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This article is about the ethnic group. For the shrub, see Citharexylum berlandieri. For the municipality, see El Negrito.
Regions with significant populations
India India
(Andaman and Nicobar Islands)
Malaysia Malaysia
(Peninsular Malaysia)
(Luzon, Palawan, Panay, Negros, Cebu, and Mindanao)
Thailand Thailand
(Southern Thailand)
Related ethnic groups
Negroid race
Negrito group photo (Malaysia, 1905).
Negritos in a fishing boat (Philippines, 1899).
A young Onge mother with her baby (Andaman Islands, 1905).

The Negrito (/nɪˈɡrit/) are several ethnic groups who inhabit isolated parts of Southeast Asia.[1] Their current populations include Andamanese peoples of the Andaman Islands, Semang peoples of Malaysia, the Mani of Thailand, and the Aeta, Agta, Ati, and 30 other peoples of the Philippines.

It has been suggested that the Negrito peoples may be descendants of settlers from an early migration out of Africa.[2]


The word "Negrito" is the Spanish diminutive of negro, i.e., "little black person", referring to their small stature, and was coined by early European explorers.[3]

Occasionally, some Negritos are referred to as Negrillos (pygmies), bundling them with peoples of similar physical stature in Central Africa, and likewise, the term Negrito was previously occasionally used to refer to African Pygmies.[4]

Many on-line dictionaries give the plural in English as either 'negritos' or 'negritoes', without preference. The plural in Spanish is 'negritos'. [5][6]


Great Andamanese couple (1876).

The Negritos are probably descendants of the indigenous Negroid populations of the Sunda landmass and New Guinea, predating the Austronesian peoples who later entered Southeast Asia.[7]

A number of features would seem to suggest a common origin for the Negritos and Negrillos (African Pygmies). No other living human population has experienced such long-lasting isolation from contact with other groups.[8]

Features of the Negrito include short stature, dark skin, woolly hair, scant body hair, and occasional steatopygia. The claim in a 1973 study that Andamanese pygmoids more closely resemble Africans than Asians in their cranial morphology added some weight to this theory, until genetic studies indicated a closer relationship with Asians.[8]

Multiple studies also show that Negritos from Southeast Asia to New Guinea share a closer cranial affinity with Australo-Melanesians.[7][9]

It has been suggested that the craniometric similarities to Asians could simply indicate a level of interbreeding between Negritos and later waves of people arriving from the Asian mainland. However, this is not supported by genetic evidence, which has shown the level of isolation that populations such as the Andamanese have experienced. Some studies suggest that each group should be considered separately, since the genetic evidence refutes the idea of a specific shared ancestry among the "Negrito" groups of the Andaman Islands, the Malay Peninsula, and the Philippines.[10]

A study made in the 1950s on blood groups and proteins suggested that the Andamanese were more closely related to the Oceanic peoples than to Africans. Genetic studies on the Philippine Negritos, based on polymorphic blood enzymes and antigens, showed they were similar to the surrounding Asian populations.[8] Genetic testing places all the Onge and all but two of the Great Andamanese in the mtDNA Haplogroup M found in East Africa, East Asia, and South Asia, suggesting that Negritos are at least partly descended from a migration originating in eastern Africa about 60,000 years ago. This migration is hypothesized to have followed a coastal route through India and into Southeast Asia, and is sometimes referred to as the Great Coastal Migration.

Analysis of mtDNA coding sites indicated these Andamanese fall into a subgroup of M not previously identified in human populations in Africa and Asia. These findings suggest an early split from the population of migrants from Africa. The descendants of these migrants would eventually populate the entire habitable world.[8] Haplogroup C-M130, Haplogroup O-2 seen in dark-skinned Negritos such as the Semang of Malaysia and Phillipeans Negritos, and haplogroup D-M174 are believed to represent Y-DNA in the migration.[11]

A recent genetic study found that unlike other early groups in Malesia, Andamanese Negritos lack the Denisovan hominin admixture in their DNA. Denisovan ancestry is found among indigenous Melanesian and Australian populations between 4–6%.[12]

Historical distribution[edit]

Negritos may have also lived at one time in Taiwan.[13] However, the Negrito population had shrunk to the point that by 100 years ago, only one small group lived near the Saisiyat tribe.[13] A festival celebrated by the Saisiyat gives evidence of their former habitation of Taiwan. The Saisiyat tribe celebrate the black people in a festival called Pas-ta'ai.[13]

According to James J.Y. Liu, a professor of comparative literature, the Chinese term Kun-lun (崑崙) means Negrito.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Snow, Philip. The Star Raft: China's Encounter With Africa. Cornell Univ. Press, 1989 (ISBN 0801495830)
  2. ^ Kashyap, VK; Sitalaximi, T; Sarkar, BN; Trivedi, R (2003), "Molecular relatedness of the aboriginal groups of Andaman and Nicobar Islands with similar ethnic populations" (PDF), The International Journals of Human Genetics 3: 5–11. 
  3. ^ William Marsden (1834). "On the Polynesian, or East-Insular Languages". Miscellaneous works of William Marsden. Pub. for the Author by Parbury, Allen. p. 4. 
  4. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, 1910–1911: "Second are the large Negrito family, represented in Africa by the dwarf-races of the equatorial forests, the Akkas, Batwas, Wochuas and others..." (pg. 851)
  5. ^ "Merriam Webster". 
  6. ^ "The Free Dictionary". 
  7. ^ a b Getting Here: The Story of Human Evolution, William Howells, Compass Press, 1993
  8. ^ a b c d Thangaraj, Kumarasamy; et al. (21 January 2003), "Genetic Affinities of the Andaman Islanders, a Vanishing Human Population", Current Biology, 13, Number 2: 86–93(8), doi:10.1016/S0960-9822(02)01336-2, PMID 12546781 
  9. ^ David Bulbeck; Pathmanathan Raghavan and Daniel Rayner (2006), "Races of Homo sapiens: if not in the southwest Pacific, then nowhere", World Archaeology (Taylor & Francis) 38 (1): 109–132, doi:10.1080/00438240600564987, ISSN 0043-8243, JSTOR 40023598 
  10. ^ Catherine Hill1; Pedro Soares, Maru Mormina1, Vincent Macaulay, William Meehan, James Blackburn, Douglas Clarke, Joseph Maripa Raja, Patimah Ismail, David Bulbeck, Stephen Oppenheimer, Martin Richards (2006), "Phylogeography and Ethnogenesis of Aboriginal Southeast Asians", Molecular Biology and Evolution (Oxford University Press) 
  11. ^ 走向遠東的兩個現代人種
  12. ^ Reich et al., "Denisova Admixture and the First Modern Human Dispersals into Southeast Asia and Oceania", The American Journal of Human Genetics (2011), DOI:10.1016/j.ajhg.2011.09.005, PMC 3188841, PMID 21944045,
    • "About 3% to 5% of the DNA of people from Melanesia (islands in the southwest Pacific Ocean), Australia and New Guinea as well as aboriginal people from the Philippines comes from the Denisovans." Oldest human DNA found in Spain – Elizabeth Landau's interview of Svante Paabo, accessdate=2013-12-09
  13. ^ a b c Jules Quartly (27 Nov 2004). "In honor of the Little Black People". Taipei Times. p. 16. Retrieved 22 May 2011. 
  14. ^ Liu, James J.Y. The Chinese Knight Errant. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1967 (ISBN 0-2264-8688-5)

Further reading[edit]

  • Evans, Ivor Hugh Norman. The Negritos of Malaya. Cambridge [Eng.]: University Press, 1937.
  • Garvan, John M., and Hermann Hochegger. The Negritos of the Philippines. Wiener Beitrage zur Kulturgeschichte und Linguistik, Bd. 14. Horn: F. Berger, 1964.
  • Hurst Gallery. Art of the Negritos. Cambridge, Mass: Hurst Gallery, 1987.
  • Khadizan bin Abdullah, and Abdul Razak Yaacob. Pasir Lenggi, a Bateq Negrito Resettlement Area in Ulu Kelantan. Pulau Pinang: Social Anthropology Section, School of Comparative Social Sciences, Universití Sains Malaysia, 1974.
  • Mirante, Edith (2014) "The Wind in the Bamboo: Journeys in Search of Asia's 'Negrito' Indigenous Peoples" Bangkok, Orchid Press.
  • Schebesta, P., & Schütze, F. (1970). The Negritos of Asia. Human relations area files, 1-2. New Haven, Conn: Human Relations Area Files.
  • Armando Marques Guedes (1996). Egalitarian Rituals. Rites of the Atta hunter-gatherers of Kalinga-Apayao, Philippines, Social and Human Sciences Faculty, Universidade Nova de Lisboa.
  • Zell, Reg. About the Negritos - A Bibliography. edition blurb, 2011.
  • Zell, Reg. Negritos of the Philippines -The People of the Bamboo - Age - A Socio-Ecological Model. edition blurb, 2011.
  • Zell, Reg. John M. Garvan - An Investigation - On the Negritos of Tayabas. edition blurb, 2011.

External links[edit]