Hypotheses on Negrito Origins

Negrito Origins
Hypotheses on Negrito Origins | @museumxst0ries via National Museum of the Philippines

Hypotheses on Negrito Origins

According to dominant thoughts on human origins and variation during the colonial period until the mid-20th century, all dark-skinned, curly-haired, and small-statured people dispersed across Asia, Australia, and the islands of Oceania belong to a single race. Portrayals of racial categorization among indigenous groups and the colonials in illustrations and photographs were published during the Spanish and American colonial periods. Recent scientific developments have since emphasized the interaction between heredity and the natural and social environments, refuting racial categories, and leading to another hypothesis that these similarities may have been the results of separate evolutionary developments under similar ecological conditions.

These opposing views tend to depict Negrito populations as primitive groups who live in small-scale societies with the lowest level of technology and subsistence, following a slow pace of progress and development. These have also propagated the presumption that they are living descendants of prehistoric hunters and gatherers.

In the late 19th century, attempts to illustrate the peopling of the Philippines by the waves of migration theory assumed that the first migrants are the Negrito. This was popularized beginning the 1920s by American ethnologist and Father of Philippine Anthropology Henry Otley Beyer, and re-evaluated by succeeding generations of anthropologists and archaeologists. Presently, the Negrito are still considered the earliest indigenous groups in the Philippine archipelago.

Archaeological studies infer that their ancestors are the Proto-Australoid who first migrated to Sundaland- Malaysia, and Indonesia today- traveling northwards to reach what is now the Philippines, more than 40,00 years ago. Generic studies of selected East Asian hunter-gatherer groups that include the Philippine Negrito, support a south-to-north population dispersal in the region about 50,000 to 100,000 years ago.

Text/Image: National Museum of the Philippines

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