Matsu skeletons linked to Austronesia

LIANG ISLANDER::DNA tests of the human remains serve as further proof that ancient Austronesians resided mainly in Asia’s southeastern coasts, a local research fellow said

Staff writer, with CNA

Thu, Jul 18, 2013 - Page 5

Two sets of skeletal human remains discovered in 2011 and last year on Matsu’s Liang Island (亮島) are believed to have belonged to people from the Austronesian-language family, an expert said on Tuesday, citing the results of a DNA research on the remains.

Chen Chung-yu (陳仲玉), a research fellow at Academia Sinica, led the archeological research team who discovered the remains.

A DNA biochemistry analysis showed that the skeleton of the “Liang Islander (亮島人)” is related to Austronesian-speaking people who had widely dispersed throughout the islands of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, including Taiwan and the Philippines, Chen said.

Chen added that Liang Island is believed to be one of the areas where the ancient Austronesian people lived.

Liang Island is part of the Matsu Islands administered by Lienchiang County.

The archeological team had discovered a skeleton at a historic site on Liang Island in late 2011, which scientific investigations showed dated back to as long as 8,200 years ago. It was named “Liang Islander No. 1.”

In July last year, another skeleton, named “Liang Islander No. 2,” was discovered at the same site, which is believed to date back between 7,590 and 7,530 years.

The results of DNA tests conducted on finger bones of the human remains by several international institutions dedicated to human genome research further proved that the southeastern coastal areas of Asia were likely the main habitat of ancient Austronesians, Chen said.

The findings from Liang Island provide new evidence that can be added to the understanding of the way of life of the ancestors of the Austronesians, and the spread of the population in the region and the origins of Austronesian languages, he said.

Lienchiang County Commissioner Yang Sui-sheng (楊綏生) said the Liang Islanders probably lived in China’s southeastern coastal areas, and that they traveled to and resided on Liang Island during the fishing season.

The excavation of the remains marks an important discovery in the history of human migration, Chen said.