A Luzon Negrito with spear
Regions with significant populations
Isolated geographic regions in India and Maritime Southeast Asia
Andamanese languages, Aslian languages, Philippine Negrito languages
Animism, folk religion, Anito, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism

The term Negrito (/nɪˈɡrt/; lit.'little black people') refers to several diverse ethnic groups who inhabit isolated parts of Southeast Asia and the Andaman Islands. Populations often described as Negrito include: the Andamanese peoples (including the Great Andamanese, the Onge, the Jarawa, and the Sentinelese) of the Andaman Islands, the Semang peoples (among them, the Batek people) of Peninsular Malaysia, the Maniq people of Southern Thailand, as well as the Aeta of Luzon, the Ati and Tumandok of Panay, the Mamanwa of Mindanao, and about 30 other officially recognized ethnic groups in the Philippines.


The word Negrito, the Spanish diminutive of negro, is used to mean "little black person." This usage was coined by 16th-century Spanish missionaries operating in the Philippines, and was borrowed by other European travellers and colonialists across Austronesia to label various peoples perceived as sharing relatively small physical stature and dark skin.[1] Contemporary usage of an alternative Spanish epithet, Negrillos, also tended to bundle these peoples with the pygmy peoples of Central Africa on the basis of perceived similarities in stature and complexion.[1] (Historically, the label Negrito has also been used to refer to African pygmies.)[2] The appropriateness of bundling peoples of different ethnicities by similarities in stature and complexion has been challenged.[1]


Batek family in Malaysia.

Most groups designated as "Negrito" lived as hunter-gatherers, while some also used agriculture, such as plant harvesting. Today most live assimilated to the majority population of their respective homeland. Discrimination and poverty are often problems, caused either by their lower social position and/or their hunter-gatherer lifestyles.[3]


See also: Genetic history of East Asians and Peopling of Southeast Asia

Position of various ethnic groups considered "Negrito". Negritos and Oceanians are most closely related to East Asians followed by Native Americans.

Based on perceived physical similarities, Negritos were once considered a single population of closely related people. However, genetic studies suggest that they consist of several separate groups descended from the same ancient East Eurasian meta-population that gave rise to modern East Asian peoples and Oceanian peoples, as well as displaying genetic heterogeneity. The Negritos form the indigenous population of Southeast Asia, but were largely absorbed by Austroasiatic- and Austronesian-speaking groups that migrated from southern East Asia into Mainland and Insular Southeast Asia with the Neolithic expansion. The remainders form minority groups in geographically isolated regions.[4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11]

It has been found that the physical and morphological phenotypes of Negritos, such as short stature, a wide and snub nose, curly hair and dark skin, "are shaped by novel mechanisms for adaptation to tropical rainforests" through convergent evolution and positive selection, rather than a remnant of a shared common ancestor, as suggested previously by some researchers.[12][13][14][15]

A Negrito-like population was most likely also present in Taiwan before the Neolithic expansion and must have persisted into historical times, as suggested by evidence from morphological features of human skeletal remains dating from around 6,000 years ago resembling Negritos (especially Aetas in northern Luzon), and further corroborated by Chinese reports from the Qing period and from tales of Taiwanese indigenous peoples about people with "dark skin, short-and-small body stature, frizzy hair, and occupation in forested mountains or remote caves".[16]

See also



  1. ^ a b c Manickham, Sandra Khor (2009). "Africans in Asia: The Discourse of 'Negritos' in Early Nineteenth-century Southeast Asia". In Hägerdal, Hans (ed.). Responding to the West: Essays on Colonial Domination and Asian Agency. Amsterdam University Press. pp. 69–79. ISBN 978-90-8964-093-2.
  2. ^ See, for example: 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..." (p. 851)
  3. ^ "The succesful [sic] revival of Negrito culture in the Philippines". Rutu Foundation. 6 May 2015. Retrieved 19 July 2019.
  4. ^ Sofwan Noerwidi (2017). "Using Dental Metrical Analysis to Determine the Terminal Pleistocene and Holocene Population History of Java". In Piper, Philip J.; Matsumura, Hirofumi; Bulbeck, David (eds.). New Perspectives in Southeast Asian and Pacific Prehistory. Acton, Australian Capital Territory: ANU Press. p. 92. ISBN 978-1-76046-095-2.
  5. ^ Chaubey, Gyaneshwer; Endicott, Phillip (June 2013). "The Andaman Islanders in a Regional Genetic Context: Reexamining the Evidence for an Early Peopling of the Archipelago from South Asia". Human Biology. 85 (1–3): 153–172. doi:10.3378/027.085.0307. PMID 24297224. S2CID 7774927.
  6. ^ Basu, Analabha; Sarkar-Roy, Neeta; Majumder, Partha P. (2016). "Genomic reconstruction of the history of extant populations of India reveals five distinct ancestral components and a complex structure". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 113 (6): 1594–1599. Bibcode:2016PNAS..113.1594B. doi:10.1073/pnas.1513197113. PMC 4760789. PMID 26811443.
  7. ^ Larena, Maximilian; Sanchez-Quinto, Federico; Sjödin, Per; McKenna, James; Ebeo, Carlo; Reyes, Rebecca; Casel, Ophelia; Huang, Jin-Yuan; Hagada, Kim Pullupul; Guilay, Dennis; Reyes, Jennelyn (2021). "Multiple migrations to the Philippines during the last 50,000 years". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 118 (13). e2026132118. Bibcode:2021PNAS..11826132L. doi:10.1073/pnas.2026132118. PMC 8020671. PMID 33753512.
  8. ^ Carlhoff, Selina; Duli, Akin; Nägele, Kathrin; Nur, Muhammad; Skov, Laurits; Sumantri, Iwan; Oktaviana, Adhi Agus; Hakim, Budianto; Burhan, Basran; Syahdar, Fardi Ali; McGahan, David P. (2021). "Genome of a middle Holocene hunter-gatherer from Wallacea". Nature. 596 (7873): 543–547. Bibcode:2021Natur.596..543C. doi:10.1038/s41586-021-03823-6. hdl:10072/407535. PMC 8387238. PMID 34433944.
  9. ^ Tagore, Debashree; Aghakhanian, Farhang; Naidu, Rakesh; Phipps, Maude E.; Basu, Analabha (2021). "Insights into the demographic history of Asia from common ancestry and admixture in the genomic landscape of present-day Austroasiatic speakers". BMC Biology. 19 (1): 61. doi:10.1186/s12915-021-00981-x. PMC 8008685. PMID 33781248.
  10. ^ Yang, Melinda A. (6 January 2022). "A genetic history of migration, diversification, and admixture in Asia". Human Population Genetics and Genomics: 1–32. doi:10.47248/hpgg2202010001.
  11. ^ Yew, Chee-Wei; Lu, Dongsheng; Deng, Lian; Wong, Lai-Ping; Ong, Rick Twee-Hee; Lu, Yan; Wang, Xiaoji; Yunus, Yushimah; Aghakhanian, Farhang; Mokhtar, Siti Shuhada; Hoque, Mohammad Zahirul; Voo, Christopher Lok-Yung; Abdul Rahman, Thuhairah; Bhak, Jong; Phipps, Maude E.; Xu, Shuhua; Teo, Yik-Ying; Kumar, Subbiah Vijay; Hoh, Boon-Peng (February 2018). "Genomic structure of the native inhabitants of Peninsular Malaysia and North Borneo suggests complex human population history in Southeast Asia". Human Genetics. 137 (2): 161–173. doi:10.1007/s00439-018-1869-0. PMID 29383489. S2CID 253969988. The analysis of time of divergence suggested that ancestors of Negrito were the earliest settlers in the Malay Peninsula, whom first separated from the Papuans ~ 50-33 thousand years ago (kya), followed by East Asian (~ 40-15 kya)...
  12. ^ Stock, Jay T. (June 2013). "The Skeletal Phenotype of 'Negritos' from the Andaman Islands and Philippines Relative to Global Variation among Hunter-Gatherers". Human Biology. 85 (1–3): 67–94. doi:10.3378/027.085.0304. PMID 24297221. S2CID 32964023. Although general similarities in size and proportions remain between the Andamanese and Aeta, differences in humero-femoral indices and arm length between these groups and the Efé demonstrate that there is not a generic 'pygmy' phenotype. Our interpretations of negrito origins and adaptation must account for this phenotypic variation.
  13. ^ Zhang, Xiaoming; Liu, Qi; Zhang, Hui; Zhao, Shilei; Huang, Jiahui; Sovannary, Tuot; Bunnath, Long; Aun, Hong Seang; Samnom, Ham; Su, Bing; Chen, Hua (31 March 2022). "The distinct morphological phenotypes of Southeast Asian aborigines are shaped by novel mechanisms for adaptation to tropical rainforests". National Science Review. 9 (3): nwab072. doi:10.1093/nsr/nwab072. PMC 8970429. PMID 35371514.
  14. ^ Deng, Lian; Pan, Yuwen; Wang, Yinan; Chen, Hao; Yuan, Kai; Chen, Sihan; Lu, Dongsheng; Lu, Yan; Mokhtar, Siti Shuhada; Rahman, Thuhairah Abdul; Hoh, Boon-Peng; Xu, Shuhua (3 February 2022). "Genetic Connections and Convergent Evolution of Tropical Indigenous Peoples in Asia". Molecular Biology and Evolution. 39 (2): msab361. doi:10.1093/molbev/msab361. PMC 8826522. PMID 34940850. We hypothesize that phenotypic convergence of the dark pigmentation in TIAs could have resulted from parallel (e.g., DDB1/DAK) or genetic convergence driven by admixture (e.g., MTHFD1 and RAD18), new mutations (e.g., STK11), or notably purifying selection (e.g., MC1R).
  15. ^ Endicott, Phillip; Gilbert, M. Thomas P.; Stringer, Chris; Lalueza-Fox, Carles; Willerslev, Eske; Hansen, Anders J.; Cooper, Alan (January 2003). "The Genetic Origins of the Andaman Islanders". The American Journal of Human Genetics. 72 (1): 178–184. doi:10.1086/345487. PMC 378623. PMID 12478481. D-loop and protein-coding data reveal that phenotypic similarities with African pygmoid groups are convergent.
  16. ^ Hung, Hsiao-chun; Matsumura, Hirofumi; Nguyen, Lan Cuong; Hanihara, Tsunehiko; Huang, Shih-Chiang; Carson, Mike T. (4 October 2022). "Negritos in Taiwan and the wider prehistory of Southeast Asia: new discovery from the Xiaoma Caves". World Archaeology. 54 (2): 207–228. doi:10.1080/00438243.2022.2121315. S2CID 252723056.

Further reading