The Austronesian and the contribution of cultivated plants from South East Asia to East Africa and Madagascar

This time we will talk about  contribution of cultivated plants from south east asia.The Austronesian expansion in the Pacific, from the middle of the 2 th millennium BC. J.-C., is a relatively well known fact. On the other hand, the Austronesian movements to the west of the Indian Ocean and their role in the spread of various crops are often ignored.

Contribution Of Cultivated Plants From South East Asia

Blench [2009] postulated the arrival in Africa, in the first half of the 1 st millennium BC. BC, from three vegetatively propagated plants: banana, taro and large yam Dioscorea alata L. The age of the arrival of banana in Africa (this would be plantain, hybrid Musa balbisiana x Musa acuminata , of the genetic type AAB) is revealed by the finding of phytoliths of the genus Musain Cameroon in garbage pits dated between 840 and 350 BC. The genetic data show that these bananas did not come from India: Austronesians had to bring the plant, probably on the coasts of East Africa, the route followed to Africa ‘West remains mysterious. AAA triploid bananas are also an ancient introduction in East Africa.

The establishment of an Afro-Eurasian world-system at the turn of the Christian era is accompanied by new Austronesian movements towards the west of the Indian Ocean. These Austronesians bring bananas of types AA, AAA, AB, AAB, and ABB [Blench 2009]. Other plants probably arrive at this time, as well rice and coconut. The testimony of Pliny [Book XII, para. XLII-XLIII], which refers to the supply of cinnamon on the Somali coast by vessels that “take at least five years to return [to their country]” seems to refer to Austronesian voyages.

The settlement of the Comoros and Madagascar by Austronesians – speaking a barito-south-eastern language of southern Kalimantan, according to the characteristics of the Malagasy language – would have intervened a little later. Adelaar [2009] sees these Austronesian sailors as compared to dependency of Malaysian ships masters, arrived at the beginning of the formation of the “empire” of Sriwijaya (7 th century) [1] . I consider the Malayan expansion to be a possible cause of a voluntary departure from these pre-Malagaches, at a time either prior to Srîwijaya or contemporaneous with its formation (Beaujard, 2010) (known by the Arab historians Balâ d urî (9 th century) and al-Tabarî (9 th -10 thcentury) that “Sumatranes” called Sayabiga (from Sabab = Zabag [2] , “Javaka” by a Tamil intermediary Shavaka) were also settled before Islam in the Sindh, so that Austronesian voyages continued west of Indian Ocean).

Contribution Of Cultivated Plants From South East Asia

Early migrants in Madagascar probably included both men and women (Hurles et al., 2005). They brought with them cultivated plants, on which archeology furnishes no data. However, linguistics makes it possible to identify four plants that came with these early Austronesian: rice ( Oryza sativa L.), large yam, coconut and saffron from India.

Rice, plotting and wet rice farming

The first migrants made iron tools and possessed techniques of wet rice farming and dry rice farming, as perceived by linguistics but also by agricultural and ritual practices. The etymologies of rice-related terms, either inherited from Proto-Austronesian (PAN) or Proto-Malayo-Polynesian (PMP), or borrowed from Insulinian languages, reveal the diverse geographical origins of migrants and translate introductions over time. The rice was to be grown in the hot season (rainy season) both on the outskirts and on the edges of marshes or rivers. They are not yet managed rice fields: arrived in Madagascar without the beef, which today tramples the rice fields, migrants should have invested a lot of energy to work the soil with the spade.

cultivated plants from South East Asia

In all Madagascar, the word vary refers to both the plant, the paddy and the cooked rice. It has been likened to languages ​​of Kalimantan where one finds bari , “cooked rice”. Some ceremonies on essart evoke very precisely the rituals of the Kalimantan swarms and the ideas related to the “soul” of rice, ideas now almost disappeared in Madagascar. The vocabulary of wet rice cultivation is insulindienne origin, but shows some words from India, the Malay Archipelago, fact which seems to correspond to new Austronesian contributions in Madagascar occurred in 2 emillennium. Different from rituals on the shore, rituals on wet rice paddies implement symbolisms observed in ceremonies involving a zebu sacrifice, which express a strict social differentiation.

Malagasy linguistic data show that the island has experienced multiple introductions of rice, from various origins, at different times in its history. Many terms appear from East Africa and the Comoros at times difficult to determine. Perhaps rice farming was less important than tuber crops, but there were probably a variety of farming practices in the early stages of settlement.

The large yam

The “big yam” was a major crop of the ancient Malagasy. Its name is inherited from the PMP. Evidence of the 17 th and 18 th centuries show the existence of a particular technique that yielded yams very large, well-known practice today in Melanesia, but that should exist once in eastern Indonesia. This technique may have been introduced to the Big Island after the first arrivals (13 th , 14 th or 15 th century?).

cultivated plants from South East Asia

Globally today, tubers (yam, taro, and American plants: cassava, sweet potatoes) are symbolically devalued, classified in a “black” category (and related to natives and dependents), in contrast to rice, “White”, associated with the king and the nobles. The cultivation of yams no longer gives rise to any ritual. The arrival to the 13 th -14 th century Indonesians that initiate the development of an intensive wet rice at the same time as that of royal strongly hierarchical systems appears behind this general devaluation of “black” plants and that of the deification of rice.

The coconut tree

The Malagasy term for the coconut and its nut is generally voanio , which etymologically – voa / nio – means “fruit of the coconut tree”. Nio is derived from PMP. It may be assumed that the ancient Malagasy used the coconut fibers for their ships in the same way as the seamen of the entire Indian Ocean, but the techniques of making the sewn boats were lost except, to a certain extent, southeast, where we still knew the 19 th century.

cultivated plants from South East Asia

Indian saffron

Indian saffron, Curcuma domestica Val. (Zingiberaceae family) bears the name tamotamo throughout the island , which probably derives from the Banjarese tamo (South of Kalimantan) . As in Southeast Asia, Indian saffron is used as a condiment, as a dye, but especially in the medico-religious field (Curcuma is a protective plant, linked to the earth).

cultivated plants from South East Asia

The meeting between Africans and Austronesians

The Austronesians, who were the bearers of agricultural knowledge in the tropical humid zones, highlighted the most watered regions of the island (North and East coasts), but also very early on, probably a part of the Highlands, the time of their arrival in Imerina (7 th -8 th century?), however, remains debated. Bantu migrants will also address other areas, towards the end of the 1 st millennium, with the West Coast driest areas of clearing (the transformation of plant cover in Madagascar northwest to 9 th or 10 ecentury could correspond to the introduction of cattle by these Bantu). They bring African species adapted to the conditions of these areas: sorghum and legumes – Vigna unguiculata (L.) Wal., And bambara peas Vigna subterranea (L.) Verdc. The encounter between Bantu (? And Arab-Persian) and Malagasy in the latter part of the 1 st millennium resulting in a first mixing stage, Comoros (Dembeni culture) [Wright, 1984; Allibert and Argant, 1989] and in northern Madagascar. The set of plants and techniques available to the populations of farmers explains that the signs of human activity then spread rapidly to all the regions of the Great Island.

cultivated plants from South East Asia

Migration from the African coast continues – until 19 th century – alongside new arrivals Austronesian (supra ). They lead to the introduction of plants of Asian, African and Indian origin. The banana could thus have been brought by the first Bantu; the current Malagasy name is akondro , derived from Swahili. The same is true for taro, whose name can be compared to terms found in ki-Pemba (island of Pemba), and ki-Gunya (Kenya). A “wild” banana of the Musa acuminata type, related to a subgroup of Java, whose fruits bear seeds, was found at Pemba, where it had to be brought by Austronesians at an unspecified time. A seed banana has also been reported on the northeast coast of Madagascar. Austronesian arrivals 2 e millennium introduced the term fontsy (PMP * punti, banana), which was postponed on Ravenale ( “traveler’s tree”) on the Malagasy East Coast, then gestured in some regions, banana (the word akondro had established itself almost everywhere). Banana Musa textilis Born from the Philippines, which provides fiber appreciated, was also present on the Malagasy highland, where the time of his arrival – to 2 emillennia, is difficult to define. The Africans, no doubt also Indonesians, introduced to Madagascar different Citrus of Southeast Asia and reintroduced the rice. The diversity of Malagasy cultivated plants echoes the complexity of settlement and the cultural mixtures observed.

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