are believed to be descended from Hoabinhian people.[20] Ancient Mongoloid, Negrito, Indonesian, Melanesian, and Australoid remains have been found in Vietnam.[21]

See also


  1. ^ Snow, Philip. The Star Raft: China's Encounter With Africa. Cornell Univ. Press, 1989 (ISBN 0801495830)
  2. ^ William Marsden (1834). "On the Polynesian, or East-Insular Languages". Miscellaneous works of William Marsden. Pub. for the Author by Parbury, Allen. p. 4. 
  3. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, 1910–1911: "Second are the large Negrito family, represented in Africa by the dwarf-races of the equatorial forests, the Akkas, Batwas, Wochuas and others..." (pg. 851)
  4. ^ "Merriam Webster". 
  5. ^ "The Free Dictionary". 
  6. ^ "Genetic affinities of the Andaman Islanders, a vanishing human population.".  
  7. ^ "The skeletal phenotype of "negritos" from the Andaman Islands and Philippines relative to global variation among hunter-gatherers.".  
  8. ^ a b c d Thangaraj, Kumarasamy; et al. (21 January 2003), "Genetic Affinities of the Andaman Islanders, a Vanishing Human Population" (PDF), Current Biology, 13, Number 2: 86–93(8),  
  9. ^ Getting Here: The Story of Human Evolution, William Howells, Compass Press, 1993
  10. ^ David Bulbeck; Pathmanathan Raghavan and Daniel Rayner (2006), "Races of Homo sapiens: if not in the southwest Pacific, then nowhere" (PDF), World Archaeology (Taylor & Francis) 38 (1): 109–132,  
  11. ^ Catherine Hill; Pedro Soares, Maru Mormina, Vincent Macaulay, William Meehan, James Blackburn, Douglas Clarke, Joseph Maripa Raja, Patimah Ismail, David Bulbeck, Stephen Oppenheimer, Martin Richards (2006), "Phylogeography and Ethnogenesis of Aboriginal Southeast Asians" (PDF), Molecular Biology and Evolution (Oxford University Press),  
  12. ^ 走向遠東的兩個現代人種
  13. ^ Reich; et al. (2011). "Denisova Admixture and the First Modern Human Dispersals into Southeast Asia and Oceania". The American Journal of Human Genetics.  
    • "About 3% to 5% of the DNA of people from Melanesia (islands in the southwest Pacific Ocean), Australia and New Guinea as well as aboriginal people from the Philippines comes from the Denisovans." Oldest human DNA found in Spain – Elizabeth Landau's interview of Svante Paabo, accessdate=2013-12-09
  14. ^ a b c Jules Quartly (27 Nov 2004). "In honor of the Little Black People". Taipei Times. p. 16. Retrieved 22 May 2011. 
  15. ^ Rogers, Joel Augustus (1967). The Old World. J. A. Rodgers Publications. pp. page 67. 
  16. ^ Sowerby, Carle (1939). "The China Journal - Volume 31". The China Journal: page 231. 
  17. ^ "The China Critic - Volume 4". The China Critic: page 775. 1931. 
  18. ^ Munro, Neil Gordon (1908). Prehistoric Japan. The Author. p. 676. 
  19. ^ Chan 2006, p. 3.
  20. ^ Bellwoord 1999, p. 286.
  21. ^ Vietnam. Bộ ngoại giao 1969, p. 28.

Further reading

  • Evans, Ivor Hugh Norman. The Negritos of Malaya. Cambridge [Eng.]: University Press, 1937.
  • Garvan, John M., and Hermann Hochegger. The Negritos of the Philippines. Wiener Beitrage zur Kulturgeschichte und Linguistik, Bd. 14. Horn: F. Berger, 1964.
  • Hurst Gallery. Art of the Negritos. Cambridge, Mass: Hurst Gallery, 1987.
  • Khadizan bin Abdullah, and Abdul Razak Yaacob. Pasir Lenggi, a Bateq Negrito Resettlement Area in Ulu Kelantan. Pulau Pinang: Social Anthropology Section, School of Comparative Social Sciences, Universití Sains Malaysia, 1974.
  • Mirante, Edith (2014) "The Wind in the Bamboo: Journeys in Search of Asia's 'Negrito' Indigenous Peoples" Bangkok, Orchid Press.
  • Schebesta, P., & Schütze, F. (1970). The Negritos of Asia. Human relations area files, 1-2. New Haven, Conn: Human Relations Area Files.
  • Armando Marques Guedes (1996). Egalitarian Rituals. Rites of the Atta hunter-gatherers of Kalinga-Apayao, Philippines, Social and Human Sciences Faculty, Universidade Nova de Lisboa.
  • Zell, Reg. About the Negritos - A Bibliography. edition blurb, 2011.
  • Zell, Reg. Negritos of the Philippines -The People of the Bamboo - Age - A Socio-Ecological Model. edition blurb, 2011.
  • Zell, Reg. John M. Garvan - An Investigation - On the Negritos of Tayabas. edition blurb, 2011.

External links

  • "Negritos in the Philippines" — detailed book written by an American at the turn of the previous century holistically describing the Negrito culture.
  • The Negrito of Thailand
  • Africans and Asians: Historiography and the Long View of Global Interaction
  • The Southeast Asian Negrito
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