Cranio-morphometric and aDNA corroboration of the austronesian dispersal model in ancient island southeast Asia: Support from gua harimau, Indonesia

Hirofumi Matsumura, Ken ichi Shinoda, Truman Shimanjuntak, Adhi Agus Oktaviana, Sofwan Noerwidi, Harry Octavianus Sofian, Dyah Prastiningtyas, Lan Cuong Nguyen, Tsuneo Kakuda, Kanzawa Kiriyama Hideaki, Noboru Adachi, Hsiao chun Hung, Xuechun Fan, Xiujie Wu, Anna Willis, Marc F. Oxenham*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


The Austronesian language is spread from Madagascar in the west, Island Southeast Asia (ISEA) in the east (e.g. the Philippines and Indonesian archipelagoes) and throughout the Pacific, as far east as Easter Island. While it seems clear that the remote ancestors of Austronesian speakers originated in Southern China, and migrated to Taiwan with the development of rice farming by c. 5500 BP and onto the northern Philippines by c. 4000 BP (the Austronesian Dispersal Hypothesis or ADH), we know very little about the origins and emergence of Austronesian speakers in the Indonesian Archipelago. Using a combination of cranial morphometric and ancient mtDNA analyses on a new dataset from Gua Hairmau, that spans the pre-Neolithic through to Metal Period (5712—5591cal BP to 1864—1719 cal BP), we rigorously test the validity of the ADH in ISEA. A morphometric analysis of 23 adult male crania, using 16 of Martin’s standard measurements, was carried out with results compared to an East and Southeast Asian dataset of 30 sample populations spanning the Late Pleistocene through to Metal Period, in addition to 39 modern samples from East and Southeast Asia, near Oceania and Australia. Further, 20 samples were analyzed for ancient mtDNA and assigned to identified haplogroups. We demonstrate that the archaeological human remains from Gua Harimau cave, Sumatra, Indonesia provide clear evidence for at least two (cranio-morphometrically defined) and perhaps even three (in the context of the ancient mtDNA results) distinct populations from two separate time periods. The results of these analyses provide substantive support for the ADH model in explaining the origins and population history of ISEA peoples.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0198689
Number of pages25
JournalPloS ONE
Issue number6
Early online dateJun 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

We are grateful to Prof. Zhang Chi, School of Archaeology and Museology, Peking University; Dr. Wei Xing-tao, Henan Provincial Institute of Archaeology; Director Huang Wei-jin, Hemudu Museum in Zhejiang; Professor Sun Guo-ping, Zhejiang Provincial Institute of Archaeology; Dr. Chris Stringer, Department of Palaeontology, the Natural History Museum, London; Mr. Korakot Boonlop, the Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre, Bangkok; Prof. Michael Pietrusewsky, University of Hawaii; Dr. Nguyen Viet, the Centre for Southeast Asian Prehistory, Hanoi; Dr. Philippe Mennecier, Department Hommes, Musee de
l’Homme, Paris; Prof. Robert Foley, Department of Biological Anthropology, University of Cambridge; Dr. Tsai Hsi-Kuei, National Taiwan University, College of Medicine; Dr. Wang Daw-Hwan, IHP, Academia Sinica, Taipei; and Dr. Wilfred Ronquillio, Archaeology Division, National Museum of the Philippines, for permission to study comparative cranial specimens.
The authors also express their sincere gratitude to Dr. Priyatono Hadi, Pusat Arkeologi National, for his aid to our project, including training cooperation for the Anthropological and Archaeological study of Gua Harimau.
This study was supported in part by JSPS KAKENHI Grant No. No. 23247040 and No. 16H02527 and Australian Research Council Grant number: FT 120100299


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