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Reviewed by:
  • Genetic, Linguistic, and Archaeological Perspectives on Human Diversity in Southeast Asia
  • Michael Pietrusewsky
Genetic, Linguistic, and Archaeological Perspectives on Human Diversity in Southeast Asia. Li Jin, Mark Seielstad, and Chunjie Xiao, eds. Recent Advances in Human Biology, Volume 8. New Jersey: World Scientific, 2001. Hardcover. 26 figs., 11 tables, 172 pages, $58.00. ISBN 981-02-4784-2.

Eleven papers, which resulted from an international conference held at the University of Yunnan in Kunming, China, in June 2000, are published in this slim volume. Nine of the eleven papers focus on genetic diversity in Southeast Asia and neighboring regions, especially studies which utilize molecular genetic marker data, including mitochondrial DNA and the Y chromosome. Three papers provide archaeological and linguistic perspectives for understanding the prehistory and peopling of the region. Four genetic papers, by S. Horai, J. Martinson, S. Marzuki, and M. Stoneking, and one on linguistics (L. Sagart), presented in the same conference, are not published in this volume. One of the main objectives of the conference was to bring together researchers interested in population genetics in Southeast Asia in a collaborative spirit. The papers are divided into four sections: Part 1: Prehistory of Human Populations: Archaeological, Linguistic and Paleontological Perspectives, Part 2: The Peopling of Southeast Asia, Part 3: The Peopling of East Asia, and Part 4: The Peopling of Oceania.

The chapter by C.F.W. Higham, "Prehistory, Language, and Human Biology: Is There a Consensus in East and Southeast Asia?" serves to introduce the major themes covered in this edited volume as well as provide archaeological, and some human biological and linguistic perspective. As acknowledged by Higham, there is little direct evidence for tracing and dating of the first anatomically modern humans in Southeast Asia. The first visible archaeological record for the region dates to only 38,000 years ago with the appearance of late Pleistocene hunter-gatherer sites. Higham summarizes evidence from studies of human biology of surviving hunter-gatherer groups (Negritos), which suggests that early humans may have appeared as early as 100,000 years ago in the region. The main focus of this chapter is the reiteration of an agriculturally (rice) driven demic (vs. cultural) expansion of northern populations, which Higham places in the Yangzi Valley, into Southeast Asia. This expansion, which the author suggests followed the major river systems of the region, is believed to have replaced relic Negrito populations in the region. A similar process of expansion is used to explain the later intrusions of people in Island Southeast Asia and ultimately Melanesia and greater Oceania. The author formulates a similar model, based on available linguistic evidence. The second chapter, by W.S.-Y. Wang, "Human Diversity and Language Diversity," reviews some of the basic tenets of historical linguistics with special attention being given to the major language groupings of Southeast and East Asia and the estimated dates for the separation of major language families. These linguistic reconstructions provide perspective and invite comparisons with archaeological and genetic data. The final chapter in this section, "Before the Neolithic: Hunter Gatherer Societies in Central Thailand," by R. Thosarat, provides further archaeological context for an agriculturally driven demic expansion of northern populations into Southeast Asia. Archaeological and some human biological evidence from two coastal hunter-gatherer sites in central Thailand, Nong Nor and Khok Phanom Di, are used to substantiate the transition to agriculture in the late third millennium B.C.

Four papers are presented in the second section. The P. A. Underhill and C. C. Roseman paper, "The Case for an African [End Page 179] Rather Than an Asian Origin of the Human Y-Chromosome YAP Insertion," uses the phylogeneticaly informative paternally derived Y-chromosome to contradict the Asian origin hypothesis for the origin of the YAP Alu insertion and bolsters the original Out-of-Africa scenario for the origins of modern humans. While the timing of this important mutation is broadly consistent with the mtDNA evidence, the authors acknowledge that it postdates the paleoanthropological evidence.

Using Y chromosome and mtDNA data, the paper by B. Su, C. Xiao, and L. Jin, "Genetic History of Ethnic Populations in Southwestern China," confirms historical Chinese records that indicate the existence of three distinct...