Melanesians are an ethnic group in Melanesia. The original inhabitants of the group of islands now named Melanesia were likely the ancestors of the present-day Papuan-speaking people. They appear to have occupied these islands as far east as the main islands in the Solomon Islands, including Makira and possibly the smaller islands farther to the east.
It was particularly along the north coast of New Guinea and in the islands north and east of New Guinea that the Austronesian people came into contact with these preexisting populations of Papuan-speaking peoples, probably around 4,000 years ago. There was probably a long period of interaction that resulted in many complex changes in genetics, languages, and culture.
It was once postulated that from this area a very small group of people (speaking an Austronesian language) departed to the east to become the forebears of the Polynesian people. This theory was, however, contradicted by a study published by Temple University finding that Polynesians and Micronesians have little genetic relation to Melanesians; instead, they found significant distinctions between groups living within the Melanesian islands. Genome scans show Polynesians have little genetic relationship to Melanesians.
Melanesians are the only known modern humans whose prehistoric ancestors interbred with the Denisova hominin, sharing 4%–6% of their genome with this ancient, non-human, species descending from Homo erectus.
Blond hair is exceptionally rare among those without European heritage, however Melanesians of some islands are one of the few non-European peoples and the only dark-skin group of humans known to have blond hair.
- ^ Dunn, Michael, Angela Terrill, Ger Reesink, Robert A. Foley, Stephen C. Levinson (2005). "Structural Phylogenetics and the Reconstruction of Ancient Language History". Science 309 (5743): 2072–2075. doi:10.1126/science.1114615. PMID 16179483.
- ^ Spriggs, Matthew (1997). The Island Melanesians. Blackwell. ISBN 0631167277.
- ^ Kayser, Manfred, Silke Brauer, Gunter Weiss, Peter A. Underhill, Lutz Rower, Wulf Schiefenhövel and Mark Stoneking (2000). "The Melanesian Origin of Polynesian Y chromosomes". Current Biology 10 (20): 1237–1246. doi:10.1016/S0960-9822(00)00734-X. PMID 11069104.
- ^ http://www.temple.edu/ATTIC/newsroom/2007_2008/01/stories/pacificislander.htm
- ^ Friedlaender, Jonathan; Friedlaender JS, Friedlaender FR, Reed FA, Kidd KK, Kidd JR, et al. (2008-01-18). "The Genetic Structure of Pacific Islanders". Public Library of Science (Philadelphia, PA 19122: Temple University) PLoS Genet (4(1): e19 doi=10.1371/journal.pgen.0040019). http://genetics.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371/journal.pgen.0040019. Retrieved 2008-01-18.
- ^ Carl Zimmer (22 December 2010). "Denisovans Were Neanderthals' Cousins, DNA Analysis Reveals". NYTimes.com. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/23/science/23ancestor.html?hp. Retrieved 22 December 2010.
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