Finding Austronesian Ancestors by DNA by Herbert P. Holeman, Ph.D.

In Present Times

Next Generation Sequencing state-of-the-art technology scans virtually the entire Y chromosome in searching for a single line of male descent dating back thousands of years to more recent ancestry. To the point, of my original task, I wanted to imagine the biogeographical world traveled by those archaic and modern-day humans with whom I share DNA. The markers uncovered so far, have accomplished much of the former, the ancient populations with whom I share DNA.

I have established the origin of Haplogroup O, my paternal genetic ancestry has remained in East Asia. Moreover, beginning with my ancestor ~24,700 years ago with the M122 marker to a Holocene ancestor of ~10,200 years ago, O-F996 and a more recent ancestor of 4,300 years ago with the O-706 marker indicative of populations in China, Cambodia, Philippines, and Thailand the lineage has steadily migrated to the southeast where significant population changes have occurred in the past 10,000 years.

Consistent with the migration pattern of my paternal ancestors in Figure 19 is the pattern revealed in Figure 16 of the Austronesian languages. It is without question, the relationship between Taiwan’s indigenous languages and those of the south Pacific regions is undisputed. The Austronesian language family spread along with the human migration from Taiwan through the South China Sea into the Philippines, Java, Borneo, and Sumatra. Later migrations included migrations from the South China Sea onto the mainland in Vietnam and the Malay Peninsula.

Figure 20
Pattern of Austronesian Migration
~11,500-4,100 Years Ago

Austronesia Area Map

This pattern is consistent with the archaeological discovery of the Liangdao man 8,000 years ago. It suggests the Austronesian origin into Taiwan from the southeast coast of China. Thus, representing the pre-Austronesian split apart from Austroasiatics in the southeast coast of China ~6,000 years ago and dispersing of the south Chinese rice farmers into Taiwan to become proto-Austronesians.

Adding further support for the pattern are DNA genomes from other prehistoric inhabitants of Southeast Asia 4100 years ago which have been sequenced by teams led by Hugh McColl and Mark Lipson et al. Their progenitors successfully occupied Taiwan, which is commonly thought of as being the watershed of Austronesia and the Austronesian culture, From there they expanded into the Philippines. As Peter Bellwood points out in his work, 2017 Neolithic Cultures in Southeast China, Taiwan and Luzon, China south of the Yangzi can be regarded in cultural, linguistic, and population terms as part of Southeast Asia.

Neolithic is a term meaning “New Stone Age”, or the time period concurrent with the advent of farming and domesticated animals rather than hunting and gathering. For China, this period ranged from ~10,000 to 2000 BCE.

Figure 15
Neolithic Haplogroup O


Current genetic analysis suggests the majority of the people in the Philippines are of Austronesian descent who migrated from Taiwan around ~2000 or so years ago as the result of maritime trade. Similarly, these progenitors have become dominant in Borneo and the Malay Peninsula and furthered the Austronesian expansion into Indonesia ~2100 years ago. This is pertinent to my ancestral surmise.

My most recent marker, A 16139 falls within this geographical location and timeframe (2400-5400 years before present time)

The consensus of my having paternal Austronesian ancestry among the various autosomal and Y-DNA testing providers

Figure 21
Archaeological sites in southern Taiwan, the Batanes Islands, and northern Luzon

Austronesia Area Map

As Hsiao-chun Hung writes in his paper, History and Current Debates of Archaeology in Island Southeast Asia, 2019, he refers to linguistic and archaeological findings in support of the Out of Taiwan (OOT) concept as valid for describing the geographic spread of populations across ISEA from Taiwan. Similarities among the Austronesian speakers of Taiwan and the Philippines and Western Indonesia have been correlated with the migratory routes inferred by phyogeography and archeology in Southeast Asia. An interesting video of How the Taiwanese Aborigines Shaped Modern Asia can be viewed here. The vast area depicted in the Out of Taiwan Model is of interest to my ancestral search.

Figure 22
Out of Taiwan Model
Austronesian Expansion into ISEA

Austronesia Area Map

Recent Paternal Ancestry

The answer to the geographical migration of my ancestors to present day location lies in my 28 unamed private variants yet to be confirmed as genetic markers. There were known to have formed on average every two-three generations. In this case, 70 generations or a span of 1400 to 2450 years. The reason for this variance in times is twofold.

I represent one biological generation, my parents are in a another generation, and my child in yet another generation.

A vew centuries ago, the average life-span was 20 years and now in westernized cultures it is 35 years for males.

Given, in time, my novel variants likely will become new markers and point to more recent ancestory, I suspect within the last 500 years, it will fall within the geographical area of Figure 23.

Figure 23
Taiwan Austronesian Southeast Asia Expansion
6000-2000 Years Ago

Austronesia Area Map

For the moment, my thoughts on recent ancestry are best expressed by the words of Roberta Estes about her DNA research for a paternal ancestor, "If I’m incredibly lucky, maybe there will be a family line SNP (Novel Unnamed Variant) and it won’t just narrow the line, it will give me a long-awaited answer by genetically announcing which line was his."


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