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Regions with significant populations
Flag of India.svg  India
(Andaman and Nicobar Islands)
Flag of Malaysia.svg  Malaysia
(Peninsular Malaysia)
Flag of the Philippines.svg  Philippines
(Luzon, Palawan, Panay, Negros, and Mindanao)
Flag of Thailand.svg  Thailand
(Southern Thailand)
Andamanese languages, Aslian languages, Nicobarese languages, Philippine Negrito languages
Animism, folk religions
Negrito group photo (Malaya, 1905) Malaya 1905.jpg
Negrito group photo (Malaya, 1905)

The Negrito ( /nɪˈɡrt/ ) are several diverse ethnic groups who inhabit isolated parts of Maritime Southeast Asia. [1] Their current populations include: the Andamanese peoples of the Andaman Islands, the Semang and Batek peoples of Peninsular Malaysia, the Maniq people of Southern Thailand, the Aeta people, Ati people, as well as 30 other official recognized ethnic groups in the Philippines.


Based on their physical similarities, Negritos were once considered a single population of related people. Recent research, however, suggests that they include several separate groups, as well as demonstrating that they are not closely related to the Pygmies of Africa. The pre-Neolithic Negrito populations of Southeast Asia were largely replaced by the expansion of Southern Mongoloid populations, beginning about 5,000 years ago. [2]

Historically they engaged in trade with the local population that eventually invaded their lands and were also often subjugated to slave raids while also paying tributes to the local Southeast Asian rulers and kingdoms. Some Negrito pygmies from the southern forests were enslaved and exploited until modern times since 724 AD. [3] While some have lived in isolation others have become assimilated with the general local population.


The word Negrito is the Spanish diminutive of negro , used to mean "little black person". This usage was coined by 16th-century Spanish missionaries operating in the Philippines, and was borrowed by other European travellers and colonialists across Austronesia to label various peoples perceived as sharing relatively small physical stature and dark skin. [4] Contemporary usage of an alternative Spanish epithet, Negrillos, also tended to bundle these peoples with the pygmy peoples of Central Africa, based on perceived similarities in stature and complexion. [4] (Historically, the label Negrito has also been used to refer to African pygmies.) [5] The appropriateness of using the label "Negrito" to bundle peoples of different ethnicities based on similarities in stature and complexion has been challenged. [4]

Negritos in a fishing boat (Philippines, 1899) Negrito Fishing Boat, Philippines (1899).jpg
Negritos in a fishing boat (Philippines, 1899)

Many online dictionaries give the plural in English as either "Negritos" or "Negritoes", without preference. The plural in Spanish is "Negritos". [6] [7]


Most Negrito groups lived as hunter-gatherer s, while some also used agriculture. Today most Negrito tribes live assimilated to the majority population of their homeland. Discrimination and poverty are often problems. [8]


Great Andamanese couple in the Andaman Islands, India (1876) Great Andamanese couple.jpg
Great Andamanese couple in the Andaman Islands, India (1876)
Map showing the suggested ancestry per ethnicity and tribes (orange and yellow being the Negrito and Melanesian ancestry respectively) Early stages of the Austronesian diaspora showing best-fit genomic proportions of Austronesian-speaking peoples in ISEA and their inferred population movements.png
Map showing the suggested ancestry per ethnicity and tribes (orange and yellow being the Negrito and Melanesian ancestry respectively)


Paternal haplogroups found in some Negrito populations are Haplogroup D-M174*, a branch of D-M174 among Andaman Islanders, as well as Haplogroup O-P31 which is also common among the now Austroasiatic-speaking Negrito peoples, such as the Maniq and the Semang in Malaysia. These two haplogroups may have arrived with non-Negrito male migrations, following a genetic drift. [9] The Onge and all the Adamanan Islanders belong strictly to the mitochondrial Haplogroup M it is also the predominant marker of other Negrito tribes and Australian aborigines, Papuans. [10] Analysis of mtDNA, which is inherited exclusively by maternal descent, confirms the above results. All Onge belong to mDNA M, which is unique to Onge people. [11] [12]

A Negrito man with a hunting bow (c. 1900) from Negros Island, Philippines A Negrito from Negros Island (c. 1900, Philippines).jpg
A Negrito man with a hunting bow (c. 1900) from Negros Island, Philippines

Most other Negritos, like the Aeta or Ati people are of great interest to genetic, anthropological and historical researchers because at least 83% of them belong to haplogroup K2b, in the form of its rare primary clades K2b1* and P* (a.k.a. K2b2* or P-P295*). Most Aeta males (60%) carry K-P397 (K2b1), which is otherwise uncommon in the Philippines and is strongly associated with the indigenous peoples of Melanesia and Micronesia. Basal P* is rare outside the Aeta and some other groups within Maritime Southeast Asia. [13]

A young Onge mother with her baby (Andaman Islands, India, 1905) A young Onge mother with her baby.jpg
A young Onge mother with her baby (Andaman Islands, India, 1905)

This has often been interpreted to the effect that they are remnants of the original expansion from Africa some 70,000 years ago. Studies in osteology, cranial shape and dental morphology have connected the Semang to Australoid populations, while connecting the Andamanese to Africans in craniometry and to South Asians in dental morphology, and Philippine Negritos to Southeast Asians. A possible conclusion of this is that the dispersal of mitochondrial haplogroup B4a1a is connected to the distinction between Philippine and other Negritos. [14] However, another study suggests that the Onge (indigenous to Little Andaman) are "more closely related to Southeast Asians than they are to present-day South Asians", and that the Great Andamanese "appear to have received a degree of relatively recent admixture from adjacent regional populations but also share a significant degree of genetic ancestry with Malaysian negrito groups". [15]

Principal Component analysis of Australo-Melanesians with world populations (Aghakhanian et al. 2015) PCA of Orang Asli and Andamanese with world populations in HGDP.png
Principal Component analysis of Australo-Melanesians with world populations (Aghakhanian et al. 2015)

A study of human blood group systems and proteins in the 1950s suggested that the Andamanese peoples were more closely related to Oceanic peoples than African pygmy peoples. Genetic studies on Philippine Negritos, based on polymorphic blood enzymes and antigens, showed that they were similar to their surrounding populations. [16]

Negrito peoples may descend from Australoid-Melanesian settlers of Austronesia. Despite being isolated, the different peoples do share genetic similarities with their neighboring populations. [16] [17] They also show relevant phenotypic (anatomic) variations which require explanation. [17]

In contrast, a recent genetic study found that unlike other early groups in Malesia, Andamanese Negritos lack Denisovan hominin admixture in their DNA. Denisovan ancestry is found among indigenous Melanesian and Aboriginal Australian populations at between 4–6%. [18] [19]

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. [20] Indeed, this sentiment is echoed in a more recent work from 2013 which concludes that "at the current level of genetic resolution ... there is no evidence of a single ancestral population for the different groups traditionally defined as 'negritos'. [15] A paper on East Asian genomic variation published in 2019, further gave support to that position, noting that the shared phenotype of 'negrito' populations is probably a case of local adaptation and does not reflect common ancestry. [21]

Recent studies, concerning the population history of Southeast Asia, suggest that most Negrito populations in Southeast Asia show a rather strong "Mongoloid" admixture (Austronesian and Austroasiatic), ranging between 30% to 50% of their ancestry. [22]

Bulbeck (2013) shows the Andamanese maternal mtDNA is entirely mitochondrial Haplogroup M . [14] Their Y-DNA belong to the D haplogroup which has not been seen outside of the Andamans, a fact that underscores the insularity of these tribes. [10] Analysis of mtDNA, which is inherited exclusively by maternal descent, confirms the above results. All Onge belong to tmDNA M, which is unique to Onge people. [11] [12]

A 2010 study by the Anthropological Survey of India and the Texas Biomedical Research Institute identified seven genomes from 26 isolated "relic tribes" from the Indian mainland, such as the Baiga tribe, which share "two synonymous polymorphisms with the M42 haplogroup, which is specific to Australian Aborigines". These were specific mtDNA mutations that are shared exclusively by Australian aborigines and these Indian tribes, and no other known human groupings. [23]


An Ati woman of Kalibo, Philippines in 2006 Ati woman.jpg
An Ati woman of Kalibo, Philippines in 2006

A number of features would seem to suggest a common origin for the Negrito and Pygmy peoples, including short stature, dark skin, scant body hair, and occasional steatopygia (large, curvaceous buttocks and thighs). The claim that the Andamanese more closely resemble African pygmies than other Austronesian populations in their cranial morphology in a study of 1973 added some weight to this theory, before genetic studies pointed to a closer relationship with their neighbours. [16]

Multiple studies also show that Negritos share a closer cranial affinity with Aboriginal Australians and Melanesians. [24] [25]

See also


Related Research Articles

Australo-Melanesian Group of populations indigenous to Maritime Southeast Asia and Oceania.

In physical anthropology, forensic anthropology and archaeogenetics, Australo-Melanesians form a large group of populations indigenous to Maritime Southeast Asia and Oceania.

Pygmy peoples ethnic groups whose average height is unusually short

In anthropology, pygmy peoples are ethnic groups whose average height is unusually short. The term pygmyism is used to describe the phenotype of endemic short stature for populations in which adult men are on average less than 150 cm tall.

Andamanese languages language family of Andaman

The Andamanese languages are a pair of language families spoken by the Andamanese Negritos on the Andaman Islands: Great Andamanese and Ongan. The Sentinelese language is the language of an uncontacted people and therefore at present unclassifiable.

Melanesians Broad ethnolinguistic classification

Melanesians are the predominant and indigenous inhabitants of Melanesia, in a wide area from New Guinea to as far east as the islands of Vanuatu and Fiji. Most speak either one of the many languages of the Austronesian language family, especially ones in the Oceanic branch, or from one of the many unrelated families of Papuan languages. Other languages are the several creoles of the region, such as Tok Pisin, Hiri Motu, Solomon Islands Pijin, Bislama, and Papuan Malay.

Andamanese People of Andaman archipelago

The Andamanese are the various indigenous peoples of the Andaman Islands, part of India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands union territory in the southeastern part of the Bay of Bengal in Southeast Asia. The Andamanese peoples are among the various groups considered Negrito owing to their dark skin and diminutive stature. All Andamanese traditionally lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, and appear to have lived in substantial isolation for thousands of years. It is suggested that the Andamanese settled in the Andaman Islands around the latest glacial maximum, around 26,000 years ago.

Onge ethnic group in India

The Onge are one of the Andamanese indigenous peoples of the Andaman Islands. Traditionally hunter-gatherers, they are a designated as a Scheduled Tribe of India.

Ethnic groups in the Philippines

The Philippines is inhabited by more than 175 ethnolinguistic nations, the majority of whose languages are Austronesian in origin. Many of these nations converted to Christianity, particularly the lowland-coastal nations, and adopted foreign elements of culture. Ethnolinguistic nations include the Ivatan, Pangasinan, Kapampangan, Tagalog, Bicolano, Visayan people, Zamboangueño, Subanon, and more.

Genetics and archaeogenetics of South Asia is the study of the genetics and archaeogenetics of the ethnic groups of South Asia. It aims at uncovering these groups' genetic history. The geographic position of South Asia makes its biodiversity important for the study of the early dispersal of anatomically modern humans across Asia.

Jōmon people generic name of people who lived in the Japanese archipelago during the Jōmon period

Jōmon people is the generic name of several people who lived in the Japanese archipelago during the Jōmon period. Today, most Japanese historians raise the possibility that the Jōmon were not a single homogeneous people but consisted of multiple groups. According to one study published in May 2019, modern Japanese people have inherited on average about 10% of their genome from a Jōmon population represented by a specimen obtained from the Funadomari archaeological site on Rebun Island. The indigenous Ryukyuan and Ainu peoples have higher amounts of Jōmon ancestry than the Japanese do.

Haplogroup R (mtDNA) Human mitochondrial DNA haplogroup

Haplogroup R is a widely distributed human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroup. Haplogroup R is associated with the peopling of Eurasia after about 70,000 years ago, and is distributed in modern populations throughout the world outside of sub-Saharan Africa.

Haplogroup D-M174

Haplogroup D1 or D-M174 is a subclade of Haplogroup D-CTS3946. This haplogroup is found primarily in East Asia and the Andaman Islands, though it is also found regularly with low frequency in Central Asia and Southeast Asia.

Haplogroup K or K-M9 is a human Y-chromosome DNA haplogroup. A sublineage of haplogroup IJK, K-M9 and its descendant clades represent a geographically widespread and diverse haplogroupThe lineages have long been found among males on every continent.

Haplogroup P also known as P-P295 and K2b2 is a Y-chromosome DNA haplogroup in human genetics. P-P295 is a branch of K2b, which is a branch of Haplogroup K2 (K-M526).

Human Y-chromosome DNA haplogroup Type of genetic haplogroup

In human genetics, a human Y-chromosome DNA haplogroup is a haplogroup defined by mutations in the non-recombining portions of DNA from the Y chromosome. Mutations that are shared by many people are called single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).

Haplogroup R, or R-M207, is a Y-chromosome DNA haplogroup. It is both numerous and widespread amongst modern populations.

In human mitochondrial genetics, haplogroup E is a human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroup typical for the Malay Archipelago. It is a subgroup of haplogroup M9.

Peopling of India The immigration patterns of different races of people of India.

The peopling of India refers to the migration of Homo sapiens into the Indian subcontinent. Anatomically modern humans settled India in multiple waves of early migrations, over tens of millennia. The first migrants came with the Southern Coastal dispersal, ca. 65,000 years ago, whereafter complex migrations within south and southeast Asia took place. With the onset of farming the population of India changed significantly by the migration of Iranian agri-culturalists and the Indo-Europeans, while the migrations of the Munda people and the Tibeto-Burmese speaking people also added new elements.

The tables below provide statistics on the human Y-chromosome DNA haplogroups most commonly found among ethnolinguistic groups and populations from East and South-East Asia.

Haplogroup D-M55 also known as Haplogroup D1a2 is a Y-chromosome haplogroup. It is one of two branches of Haplogroup D1a, The other is D1a1 and found in Tibet and at a moderate distribution in Central Asia.

Haplogroup D-Z27276 human Y-chromosome DNA haplogroup

Haplogroup D-Z27276 also known as Haplogroup D1a1 is a Y-chromosome haplogroup. It is one of two branches of Haplogroup D1, one of the descendants of Haplogroup D. The other is D-M55 which is only found in Japan.


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Further reading