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date: 25 March 2019

The Peopling of Madagascar

Summary and Keywords

Since the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century the observed ethnic complexity of the Malagasy, the Madagascan people, has been a subject of conjecture in several respects. When did people first reach Madagascar? Where did the different elements of the population originate? What was the sequence of their arrival? What was the nature of their maritime migrations? Early answers to these questions relied on the historical traditions of some Malagasy populations, especially of the Merina and highland groups, and on an extensive archive of historical and ethnographic observations.

Recent approaches, through historical linguistics, palaeoecology, genomic history, and archaeology, especially in the last thirty years have provided new perspectives on the enduring issues of Madagascan population history. The age of initial colonization is still debated vigorously, but the bulk of current archaeological data, together with linguistic and genomic histories, suggest that people first arrived around the middle of the first millennium ce or later.

Evidence of linguistic origins and human genetics supports the prevailing view that the first people came from Southeast Asia, the majority of them specifically from Borneo. Later Bantu migration from Africa was followed by admixture of those populations and other smaller groups from South Asia, in Madagascar. Admixture in East Africa before migration to Madagascar is no longer favored, although it cannot be ruled out entirely.

Voyaging capability is a key topic that is, however, difficult to pin down. There is no necessity in the current data to envisage transoceanic voyages, and no evidence of Southeast Asian vessels in East Africa or Madagascar in the first millennium ce, although it is impossible to rule that out. The safest assumption at present is that contact between Southeast Asia and Madagascar during the period of colonization occurred through the established network of coastal and monsoon passages and shipping around the northern perimeter of the Indian Ocean.

Keywords: Madagascar, Malagasy, population history, archaeology, genomic history, Southeast Asia, East Africa

Madagascan Population History

The ethnic complexity of the Malagasy people has been a matter of historical discussion ever since it was first recorded by European observers in the 16th century. That an island relatively close to East Africa should exhibit a strong African aspect was expected, but evidence of an equally strong Southeast Asian influence, and local traditions of Middle Eastern and South Asian ancestry, was perplexing. Various theories developed to account for the evidence, some favoring early African and later Southeast Asian migration, some the inverse, and others the development of a mixed population in East Africa before migration to Madagascar.

In taking up that discussion, the Malagasy population referred to in this article is that which existed in the premodern era, before 1500 ce, and it has few definable dimensions. Almost nothing is known of its dynamic characteristics, such as birth and death rates, patterns of growth, and variations in size or density. However, the sources and sequence of premodern immigration by which it was constituted, and the likely travel routes and ages of migration, are matters of historical interest that have been studied intensively through various scientific approaches.

Madagascar is larger than France and lies across the equatorial to subtropical zones in the western Indian Ocean. An island of Gondwanan geology with a rich and highly endemic biota, it was intrinsically attractive to human settlement and was potentially attainable once maritime technology made offshore passages of 300–500 kilometers feasible for colonizing groups to cross the Mozambique Channel. As that facility probably did not exist before 2500 bce in the Indian Ocean,1 an approximate terminus post quem is set for initial colonization of Madagascar. The question of when human habitation actually began has been the subject of longstanding debate.

Historical Views of Early Colonization

There is uncertainty about the earliest historical references to Madagascar. The island of Menouthias with its sewn boats, in The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea,2 has been suggested as Madagascar,3 but on contextual evidence it was more probably Zanzibar or Pemba.4 Muslim traders arrived to the coast of East Africa by the 8th century, but identification of Qanbalu in 10th century Arabic records as Madagascar, or a Madagascan association with the place or people called Waqwaq, is widely doubted.5 Muhammed al Idrisi mentions passages from Zabag (or Ziibag), probably Sumatra, to East Africa in the 12th century but the earliest specific record might be Ibn al Mujawir’s 1230 ce story of Ahl al-Qumr, meaning Madagascans or Comorians, sailing directly to Aden in outrigger boats and back along the coast of East Africa.6

Soon after European contact in 1500, “Javanese” origins were perceived in the Malagasy people and language by Portuguese navigators, such as Diogo do Couto in 1557, and in 1613 Franciso d’Andrada thought it was “probable that Madagascar has been conquered by the Javanese and that its inhabitants are a mixture of Javanese and the natives [from Southeast Africa].”7 In 1614 the Portuguese Jesuit Luis Mariano proposed a double origin of the Malagasy—African and Indonesian8—and in the first detailed observations by Etienne de Flacourt in 1648–1655, “white” and “black” populations of Malagasy were distinguished in the southeast region (Figure 1). Flacourt thought the former were descended from Jews who had arrived before the period of exile in Babylon (i.e., about 600 bce) while the latter descended from an aboriginal population.9 White chiefs of the Anosy region claimed descent from a daughter of Adam but Flacourt thought this story was invented to counter greater implicit antiquity of black descent and because “en ce pais un homme ne peut jamais este plus relevé, que ce que porte la naissance” (i.e., that a man’s status depended ultimately upon his ancestry). That is a typically Austronesian perspective, but Flacourt found that the white families had been in Madagascar for only 150–500 years, thus arriving no earlier than about 1150 ce.10

The Peopling of MadagascarClick to view larger

Figure 1. “White” and “black” families of southeast Malagasy, as perceived by Etienne de Flacourt about 1650 ce.

The inference by these early observers of two populations, one African and long resident, the other arriving later from either or both the Near East or Southeast Asia, sketched the prevailing model of Madagascan population history up to the late 19th century. It was then inverted by Alfred Grandidier’s assertion in 1872 that the aboriginal population in Madagascar was not African but rather of Indo-Melanesian descent; “nègres indo-océanians,” notably from the negrito populations of Southeast Asia, and that African settlement began much later. This hypothesis relied upon several propositions: that sailing conditions and maritime capability favored Southeast Asian over African origins; that Malagasy physical and cultural traits had few African parallels but many with Southeast Asia; and above all that the prevailing language originated in Southeast Asia. Historically recorded Southeast Asian immigrants arrived after European discovery in 1500 ce and soon became settled largely in the eastern highlands, yet people of diverse origins living often in mutual hostility throughout Madagascar were already speaking a Malayo-Polynesian language, the implication being that the earlier population must have been primarily Southeast Asian rather than African.11

The Grandidiers thought that the Indo-Melanesian colonists had arrived about 2000–2500 bce in Madagascar as part of a diaspora in southern Asia induced by Mongolian and other invasions. A purported Idumean Jewish settlement in the Comores and Madagascar, possibly from communities in Yemen or the Red Sea, was said to have begun at the time of Solomon (i.e., 800 bce), although some linguistic data suggested a post-Islamic origin not earlier than the 7th century ce.12 Less speculative, and based on historical and archaeological evidence, is the arrival of Arab migrants in the Comores in the 9th century. They probably traded along the Madagascan coast, and began to settle in northern Madagascar in the 10th or 11th century and on the east coast soon afterward. They were, perhaps, initially Omani Azd Muslims forced out of the Comores by sectarian disputes with Sunni Muslims, some of whom also moved to Madagascar. The Grandidiers argue that it was the Arab colonists who brought the first African population to Madagascar, as slaves, from about the 10th century. The only independent African settlement recorded historically in Madagascar, by Tristan da Cunha in the early 16th century, was of former slaves from East Africa. Groups of Persians, South Asian Muslims from Kutch and Gudjarat, and some Chinese and Japanese are also mentioned in historical records.13

One of the most important of the historical populations was the Southeast Asians referred to as Malays or Javanese, although their precise origins were uncertain. Historical arguments about when Southeast Asians arrived focused on the absence of Sanskrit in the Malagasy language, which implies that migration had occurred before the 9th century, but the Grandidiers objected that Malagasy could have had much older pre-Sanskrit origins if the original settlers were Indo-Melanesian.14 Such arguments aside, the evidence from Malagasy traditions and regnal histories shows that Southeast Asian settlement, at least by the royal lines of the Andiana of Imerina, began about the middle of the 16th century, after European contact with Madagascar.15 In the eastern interior they married into the leading families, or Hova, of the aboriginal Southeast Asian population, known as Vazimba.

Leaving aside a conjectural original of the aboriginal Malagasy among negrito populations in southern Asia and western Oceania, the Grandidiers’ hypothesis had two particular merits: its attention to historical sources indicated much wider diversity of migrant populations and ages of migration than had been comprehended in the older observations, and it challenged the casual assumption that the first migrants must have come from the nearest continental shores in East Africa.

Modern Sources of Evidence for Early Migration

The role of Southeast Asian immigrants in premodern Madagascar has continued to be emphasized since the 19th century. Ethnographic observations suggested that the Madagascan outrigger canoe and similar vessels in East Africa, along with some musical instruments and other articles of material culture, were of Southeast Asian origin.16 That theme was reinforced by evidence that about 90 percent of the Malagasy language lexicon is shared with the Ma’anyan language from the Barito River district of South Borneo.17 Recent lexicostatistical analysis indicates that all twenty-three dialects of Malagasy originated in the same founding population in Indonesia and that it moved in a single migratory event to Madagascar.18 The oceanic translocation of people, plants, and animals, the age and material visibility of early people in Madagascar, and the nature of migration voyages are issues for discussion here.

Biotic Transfers and Human Genomic Histories

The origins, and to some extent the sequence and ages of immigration, are indicated by evidence of the premodern transfer of exotic food plants and domestic or commensal animals to Madagascar and by construction of human genomic histories. By the late first or early second millennium ce, rice, coconut, bananas, yams, and taro, all of South or Southeast Asian origin, were cultivated in Madagascar.19 Asian mung bean and cotton seeds occurred in early Madagascan settlements.20 Of Asian animals, the domestic pig occurred by the 10th century in Zanzibar and the Comores and by the 13th century on Madagascar. Haplogroup D of the Asian domestic chicken has a South Asian origin and occurs in Madagascar and throughout Southeast Asia and the Pacific islands.21 African crops such as sorghum and millets are absent in early Madagascan sites, but chicken may have arrived with African or South Asian domestic species, including cattle and goats, which had existed for some centuries in coastal East Africa. Madagascan dogs have almost entirely African genetic ancestry, with minor and probably later Southeast Asian admixture.22 About the late first millennium ce, black rats23 and mice24 from South Asia reached Madagascar from Arabian peninsula populations. There is nothing in these data that requires transfer by sea to Madagascar, except across the Mozambique Channel, even if it is very likely that much of the material was, in fact, transported by sea.25 Most particularly, there is nothing in these data to require direct oceanic passages between Southeast Asia and Africa.

If evidence of biotic transfers emphasizes Asian origins, then human genetics indicate a significant African contribution. Genomic histories from Madagascar specify the admixture of Southeast Asian and African populations that is expected from the phenotypical appearance of Malagasy generally, and also some South Asian ancestry.26 Phylogenetic analysis of maternally inherited mitochondrial (mt), paternally derived Y chromosome, and autosomal (both sexes) DNA has revealed some instructive patterns. Autosomal DNA shows that Malagasy have about 70 percent African and 30 percent Southeast Asian lineages,27 or 63 percent and 37 percent in more recent data,28 and there are regional and gender differences. Y chromosome data indicate that Madagascan highland males have 50 percent African ancestry and coastal groups 72 percent. Conversely, mtDNA indicates predominantly Southeast Asian ancestry of females at 63 percent in the highlands and 62 percent coastally.29 Overall, highland Malagasy have mostly Asian ancestry, while coastal Malagasy have mostly African ancestry; at more than 65 percent in each case. Comparison of Madagascan genetic groups with potential source groups elsewhere shows that African descent originates in Bantu populations, especially in Southeast Africa, and Southeast Asian descent is from South Borneo,30 although there are minor contributions from elsewhere in Southeast Asia, from South Asia, and from more northerly Bantu groups.

The genetic analyses provide some further reconstruction of genetic origins and the migration sequence. Detection of haplogroup M23, specific to Madagascar, suggested ancient colonization, perhaps by the people known traditionally as Vazimba. That was ruled out when M23 was shown as originating around 750 ce.31 Initial simulation of the arrival age in Madagascar, based on sharing of haplotypes for colonizing populations of 200–2,000 people, ranged from 2050 bce–950 ce for African and Asian females, but only 1150–1875 ce for African males.32 More recently, the genetic split between Malagasy and South Borneo source populations has been estimated to have occurred 1050–50 bce incrementally, or relatively suddenly at about 550 bce. The estimated date of a split between southeast African Bantu and Malagasy descendant populations is about 450 ce.33

The relationship of those estimates of genetic divergence to actual ages of Madagascan colonization is not immediately obvious. Divergence dates show the latest possible time of common ancestry, but groups ancestral to Malagasy might have migrated earlier or later. For example, a diverged population could have been conserved by short-range migration to one or more intermediate locations before moving far afield. This issue is complicated in the case of Madagascar by demonstration that the linguistically close Ma’anyan have only a distant genetic connection to Malagasy, whereas there is a strong genetic connection between Malagasy and the Banjar people of South Borneo.34 The anomaly is resolved if the Banjar are descended from a mixture of Ma’anyan and Malay in Borneo and were, about 950 ce, speaking an effectively proto-Malagasy language. This hypothesis situates the migrants who became Malagasy in the maritime trading empire of Srivijaya, 6th to 13th centuries, which encompassed Java, Sumatra, peninsular Malaya, and parts of coastal Borneo and Cambodia. It is possible that groups of rural Banjar moved to Malay trading posts in Borneo, or to the central islands of the empire, and that eventually at least one of them migrated around or across the Indian Ocean, possibly in Malayan shipping.35

Demographic inference of population expansion in Madagascar suggests it began 950–700 ce, initially in the north, which is as near as it is possible to get to an age of colonization, currently. Estimation of ages of ensuing admixture between African and Southeast Asian populations refers to the time since the admixing process was complete, or at least well-advanced, rather than its beginning. The Madagascan admixture process occurred 1050–1450 ce, beginning before 1150 ce in the east and ending 1285 ce in the north, where African descent is strongest.36 The Southeast Asian component of Malagasy women is thought to have arrived as a small founding population, perhaps only thirty individuals, around 750 ce.37 Estimated ages of population expansion and related admixture suggest that immigration of Malagasy ancestors occurred rather later than ages of divergence from African and Southeast Asian populations might suggest.

The human genetic evidence as a whole indicates two useful points about the early population history. First, that while the age of initial colonization cannot be clearly specified, it was probably around or earlier than 700 ce but somewhat later than modeled in population divergence ages. Second, Southeast Asian immigration occurred before African, and admixture then occurred in Madagascar, but variably in time and place as reflected in regionally varied sex-biased ratios between Africans and Southeast Asians. It was essentially a male-led African diffusion into an existing Southeast Asian population.38

Evidence from Archaeology and Palaeoecology

Archaeological data add to knowledge of human population sources, but they are particularly useful for establishing colonization chronology. Rockshelter sites of local foraging and open sites with evidence of swiddening date to the 6th–8th centuries ce on the northeast coast. These sites have evidence of iron-working, shell-impressed pottery—possibly of Southeast Asian inspiration—and the manufacture of vessels from chlorite schist. Some radiocarbon date ranges in these sites extend back to the 3rd century ce, but there are uncertainties in their interpretation.39 In any event, by the 10th century, substantial settlements existed on the northeast coast, including the small town of Mahilaka, which had locally made and imported ceramics, metal-working, rice, goats, cattle, and imported glass beads. Exports probably included rock crystal, chlorite schist vessels, natural products, and possibly slaves.40 In southern Madagascar the earliest ceramics are of locally made Andaro style, dating to about 900 ce, and triangular incised ware, common on the southern Swahili coast and dating to 600–1000 ce.41

The consensus that these data indicated initial colonization in the mid or late first millennium ce has been challenged by evidence purporting to show that Lakaton’i Anja, a rockshelter in northernmost Madagascar that had been thought to date to the 4th to 6th centuries ce and was regarded as the oldest habitation site in Madagascar, had actually been occupied by at least 2000bce.42 That age, widely accepted by archaeologists, is eminently debatable.43 Ceramic styles and radiocarbon results date the three upper layers of Lakaton’i Anja to the 11th to 14th centuries, and the lower layers, 4 and 5, to the 10th through 13th centuries ce. However, another dating method, optically stimulated luminescence (OSL), agreed with radiocarbon results for the upper layers but estimated layer 4 as dating to 750–250 bce and layer 5 as 2430–1520 bce. The difficulty with this result is that OSL uses quartz grain samples from undisturbed sediments to date the natural sequence of sedimentation. Cultural material is dated by OSL, and only by association, if it is enclosed within undisturbed sediment. At Lakaton’i Anja, the site was heavily disturbed by termite burrowing with the result that about one-third of the site sediment was displaced downward, carrying with it most or all of the cultural material that ended up in the lower layers. OSL data suggest that the displaced sediment dated to younger than 500 ce, and within it were charcoal, sherds, stone flakes, fish bones, and a glass bead dating to later than 700 ce.

Conjecture that Lakaton’i Anja might have the antiquity indicated by the accepted OSL dates on the lower layers has rested additionally upon small, flaked, chert tools found there and in another northern site, Ambohiposa. They are the first in Madagascar to disclose this possible indication of habitation during the Later Stone Age, which persisted up to about 3000 bce in East Africa.44 However, the stone flake tools in Madagascar are unconvincing examples of East African types and Ambohiposa, like Lakaton’i Anja, has a radiocarbon chronology dating only to the late first millennium ce.

By radiocarbon dating, then, the earliest archaeological sites in Madagascar are probably no older than the mid-first millennium ce. Furthermore, given that almost none of the charcoal samples used in radiocarbon dating in Madagascar have been identified to taxa, then the extent of the “old wood” problem is unknown and the dates overall are possibly 100–300 years too old.45

This has not mattered as much as it might because other data have been interpreted as evidence that human occupation and anthropogenic biological change in Madagascar had begun much earlier than suggested by the archaeological chronologies. From evidence of forest firing and vegetation change, and from radiocarbon dating of extinct animal bones bearing damage interpreted as cutmarks from butchery, the presence of people in Madagascar has been proposed as beginning 0–500 ce,46 500–0 bce,47 or before 2000 bce.48 There is an undeniable possibility, of course, that a landmass the size of Madagascar might have been the setting for unconnected colonizations at different times and from unrelated sources, and the scope of research is still too narrow to rule that out. Nevertheless, the region from which come most of the data and the main hypotheses arguing for human habitation earlier than the mid-first millennium ce, is Southwest Madagascar, and research there is coming to a more conservative conclusion about the age of initial colonization.

The research centers around potential anthropogenic damage to bones of the extinct Madagascan megafauna, including giant species of lemur and tortoise, the elephant birds, large species of tenrec and the carnivorous Fossa, dwarf hippopotamus, and the Nile crocodile. The bones come from sites sometimes described as archaeological,49 but they are primarily subfossil localities where the remains of animals that died naturally have accumulated in former lakes, ponds, or marshes. Some specimens collected more than one hundred years ago exhibit scratches, scores, or puncture marks that have been interpreted as butchery damage, but reexamination under electron microscopy indicates that the marks are more plausibly attributed to scavenging, trampling by other megafauna, various processes of weathering and burial conditions, and damage incurred in bone recovery from sites.

The argument that butchery occurred rests on very few cases50 of megafaunal bones that have undoubted cutmarks; slices, gashes, and chop marks that appear to have been made by metal tools. Recent research, using 2,756 bones or bone pieces from new excavations in three sites from which butchery of megafauna had been asserted, found relatively numerous cutmarks on bones of existing species, mostly of the sifaka lemur, but only two marks of arguable premodern human activity on megafaunal bone. There is evidence of cultural modification on a small number of megafaunal bones in museum collections, but it is impossible to show that it occurred perimortem, as in butchery, or to rule out modern damage.51 Consequently, radiocarbon dates on Madagascan megafauna provide an unreliable guide to the age of the bone damage they might have sustained. If reliable dates are restricted to bones recovered in controlled excavations where the existence of prior damage or damage during recovery can be verified, then only one cutmark, on a dwarf hippopotamus bone from a newly excavated context, is acceptably dated by the radiocarbon age 690–880 ce.52

This conclusion is hardly surprising because there is remarkably little material evidence of killing, butchery, or consumption of Madagascan megafauna. Substantial bone breakage, bone burning, and association of bone with butchery tools, charcoal, middens, and other signs of human occupation, which are the common attributes of prehistoric megafaunal processing elsewhere, have not been found in Madagascar. It is probable, nevertheless, that human arrival in Madagascar did lead to severe depletion of the megafauna before the modern era and eventually extinction. Radiocarbon dates on elephant bird eggshell extend up to about 1400 ce, even later,53 but with few exceptions they terminate by 1000 ce on megafaunal bone as a whole.

Recent palynological evidence of vegetation change also suggests that undoubted anthropogenic impacts may have been later than argued previously. Forest burning around 0–100 ce is very largely confined to the arid southwest region, where natural firing would be expected in any case, with wetter regions showing later rises in charcoal abundance around 1000–1200 ce. A summary of the current Madagascan data points to substantial vegetation transitions and forest burning occurring 800–1200 ce.54 Whether megafaunal disappearance was the product of “imperceptible overkill” reflecting the vulnerability of generally conservative life histories among megafaunal species during a period of rapid human population growth,55 or due to the relentlessly deleterious effects of pronounced climatic dessication in Madagascar generally from 750 to 1200 ce,56 or to some other cause or combination of causes, there is little doubt that the period around the end of the first millennium ce was the most critical.

That this is likely to have been the approximate period of initial human colonization is also suggested by a regional comparison. Zanzibar Island on the East African coastal shelf, which was dry land during the last Ice Age, was inhabited 22,000 bce, but its neighbor in deeper water, Pemba Island, was not populated until the 7th century ce. The Comores Islands, lying across the center of the 800-kilometer-wide northern Mozambique Channel, were inhabited by the 8th century ce, and the earliest evidence of human contact with the Mascarenes, 700 kilometers east of Madgascar, dates to the late 14th century ce.57 By comparison, it might be expected that Madagascar, 400 kilometers east of Mozambique at the closest point, was first inhabited around the late first millennium ce.

Getting to Madagascar

Systematic offshore seafaring in the Indian Ocean began about 2000 bce with passages from the Red Sea and Persian Gulf to and from South Asia, and from about 1500 bce it expanded to include sailing to and from Southeast Asia. From at least the early first millennium ce, squaresail ships typical of the western Indian Ocean frequented the East African coast until squaresail was widely replaced by the lateen sail, between the 10th and 15th centuries ce in this region.58 Southeast Asian shipbuilding was relatively advanced in the first millennium ce,59 but there are no unequivocal historical records of Southeast Asian ships in East Africa during that period, no shipwrecks of such vessels, and no “ship graffiti” of the period on the Swahili coast.60

The characteristic vessel of local communities on each side of the ocean is the Southeast Asian outrigger canoe.61 On the African side, the double outrigger, generally unsuited to open sea conditions,62 was used until a recent transition to the single outrigger, and there is no evidence of offshore competence until after the rise of Swahili in the late first millennium ce.63 On the Southeast Asian side, outrigger canoes might have existed at the beginning of Malayo-Polynesian dispersal more than 1000 bce but specific terms for outrigger technology are later proto-Oceanic innovations of the west Pacific rather than Southeast Asia.64 Southeast Asian island rock art includes canoe images in an Austronesian painting tradition dating broadly to 1000–500 bce, but none of these depict outrigger canoes. The earliest indirect evidence is from Sri Lanka, about 300 bce, earlier than the first depiction of outriggers in 9th century ce Java.65

There are comparable problems in the history of Indian Ocean canoe sails. The double spritsail,66 used around the Indian Ocean including in Madagascar, produced some ability to sail to windward. It might have Mediterranean origins, but there is also an ancestral form in the Indo-Pacific region. It is found from the Bay of Bengal to New Zealand and consists of a high, narrow, quadrangular sail attached along either side to spars that were each held erect by running forestay and sheet.67 It is shown in Southeast Asian rock art images of canoes drawn in the style found on Dong Son bronze drums dating to the first millennium bce. This form of double spritsail probably originated in China and was carried into Southeast Asia by Austronesian dispersal.68 It was a form that had no windward ability.

It is problematic, then, to envisage transoceanic sailing by Southeast Asians to Madagascar or East Africa up to 500 bce in outrigger canoes powered by the oceanic spritsail, arguably a late central Pacific innovation, let alone return passages.69 Computer simulation shows that the passage is effectively impossible by downwind sailing in either direction. Few routes were feasible, even sailing with a modest windward ability such as that conferred by the historical double spritsail. The best route was from northern Sumatra to Madagascar in January–February, with passage times of ten to thirteen weeks. These long periods would make it difficult to deliver a colonization group of sufficient size to have a reasonable chance of population longevity.70 It is also important to note that recent archaeological and related research on islands that might have been used as way stations in transoceanic passages, such as the Seychelles, Chagos, Mauritius, Cocos, and Christmas Island, have disclosed no sign of human activity before the 14th or 15th centuries ce.71 Outrigger canoes may have been simply a domestic boat-building tradition carried on by Southeast Asian migrants who had traveled in existing perioceanic shipping.

Propositions of frequent trading or raiding directly between Southeast Asia and East Africa before the late first millennium ce, of a “dispersal corridor” directly from Southeast Asia to East Africa and Madagascar,72 and conceptualization of this activity as globalization73 do not yet have a credible basis in seafaring evidence. As one scholar points out, neither the Barito Dayaks, who formed the nucleus of the Malagasy Southeast Asian population, nor the Malagasy ever had the seafaring technology required to cross the Indian Ocean. The Malays did, and they were active participants in late first millennium ce trading networks that extended around the northern coasts of the Indian Ocean to East Africa. Most Malagasy seafaring terminology originates from Malay.74 Some of the large trading ships of Southeast Asia described and depicted in historical records of the first millennium ce, and unearthed archaeologically, were probably capable of transoceanic passages to East Africa or Madagascar, but so far at least no evidence exists that they made them. Nor is there an obvious historical context for transoceanic voyaging, such as evidence of large-scale systematic migrations or complementary commerce directly across the Indian Ocean. Migration and trade along well-known routes around the continental coasts between Southeast Asia and Africa was not necessarily the only or exclusive mode of cultural transfer but it is the least questionable of current explanations.

Early Peopling of Madagascar

The issues involved in early colonization of Madagascar—when, by whom, and how—are currently only partly resolved. Evidence for human arrival 3000–0 bce, based on archaeological and palaeoecological considerations, is slight and debatable but it cannot be dismissed. The first discovery of flaked stone tools within the last decade gives pause for thought about how little is yet known of the archaeological record. Nevertheless, there is a degree of consensus between archaeology, as presently known, and the linguistic and genomic histories of Malagasy to suggest that people first arrived around the middle of the first millennium ce or later.

Similarly, linguistic origins and inferences from human genetics about the sources of early populations and their sequence of arrival currently support the view that the first people came from Southeast Asia and arrived before a later migration from Africa, followed in turn by admixture of those populations and other smaller groups from South Asia, in Madagascar. The notion of admixture in East Africa before migration to Madagascar is no longer favored, although some potential empirical support can be found. For example, identification in Malagasy mtDNA of a “Malagasy motif,” not recorded in Indonesia, indicates an origin elsewhere, perhaps in wider Southeast Asia, or outside it during the process of migration.

The significance of voyaging capability, especially if there were direct transoceanic passages to Madagascar, cannot be overstated, but there is currently no evidence of Madagascan sailing vessels dating to the first millennium ce or earlier. There is abundant evidence of Southeast Asian sailing and trading vessels in the eastern Indian Ocean, but none that they reached Madagascar, or even East Africa, until the second millennium ce. If only by default, the safest assumption is that contact between Southeast Asia and Madagascar during the period of colonization was through the well-established network of coastal and monsoon passages.

Discussion of the Literature

Until the mid-twentieth century, publications on the early population history of Madagascar were based substantially upon traditional oral histories, especially of highland groups such as the Merina, together with historical and ethnographic observations and conjectures by Europeans. These sources often had the merit of documentary immediacy but, as Gwyn Campbell observes, their perspectives were also entangled in indigenous and foreign religious and racist sentiments.75 Later historical narratives of Malagasy populations, notably by Raymond Kent, did not extend much before 1500 ce.

Archaeology began to flourish in Madagascar with the establishment of a Department of Art and Archaeology at the University of Madagascar in 1962 and an archaeological journal Taloha in 1965. Even so, it was mostly concerned with post-1500 ce interests, including the highland kingdoms and coastal trading settlements. Research on older coastal sites, such as Mahilaka, began to offer a material record of the early second millennium ce,76 but as Robert Dewar commented in 1996, “little is known about the first colonization of Madagascar, very little indeed in relation to the number of hypothetical histories and accounts of this event that have been offered over the last century or more.”77 Archaeology had found no evidence of a stone age or of human habitation earlier than the 8th century, a situation confirmed by later and more extensive settlement pattern research.78 The role of African influence in early colonization was taken up more explicitly by Madagascan archaeologists and in general models of population history,79 but the first apparent evidence of initial African colonization came from the Lakaton’i Anja site, where that inference was virtually compelled by the OSL dates, a conclusion that appears weakly founded. Alternative approaches to documenting colonization, by taphonomy and palaeoecology, sought evidence of anthropogenic signatures in cutmarks on megafaunal bone and evidence of forest burning and landscape change, respectively. This research, notably by David Burney and colleagues, pushed the period of colonization back to 500 bce and eventually to 2000 bce.

Linguistic history, and particularly genomic history, have become the principal sources of information about the origins and migrations of people who formed the Malagasy population. The early argument of a Southeast Borneo basis to the Malagasy language has been only slightly modified, mainly by evidence of loan words from diverse Southeast Asian sources which suggest that the Bornean migration was dependent upon assistance—notably in seafaring—from other communities.80

Questions concerning early migration to Madagascar also imply issues about seafaring that are widely discussed but remain rather far from resolution; among them whether sailing to Madagascar from East Africa prior to the nautical competence developed by Swahili is a plausible notion and whether Southeast Asian migrants traveled within established pericontinental routes or monsoon passages, or came directly across the ocean. The latter question is also important within proposed contexts of Indian Ocean globalization in which routes or “corridors” of transoceanic interaction are envisaged.81

Primary Sources

Most of Marco Polo’s received information about Madagascar, c. 1300 ce, referred mistakenly to East Africa, but it did at least introduce the name, probably from the Arabic, “Madagasbar,” meaning the country of the Malagash (Malagasy).82 Malagasy people and society were first described in Etienne de Flacourt’s Histoire de la Grande Isle de Madagascar, from his observations in the southeastern region as Governor for the French East India Company, 1648–1660. Flacourt’s description of racial and status diversity, traditional Semitic origins, and the absence of indigenous voyaging became familiar aspects of later discussion. Contemporary opinions that some Malagasy were Indonesian were supported by Frederik de Houtman’s linguistic inferences in 1603 and confirmed in 1708 by Adriaan Reland’s recognition that the Malagasy language was closely related to Polynesian languages of Malayan origin.83 The burden of these and other early writings, and of subsequent works up to the late nineteenth century, is contained in the magisterial Ethnographie de Madagascar (1908), by Alfred and Guillaume Grandidier, father and son, respectively.84 Their huge and copiously footnoted work reflects both the early ethnological fieldwork of Alfred (1865–1870) and the establishment of the L’Académie Malgache for the study of Malagasy language, ethnology, and sociology in 1895, at the end of the French war of “pacification”.

Later works bearing on the issues of premodern population history include Hubert Deschamps L’histoire de Madagascar (1960), in which he argues that the original Indonesian migrants sailed to Madagascar in outrigger canoes by following the old trade routes through India, Arabia, and East Africa.85 The hypothesis of substantial Southeast Asian settlement in East Africa, either as a staging post of migration to Madagascar or as the locality in which an admixed Indonesian-African population developed before moving to Madagascar, represents something of a compromise between claims of an original African colonization, possibly the traditional Vazimba as discussed by Gabriel Ferrand,86 and the resolutely Southeast Asian assertions of the Grandidiers. Later discussions by Raymond Kent, Pierre Vérin, Claude Allibert, and Roger Blench suggested closer attention needed to be paid to the African contribution.87

The literature of archaeological, paleoecological, and genomic approaches to early colonization in Madagascar consists almost entirely of specialized journal articles and chapters rather than any primary work of diversity and length. Among them, however, are review articles that benchmark periods of progress by the following authors: Robert Dewar and Henry Wright in 1993, Dewar in 1996, Pierre Vérin and Henry Wright in 1999, Claude Allibert in 2008, chapters 4 and 10 in Mike Parker Pearson et al., 2010, Dewar and Alison Richard in 2012, and Chantal Radimilahy and Zoë Crossland in 2015. Particularly influential in shaping current discussion about colonization chronology is Dewar’s 2013 research on the Lakatoni’i Anja site.88 Notable publications on taphonomic and palaeoecological approaches to colonization include works by David Burney, V. R. Perez, and Brooke Crowley.89 Genomic research by Denis Pierron provides a particularly detailed view of population diversity and origins in Madagascar.90

Further Reading

Allibert, Claude. “Austronesian Migration and the Establishment of the Malagasy Civilization: Contrasted Readings in Linguistics, Archaeology, Genetics and Cultural Anthropology.” Diogenes 218 (2008): 7–16.Find this resource:

Anderson, Atholl, Aaron Camens, Geoffrey Clark, and Simon Haberle. “Investigating Pre-Modern Colonization of the Indian Ocean: The Remote Islands Enigma.” In Connecting Continents: Archaeology and History in the Indian Ocean. Edited by Krish Seetah, 30–67 Athens: Ohio University Press, 2018.Find this resource:

Beaujard, Philippe. “The First Migrants to Madagascar and Their Introduction of Plants: Linguistic and Ethnological Studies.” Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa 46, no. 2 (2011): 169–189.Find this resource:

Boivin, Nicole, Alison Crowther, Richard Helm, and Dorian Q. Fuller. “East Africa and Madagascar in the Indian Ocean World.” Journal of World Prehistory 26, no. 3 (2013): 213–281.Find this resource:

Brucato, Nicolas, Pradiptajati Kusuma, Murray P. Cox, Denis Pierron, Gludhug A. Purnomo, Alexander Adelaar, Toomas Kivisild, Thierry Letellier, Herawati Sudoyo, and François-Xavier Ricaut. “Malagasy Genetic Ancestry Comes from an Historical Malay Trading Post in Southeast Borneo.” Molecular Biology and Evolution 33, no. 9 (2016): 2396–2400.Find this resource:

Burney, David A., Lida P. Burney, Laurie R. Godfrey, William L. Jungers, Steven M. Goodman, Henry T. Wright, and A. J. Timothy Jull. “A Chronology for Late Prehistoric Madagascar.” Journal of Human Evolution 47, no. 1–2 (2004): 25–63.Find this resource:

Dewar, Robert E., Chantal Radimilahy, Henry T. Wright, Zenobia Jacobs, Gwendolyn O. Kelly, and Frencesco Berna. “Stone Tools and Foraging in Northern Madagascar Challenge Holocene Extinction Models.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110 (2013): 12583–12588.Find this resource:

Dewar, Robert E., and Henry T. Wright, “The Culture History of Madagascar.” Journal of World Prehistory 7, no. 4 (1993): 417–466.Find this resource:

Grandidier, Alfred, and Guillaume Grandidier. Histoire Physique, Naturelle et Politique de Madagascar. Vol. 4, Ethnographie de Madagascar, Tome Premier, Les Habitants de Madagascar. Paris: L’Imprimerie Nationale, 1908.Find this resource:

Pierron, Denis, Margit Heiske, Harilanto Razafindrazaka, Ignace Rakoto, Nelly Rabetokotany, Bodo Ravololomanga, Lucien A-M. Rakotozafy, Mireille Mialy Rakakotomalala, Michel Razafiarivony, Bako Rasoarifetra, Miabakola Andriamampianina Raharijesy, Lolona Razafindralambo, Ramilisonina, Fulgence Fanony, Sendra Lejamble, Olivier Thomas, Ahmed Mohammed Abdallah, Christophe Rocher, Amal Arachiche, Laure Tonaso, Veronica Pereda-loth, Stéphanie Schiavinato, Nicolas Brucato, Francois-Xavier Ricaut, Pradiptajati Kusuma, Herawati Sudoyo, Shengyu Ni, Anne Boland, Jean-Francois Deleuze, Philippe Beaujard, Philippe Grange, Sander Adelaar, Mark Stoneking, Jean-Amié Rakotoarisoa, Chantal Radimilahy and Thierry Letellier. “Genomic Landscape of Human Diversity across Madagascar.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 114 (2017): E6498–E6506.Find this resource:

Radimilahy, Chantal, and Zoë Crossland. “Situating Madagascar: Indian Ocean Dynamics and Archaeological Histories.” Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa 50, no. 4 (2015): 495–518.Find this resource:

Reade, Julian, ed. The Indian Ocean in Antiquity. London: Kegan Paul, 1996.Find this resource:

Serva, Maurizio. “The Settlement of Madagascar: What Dialects and Languages Can Tell Us.” PLoS ONE 7 (2012).Find this resource:

Vérin, Pierre, and Henry T. Wright. “Madagascar and Indonesia: New Evidence from Archaeology and Linguistics.” Indo-Pacific Prehistory Bulletin 18 (1999): 35–42.Find this resource:

Virah-Sawmy, Malika, K. J. Willis, and L. Gillson. “Evidence for Drought and Forest Declines During the Recent Megafaunal Extinctions in Madagascar.” Journal of Biogeography 37, no. 3 (2010): 506–519.Find this resource:


(1.) Seán McGrail, Boats of the World: From the Stone Age to Medieval Times (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).

(2.) G. W. B. Huntingford, ed., The Periplus of the Erythraen Sea (London: The Hakluyt Society, 1980).

(3.) P. Vidal de la Blache, “Madagascar et Menouthias, d’après M. Grandidier,” Annales de Gèographie 3 (1894): 243–244; Roger Blench, “Evidence for the Austronesian Voyages in the Indian Ocean,” in The Global Origins and Development of Seafaring, ed. Atholl Anderson, James H. Barrett, and Katherine V. Boyle (Cambridge, UK: MacDonald Institute Monograph, 2010), 239–248 ; and Philippe Beaujard, “The First Migrants to Madagascar and Their Introduction of Plants: Linguistic and Ethnological Evidence,” Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa 46, no. 2 (2011): 169–189.

(4.) Huntingford, Periplus, 97.

(5.) George F. Hourani, Arab Seafaring in the Indian Ocean in Ancient and early Medieval Times, rev. John Carswell (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995), 80, 85, and comment by Carswell, p. 148.

(6.) R. C. Majunder, Ancient Indian Colonies in the Far East (Dacca, Bangladesh: Asutosh Press, 1937), 2:47–48; and Marina Tolmacheva, “The Indian Ocean in Arab Geography,” Terra Brasilis: Nova Série 6 (2015).

(8.) Hubert Deschamps, “Conceptions, Problemes et Sources de l’Histoire de Madagascar,” Journal of African History 1, no. 2 (1960): 249–256.

(9.) It is interesting, in this regard, that genetic indications of Semitic origin have been identified among the Comorians, neighbors to Madagascar. Said Msaidie, Axel Ducorneau, Gilles Boetsch, Guy Longepied, Kassim Papa, Claude Allibert, Ali Ahmed Yahaya, Jacques Chiaroni, and Michael J. Mitchell, “Genetic Diversity on the Comoros Islands Shows Early Seafaring a Major Determinant of Human Biocultural Evolution in the Western Indian Ocean,” European Journal of Human Genetics 19 (2011): 89–94.

(10.) Etienne de Flacourt, Histoire de la Grande Ile Madagascar (Paris: Gervaise Clouzier, 1661), 18–19, 47, quote p. xviii.

(11.) Grandidier and Grandidier, Histoire Physique, 4:4–7.

(12.) Grandidier and Grandidier, 4:96–100, 405.

(13.) Grandidier and Grandidier, 4:96, 104, 163–171.

(14.) Grandidier and Grandidier, 4:76.

(15.) Grandidier and Grandidier, 4:83.

(16.) James Hornell, “Indonesian Influence on East African Culture,” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 64, July–December (1934): 305–332; and Roger Blench, “The Ethnographic Evidence for Long-Distance Contacts Between Oceania and East Africa,” in The Indian Ocean in Antiquity, ed. J. Reade (London: Kegan Paul, 1996), 417–438.

(17.) Robert Blust, “The Prehistory of the Austronesian-Speaking Peoples: A View from Language,” Journal of World Prehistory 9, no. 4 (1995): 453–510; K. A. Adelaar, “The Indonesian Migrations to Madagascar: Making Sense of the Multidisciplinary Evidence,” in Austronesian Diaspora and the Ethnogenesis of People in Indonesian Archipelago, ed. T. Simanjuntak, I. H. E. Pojoh, and M. Hisyam (Jakarta, Indonesia: LIPI Press, 2006), 205–231; C. Allibert, “Austronesian Migration and the Establishment of the Malagasy Civilization: Contrasted Readings in Linguistics, Archaeology, Genetics and Cultural Anthropology,” Diogenes 218 (2008): 7–16; and Beaujard, “First Migrants to Madagascar.”

(20.) Alison Crowther, Leilani Lucas, Richard Helm, Mark Horton, Henry T. Wright, Sarah Walshaw, Matthew Pawlowic, Chantal Radimilahy, Katerina Douka, Llorenç Picornell-Gelabert, Dorian Q. Fuller, and Nicole L. Biovin, “Ancient Crops Provide First Archaeological Signature of the Westward Austronesian Expansion,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 113, no. 24 (2016): 6635–6640.

(21.) J. M. Mwacharo, G. Bjørnstad, V. Mobegi, K. Nomura, H. Hanada, T. Amano, H. Jianlin, and

O. Hanotte, “Mitochondrial DNA Reveals Multiple Introductions of Domestic Chicken in East Africa,” Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 58, no. 2 (2011): 374–382.

(22.) Arman Ardalan, Mattias C. R. Oskarsson, Babara van Asch, Elisabeth Rabakonandriania, and Peter Savolainen, “African Origin for Madagascan Dogs Revealed by mtDNA Analysis,” Royal Society Open Science 2 (2015).

(23.) C. Tollenaere, Carine Brouat, Jean-Marc Duplantier, Lila Rahalison, Soanandrasana Rahelinirina, Michel Pascal, Hélène Monè, Gabriel Mouahid, Herwig Leirs, and Jean-François Cosson, “Phylogeography of the Introduced Species Rattus rattus in the Western Indian Ocean, with Special Emphasis on the Colonization History of Madagascar,” Journal of Biogeography 3 (2010): 398–410.

(24.) J. M. Duplantier, A. Orth, J. Catalan, and F. Bonhomme, “Evidence for a Mitochondrial Lineage Originating from the Arabian Peninsula in the Madagascar House Mouse (Mus musculus),” Heredity 89, no. 2 (2002): 154–158.

(25.) Perrier, Xavier, Edmond De Langhe, Mark Donohue, Carol Lentfer, Luc Vrydaghs, Frédéric Bakry, Françoise Carreel, Isabelle Hippolyte, Jean-Pierre Horry, Christophe Jenny, Vincent Lebot, Ange-Marie Risterucci, Kodjo Tomekpe, Hugues Doutrelepont, Terry Ball, Jason Manwaring, Pierre de Maret, and Tim Denham, “Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Banana (Musa spp.) Domestication,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 108 (2011): 11311–11318.

(26.) Dubut, Vincent, François Cartault, Christine Payet, Marie-Dominique Thionville, and Pascal Murail, “Complete Mitochondrial Sequences for Haplogroups M23 and M46: Insights into the Asian Ancestry of the Malagasy Population,” Human Biology 81, no. 4 (2009): 495–500.

(27.) Poetsch, Micaela, Aline Wiegand, Melanie Harder, Rowena Blöhm, Noel Rakotomavo, Sandra Freitag-Wolf, and Nicole von Wurmb-Schwark, “Determination of Population Origin: A Comparison of Autosomal Snps, Y-chromosomal and mtDNA Haplogroups Using a Malagasy Population as Example,” European Journal of Human Genetics 21 (2013): 1423–1428.

Kusuma, Pradiptajati, Nicolas Brucato, Murray P. Cox, Denis Pierron, Harilanto Razafindrazaka, Alexander Adelaar, Herawati Sudoyo, Thierry Letellier, and François-Xavier Ricaut, “Contrasting Linguistic and Genetic Origins of the Asian Source Populations of Malagasy,” Scientific Reports 6 (2016).

(29.) Tofanelli, Sergio, Stefania Bertoncini, Loredana Castri, Donata Liuiselli, Francesc Calafell, Giuseppe Donati, and Giorgio Paoli, “On the Origins and Admixture of Malagasy: New Evidence from High-Resolution Analyses of Paternal and Maternal Lineages,” Molecular Biology and Evolution 26, no. 9 (2009): 2109–2124.

(30.) Pierron, et al. “Genomic Landscape,” E6498–E6506.

(31.) Pierron et al., “Genomic Landscape,” E6499.

(32.) Tofanelli et al., “On the Origins and Admixture of Malagasy,” 2120.

(33.) Pierron et al., “Genomic Landscape,” E6500.

(34.) Tofanelli et al., “On the Origins and Admixture of Malagasy,” 2117; Kusuma et al., “Contrasting Linguistic and Genetic Origins”; and Brucato et al., “Malagasy Genetic Ancestry,” 2397.

(35.) Brucato et al., 2398–2399.

(36.) Pierron et al., “Genomic Landscape,” E6502.

(37.) Tofanelli et al., “On the Origins and Admixture of Malagasy,” 2117; Kusuma et al., “Contrasting Linguistic and Genetic Origins”; Brucato et al., “Malagasy Genetic Ancestry,” 2397; and Murray P. Cox, Michael G. Nelson, Meryanne K. Tumonggor, François-Xavier Ricaut, and Herawati Sudoyo, “A Small Cohort of Island Southeast Asian Women founded Madagascar,” Proceedings of the Royal Society B 279 (2012): 2761–2758.

(38.) Pierron et al., “Genomic Landscape,” E6503–6504.

(39.) R. E. Dewar and H. T. Wright, “The Culture History of Madagascar,” Journal of World Prehistory 7, no. 4 (1993): 417–466; R. E. Dewar, “The Archaeology of the Early Colonization of Madagascar,” in The Indian Ocean in Antiquity, ed. Julian Reade (London: Routledge, 1996), 471–486; and Pierre Vérin and Henry T. Wright, “Madagascar and Indonesia: New Evidence from Archaeology and Linguistics,” Indo-Pacific Prehistory Bulletin 18, no. 2 (1999): 35–42. It is difficult to specify a precise chronology for these sites because most have few dates with wide ranges of probability and sometimes inconsistencies between them.

(40.) C. Radimilahy, Mahilaka: An Archaeological Investigation of an Early Town in Northwestern Madagascar (Uppsala: Societas Archaeologica Upsaliensa, 1998).

(41.) M. Parker Pearson, Karen Godden, Ramilisonina, Retsihiatse, Jean-Luc Schwenninger, Georges Heurtebize, Chantal Radimilahy, and Helen Smith, Pastoralists, Warriors and Colonists: The Archaeology of Southern Madagascar (Oxford: BAR International Series 2139, 2010), 514.

(43.) Atholl Anderson, Geoffrey Clark, Simon Haberle, Thomas Higham, Malgosia Nowak-Kemp, Amy Prendergast, Chantal Radimilahy, Lucien Rakotozafy, Ramilisonia, Jean-Luc Schwenninger, Malika Virah-Sawmy, and Aaron Camens, “New Evidence of Megafaunal Bone Damage Indicates Late Colonization of Madagascar,” Public Library of Science One (in press).

(44.) Ekblom, Anneli, Paul Lane, Chantal Radimilahy, Jean-Aime Rakotoarisoa, Paul Sinclair, and Malika Virah-Sawmy, “A Migration and Interaction Between Madagascar and Eastern Africa, 500 bce–1000 ce: An Archaeological Perspective,” in Early Exchange between Africa and the Wider Indian Ocean World, ed. G. Campbell (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2016), 195–230. References to “Andersson” in this paper are unauthorized and undocumented and do not represent the views of Atholl Anderson.

(45.) Radiocarbon dating measures the age when an organism died. As trees are often long-lived, and their inner wood is already long dead, many charcoal dates are too old. Identification of charcoal to find material from short-lived shrubs or grasses is required, but this is not yet a routine procedure in Indian Ocean island research, largely because of a scarcity of readily available expertise to do the identification.

(46.) R. D. E. MacPhee and D. A. Burney, “Dating of Modified Femora of Extinct Dwarf Hippopotamus from Southern Madagascar: Implications for Constraining Human Colonization and Vertebrate Extinction Events,” Journal of Archaeological Science 18, no. 6 (1991): 695–706; D. A. Burney, “Late Holocene Environmental Changes in Arid Southwestern Madagascar,” Quaternary Research 40, no. 1 (1993): 98–106; D. A. Burney, G. S. Robinson, and L. P. Burney. “Sporomiella and the Late Holocene Extinctions in Madagascar,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 100 (2003): 10800–10805; E. L. Simons, “AMS 14C Dates for Extinct Lemurs from Caves in the Ankarana Massif, Northern Madagascar,” Quaternary Research 43, no. 2 (1995): 249–254; and B. E. Crowley and K. E. Samonds, “Stable Carbon Isotope Values Confirm a Recent Increase in Grasslands in Northwestern Madagascar,” The Holocene 23, no. 7 (2013): 1066–1073.

(47.) D. A. Burney, L. P. Burney, L. R. Godfrey, W. L. Jungers, S. M. Goodman, H. T. Wright, and A. J. T. Jull, “A Chronology for Late Prehistoric Madagascar,” Journal of Human Evolution 47, no. 1–2 (2004): 25–63; Ventura R. Perez, Laurie R. Godfrey, Malgosia Nowak-Kemp, David A. Burney, Jonah Ratsimbazafy, and Natalia Vasey, “Evidence of Early Butchery of Giant Lemurs in Madagascar,” Journal of Human Evolution 49, no. 6 (2005): 722–242; and B. E. Crowley, “A Refined Chronology of Prehistoric Madagascar and the Demise of the Megafauna,” Quaternary Science Reviews 29, no. 19–20 (2010): 2591–2603.

(48.) Gommery, Dominique, Beby Ramanivosoa, Marine Faure, Claude Guérin, Patrice Kerloc’h, Frank Sénégas, and Hervé Randrianantenaina, “Les plus anciennes traces d’activités anthropiques de Madagascar sure des ossements d’hippotames subfossiles d’Anjohibe (province de Mahajanga),” Compes Rendus Palevol 10 (2011): 271–278.

(49.) Beaujard, “First Migrants to Madagascar.”

(50.) Notably, MacPhee and Burney, “Dating of Modified Femora;” and Perez et al., “Evidence of Early Butchery.”

(51.) This is especially so in the National Museum of Natural History (Paris), where heavy chopping on megafaunal bones appears modern and was seemingly intended to create pegs or similar articles out of subfossil bone.

(52.) Anderson et al., “New Evidence of Megafaunal Bone Damage.”

(53.) Parker Pearson et al., Pastoralists, Warriors and Colonists, 86–98.

(54.) K. J. Willis, L. Gillson, and M. Virah-Sawmy, “Nature or Nurture: The Ambiguity of C4 Grasslands in Madagascar,” Journal of Biogeography 35, no. 10 (2008): 1741–1742; M. Virah-Sawmy, L. Gillson, and K. J. Willis, “How Does Spatial Heterogeneity Influence Resilience to Climatic Changes? Ecological Dynamics in Southeast Madagascar,” Ecological Monographs 79, no. 4 (2009): 557–574; M. Virah-Sawmy, K. J. Willis, and L. Gillson, “Evidence for Drought and Forest Declines during the Recent Megafaunal Extinctions in Madagascar,” Journal of Biogeography 37 no. 3 (2010): 506–519; and Crowley and Samonds, “Stable Carbon Isotope Values.” These papers discuss late Holocene Madagascan vegetation patterns as natural formations or the results of anthropogenic firing.

(55.) B. W. Brook and C. N. Johnson, “Selective Hunting of Juveniles as a Cause of the Imperceptible Overkill of the Australian Pleistocene Megafauna,” Alcheringa 30, no. 1 (2006): 39–48.

(56.) M. Virah-Sawmy et al., “Evidence for Drought.” Severe aridification may have played a significant part in extinction of giant lemurs as these often used nonriparian habitats that were already very dry; B. E. Crowley, L. R. Godfrey, and M. T. Irwin, “A Glance at the Past: Subfossils, Stable Isotopes, Seed Dispersal, and Lemur Species Loss in Southern Madagascar,” American Journal of Primatology 73, no.1 (2011): 25–37.

(58.) Squaresails were the early sail form in the Indian Ocean and China up the second millennium ce and square or quadrilateral sails were dominant historically in the islands north of New Guinea. Enigmatic structures on canoes in East Indonesian rock art probably represent sails, but masts are seldom shown and the sails are mainly quadrilateral. McGrail, Boats of the World, 278, 308, 357; P. V. Lape, S. O’Connor, and H. Burningham, “Rock Art: A Potential Source of Information about Past Maritime Technology in the South-East Asia-Pacific Region,” International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 36, no. 2 (2007): 238–253.

(59.) P-Y. Manguin, “The Southeast Asian Ship: An Historical Approach,” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 11, no. 2 (1980): 266–276; P-Y. Manguin, Trading ships of the south China sea. Journal of the Economic and Social history of the Orient 36, January (1993): 253–280; P-Y. Manguin, “Introduction,” in Early Interactions between South and Southeast Asia; Reflections of Cross-Cultural Exchanges, ed. P-Y. Manguin, A. Mani, and G. Wade (Singapore: ISEAS, 2011), xiii–xxxi.

(60.) C. Breen and P. J. Lane, “Archaeological Approaches to East Africa’s Changing Seascapes,” World Archaeology 35, no.4 (2004): 469–489, say the graffiti are 13th to 16th century; R. J. Whitewright, Maritime Technological Change in the Ancient Mediterranean: The Invention of the Lateen Sail (PhD thesis, University of Southampton, 2008), has 15th century for square-sailed ships resembling mtepe at Zanzibar and 16th century for the earliest depiction of a lateen rig.

(61.) J. Hornell, “Indonesian Influence on East African Culture.”

(62.) G. Boulinier and G. Boulinier-Giraud, “Chronologie de la pirogue à balancier: le témoignage de l’océan Indien occidental,” Journal de la Société des Océanistes 50, no.1 (1976): 89–98.

(63.) Fleisher, Jeffery, Paul Lane, Adria LaViolette, Mark Horton, Edward Pollard, Paul Lane, Erendira Quintana Morales, Thomas Vernet, Annalisa Christie, and Stephanie Wynne-Jones, “When Did the Swahili Become Maritime?” American Anthropologist 117, no. 1 (2015): 100–115.

(64.) Andrew Pawley and M. Pawley, “Canoes and Seafaring,” in The Lexicon of Proto Oceanic, vol. 1, Material Culture, ed. M. Ross, A. Pawley, and M. Osmond (Canberra: Pacific Linguistics C-152, 1998), 173–209.

(65.) McGrail, Boats of the World, 266, 307.

(66.) For descriptions and distributions of the double spritsail and oceanic spritsail, see E. Doran Jr., Wangka: Austronesian Canoe Origins (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1981), 42 (2000): 80–81; and A. Horridge, “The Evolution of Pacific Canoe Rigs,” Journal of Pacific History 21, no. 2 (1986): 83–99.

(67.) A. J. Anderson, “Seafaring in Remote Oceania: Traditionalism and Beyond in Maritime Technology and Migration,” in The Oxford Handbook of Prehistoric Oceania, ed. E. Cochrane and T. Hunt (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

(68.) A. Schottenhammer, “The ‘China Seas’ in World History: A General Outline of the Role of Chinese and East Asian Maritime Space from Its Origins to c. 1800,” Journal of Marine and Island Cultures 1, no. 1 (2012): 63–86, thinks that functional sails may not have been in use in China until about 500 bce, but agrees that they were probably invented by people such as the Yue who were part of the southeastern non-Han population from which sprang the Austronesian speakers.

(69.) D. Q. Fuller and N. Boivin, “Crops, Cattle and Commensals across the Indian Ocean: Current and Potential Archaeobiological Evidence,” Etudes Océan Indien 42–43, no. 1 (2009): 13–46; and D. Q. Fuller, N. Boivin, C. C. Castillo, T. Hoogervorst, and R. G. Allaby, “The Archaeobiology of Indian Ocean Translocations: Current Outlines of Cultural Exchanges by Proto-Historic Seafarers,” in Maritime Contacts of the Past, ed. S. Tripati (Delhi: Kaveri, 2015), 1–23.

(70.) S. M. Fitzpatrick and R. Callaghan, “Seafaring Simulations and the Origin of Prehistoric Settlers to Madagascar,” in Islands of Inquiry: Colonization, Seafaring and the Archaeology of Maritime Landscapes, ed. G. Clark, F. Leach, and S. O’Connor (Canberra: ANU E-Press, 2008), 47–58.

(71.) Anderson et al., “Investigating Pre-Modern Colonization,” 34–38.

(72.) As proposed variously by Beaujard, “First Migrants to Madagascar,” Figure 1; R. Blench, “Two Vanished African Maritime Traditions and a Parallel from South America,” African Archaeological Review 29, no. 2/3 (2012): 273–292. Other scholars suggest a mid-oceanic staging point such as the Maldives or Sri Lanka, e.g., Fuller et al., “Archaeobiology of Indian Ocean Translocations,” 15.

(73.) Phillipe Beaujard, “The Indian Ocean in Eurasian and African World-Systems before the Sixteenth Century,” Journal of World History 16, no. 4 (2005): 411–465; Boivin et al., “East Africa and Madagascar”; and Nicole Boivin, Alison Crowther, Mary Prendergast, and Dorian Q. Fuller. “Indian Ocean Food Globalisation and Africa,” African Archaeological Review 31, no. 4 (2014): 547–581.

(74.) Adelaar, “Indonesian Migrations,” 221.

(75.) Gwyn Campbell, “Theories Concerning the Origins of the Malagasy,” in Australes, ed. Marc Michel and Yvan Paillard (Paris: l’Harmattan, 1996), 127–153.

(76.) Examples are: Radimilahy, Mahilaka; and Parker Pearson et al., Pastoralists, Warriors and Colonists.

(77.) Dewar, “The Archaeology of the Early Settlement of Madagascar,” 471.

(78.) Notably by Parker Pearson et al., 2010, “Pastoralists, Warriors and Colonists.”

(79.) Blench, “Evidence for the Austronesian Voyages”, has East African migration to Madagascar about 300 bce, and later migration from East Africa by Malay seafarers bringing captured African servants in the 5th to 7th centuries.

(80.) Alexander Adelaar, “Austronesians in Madagascar: A Critical Assessment of the Works of Paul Ottino and Philippe Beaujard,” in Early Exchange between Africa and the Wider Indian Ocean World, ed. Gwyn Campbell (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 77–111.

(81.) D. Q. Fuller, N. Boivin, T. Hoogervorst and R. Allaby, “Across the Indian Ocean: The Prehistoric Movement of Plants and Animals,” Antiquity 85, no. 328 (2011): 544–558; Blench, “Ethnographic Evidence”; and R. Blench, “The Movement of Cultivated Plants Between Africa and India in Prehistory,” Africa Praehistorica 15 (2003): 273–292.

(82.) Gabriel Ferrand, Les Musulmans a Madagascar et aux iles Comores, Part II (Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1893).

(83.) Adriaan Reland, Dissertationum miscellanearum partes tres (Utrecht, 1706–1708).

(84.) Grandidier and Grandidier, Histoire Physique.

(85.) Hubert Deschamps, L’histoire de Madagascar (Paris: Berger-Levrault, 1960).

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(87.) R. Kent, Early Kingdoms in Madagascar 1500–1700 (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970); Pierre Vérin, “The African Element in Madagascar,” Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa 11, no. 2 (1976): 135–151; Allibert, “Austronesian Migration and the Establishment of the Malagasy Civilization”; and Blench, “Evidence for the Austronesian Voyages.”

(88.) Dewar, “Stone Tools and Foraging in Madagascar.”

(89.) Burney et al., “Chronology for Late Prehistoric Madagascar”; Perez et al., “Evidence of Early Butchery”; and Crowley, “Refined Chronology of Prehistoric Madagascar and the Demise of the Megafauna.”

(90.) Pierron et al., “Genomic Landscape of Human Diversity across Madagascar.”