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Scientists: thirty Indonesian women colonized Madagascar over one thousand years ago

The island off Africa's east coast had few human inhabitants prior to the Asian colonization.

madagascar colonized by IndonesiansEnlarge
Madagascar was colonized by Indonesians just 1,200 years ago, according to a new study that examined genetic material from people in both countries. (Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

Scientists have discovered that Madagascar, the island nation off the east coast of Africa, was colonized by women from Indonesia just 1,200 years ago, New Scientist reported.

Researchers from Massey University in New Zealand looked at mitochondrial DNA from Malagasy and Indonesians. This type of DNA can be traced back through mothers.

While the theory that the island was settled by Indonesians is not new, a genetic analysis suggests just 30 women of childbearing age comprised the first human inhabitation of Madagascar. 93 percent of Malagasy genes were tied to Indonesia.

"Such a small population suggest they may have colonized Madagascar after crossing the ocean by accident," Murray Cox, a researcher, told New Scientist.

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The theory is not farfetched.  Researchers noted that there have been modern cases of Indonesians surving on life rafts and washing up in Madagascar. "So you could imagine a boat being blown off course in Indonesia and making it to the island," Cox said.

The Australian said that anthropologists have been "fascinated" by Madagascar by years, because of its unique population. 

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The dialects of Madagascar can be traced to Indonesia. "Most of the lexicon comes from Ma'anyan, a language spoken along the Barito River valley of southeastern Borneo - a remote, inland region - with a smattering of words from Javanese, Malay or Sanskrit," the Australian wrote.

They share other cultural memes: boats, tools, musical instruments, and food are similar despite the 5,000 miles between the two countries.

The scientists now plan to repeat the procedure with data on the Y chromosome to find out how many men were among the forefathers of modern Madagascar.

The study appears in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/business-tech/science/120321/30-indonesian-women-colonized-madagascar