“The Single Most Astonishing Fact of Human Geography”: Indonesia’s Far West Colony
This paper addresses the question of why the prehistoric Indonesian colonization of Madagascar has been described as the most astonishing fact of human geography. Evidence from linguistics, DNA, boat-building, and the history of trade is adduced to explain how and why such a colonization took place. It is argued that this colonization was made possible by the remarkable seafaring tradition that made Austronesian the world’s most far-flung language family in premodern times. Also of great importance was the strategic position of the states that organized this colonization with respect to an early world-system of the type described by Wallerstein.
Volume & Issue:
Page range: 59-96
Cornell University Southeast Asia Program