Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Who Are The Lebbo' People Of Borneo?

Why care about the Lebbo' people of Borneo?

Eurogenes reports that in his efforts to explain the autosomal genetic origins of South Asians that the Lebbo' people of the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo were a better fit to the Ancestral South Asian component of autosomal genetic diversity of South Asians (especially Dravidian speakers) than the Onge people of the Andaman islands who have often been used for that purpose.

This puts front and center the question:

Who are the Lebbo' people of Borneo?

Anthropology and Archaeology

Two Lebbo' men from this source.

The source for the picture of these two men notes their probably longstanding, pre-Neolithic, presence in the region:
Previous surveys have led to the unexpected discovery of more than 150 caves with unique rock art paintings (mostly hand stencils), dating back to at least the Early Holocene (9900 years BP; Plagnes et al. 2003) and presenting some similarities to those from eastern Indonesian Islands, West Papua and Australia (Fage et al. 2010). These discoveries confirmed for the first time the early human occupation of eastern Borneo. Liang Abu is located 130km north-west of the shore of the Makassar Strait, within the rainforest of a mountainous karstic area. Hundreds of cliff caves and shelters are present, where human activity occurred on three levels: human settlement at the base, burial in the middle and rock art at the top (Chazine 2005). . . . The site is located 6km from the remote Lebbo' village of Merabu. The Lebbo' are an isolated indigenous population of hunter-gatherers and are the only ethnic group which have lived in this inner region for a long time. Ethno-linguistic studies of their oral traditions and cultural practices, to document their former use of caves in relation to the proto-historic and pre-historical periods in the region, are currently under way. Some of the Lebbo's representations can be directly related to the prehistoric rock art found in nearby caves. All these characteristics make Liang Abu a site well suited for the investigation of links between late Pleistocene human occupation, rock art, the communities represented by them as well as the communities of their potential descendants.

The image above is Figure 1 in this article in Nature. The Lebbo' are locating in the Northeast portion of Indonesian Borneo. The Andaman islands, which are home to the Onge are in the chain of Islands extending to the south from Bangladesh to the island of Sumatra (to the west of Myanmar f.k.a. Burma).

The Lebbo' peoples historic range may have been more expansive than it is today.

Autosomal Genetics

The ancestry components of the Lebbo' people based upon a fourteen population admixture analysis (shown in Figure 2 of from the same article, below in bottom panel of the far left) are quite heterogenous, with a plurality component that is most common in Sumatra and Peninsular Malaysia (labeled C13 in the figure below), a significant share of a component that is almost pure in the H'tin people of Thailand (labeled C12), and a notable shares associated with the Ma'anyan people of Borneo (labeled C8, who are linguistically the closest match to the people of Madagascar) and with the people of Sulawesi and the Lesser Sunda islands (labeled C8), but almost none of a Philippine Negrito component (labeled C2), a Hmong component (labeled C7), a component found in the nearby Bidayuh people of Borneo (labeled C9), the Temuan people of Peninsula Malaysia (C10), the Miabei people of Thailand (labeled C5), a West Eurasian component (labeled C6), or an African component (labeled C1).

Their lack of Papuan or Philippine Negrito affinity, their lack of Denisovan admixture, and the apparent archaeological case for their arrival in Borneo ca. 35,000 years ago would be consistent with the deep ancestors of the Lebbo' people being second wave hunter-gatherers of Southeast Asia, rather than first wave hunter-gatherers (like Papuans and Aboriginal Australians and Philippine Negrito populations) in the region. It is this wave of hunter-gatherer people, rather than the first one, to whom ancestral South Indians apparently have a strong genetic affinity.

On the other hand, uniparental ancestry seems to indicate that some first wave hunter-gatherers were incorporated into this population.

The same article from Nature also concludes based upon another statistical analysis that mainland Southeast Asia "gene flows reached the west of Borneo, but not the east." But the Lebbo' people are in eastern Borneo (Borneo was, in historic times, divided by a shallow gulf that divided the western and eastern part of the island). An f3-test analysis "showing shared genetic history with Austronesian groups (represented by indigenous Formosan) compared to Mainland Southeast Asian groups (represented by the H’tin)" places the Lebbo' people in an almost overlapping position with the Ma'anyan people (the closest linguistic ancestors of the people of Madagascar), despite their quite different mixes of ancestry components in an Admixture analysis. 

Another analysis, however, puts the Lebbo' equidistant with the Formosan indigenous people from the Ma'anyan people.

In a PCA analysis (Figure 5 in the Nature paper), the Lebbo' people (light gray triangles in a central position on the PCA figure overlapping the green blue and red boxes) are a near perfect match for the Asian component of the ancestors of the people of Madagascar, while the closest linguistic match, the Ma'anyan are clearly not a good match.

The disparity between the genetically Asian component of the people of Madagascar and the people most linguistically similar to the people of Madagascar suggests either that the Lebbo' people may be a relict population of one which once included people with advance maritime skills who spoke a language similar to the Ma'anyan people of today, or that the Lebbo' people coincidentally have similarity on a PCA chart to the end result of free admixture of Eastern Indonesia, Bornean and mainland Southeast Asian people (much like my own half-Korean, half-European children look like Uighars on a PCA chart).

There is passing discussion of the Lebbo' who are noted for having some unexpected Austro-Asiatic ancestry in another paper on the current population genetics of the region, and there is more analysis of the genetic data (mostly also discussed in the Nature article) here.

Uniparental Genetics


In terms of uniparental genetics, the Lebbo' have the following Y-DNA haplogroups:

C* a.k.a. C-M130 (13.33%), K* a.k.a. K-M9 (6.67%), KxLT a.k.a. K2 (13.33%), O2a1 a.k.a. O-M88 (33.33%), O1a2 a.k.a. O-M50 (26.67%), and O3a2 a.k.a. O-M164 (6.67%). This is a subset of the diversity of the Ma'anyan people with one exception understandable given the small sample size of just 12 Lebbo' men, two-thirds of whom have Y-DNA haplogroup O which is rare in South Asia. 

Five of the twelve Y-DNA clades are associated with first wave hunter-gatherers in Southeast Asia, and six are often associated with the Austronesian founding population, and one is associated with Austro-Asiatic mainland Southeast Asia.

Y-DNA C* is found in Australian Aborigines, India, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, in Europe among males with the surname Llach originating from Garrotxa, Catalonia, Spain, and in prehistoric remains, dating from 34,000 years BP, found in Russia and known as "Kostenki 14". 

Y-DNA C, in general, "attains its highest frequencies among the indigenous populations of Mongolia, the Russian Far East, Polynesia, Australia, and at moderate frequency in Korea and Manchu people, it displays its highest diversity among modern populations of India. It is therefore hypothesized that . . . [it] either originated or underwent its longest period of evolution within India or the greater South Asian coastal region. The highest diversity is observed in Southeast Asia, and its northward expansion in East Asia started approximately 40,000 years ago."

Y-DNA K* is derived from Y-DNA F, which is a brother clade to Y-DNA C (through several intermediate steps), and Y-DNA KxLT a.k.a. K2 is derived from Y-DNA K*. "The basal paragroup K* is exceptionally rare, although it has been reported at low frequencies in various parts of Eurasia, Oceania and Africa." 

Y-DNA KxLT in common in Australian Aborigines, Papuans, and is present as a minor clade in island Southeast Asians. Two individuals with Y-DNA KxLT have been found in a South Asian specific clade, K2e (K-M147) and two individuals with Y-DNA KxLT have been found in a clade with one Telegu man (i.e. Dravidian India) and one ethnically Malaysian man, K2a1 (K-M2313). Y-DNA KxLT is ancestral to Y-DNA N, Y-DNA O, and Y-DNA Q, and Y-DNA Q, in turn, is ancestral to Y-DNA R. 

Y-DNA O-M88 is found frequently among Hani, She people, Tai peoples, Cambodians, and Vietnamese, with a moderate distribution among Qiang, Yi, Hlai, Miao, Yao, Taiwanese aborigines, and Han Chinese

Y-DNA O-M50 occurs among Austronesian peoples of Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Melanesia, Micronesia, and Madagascar as well as among some populations of continental Southeast Asia and among Bantu peoples of the Comoros

Y-DNA O-M164 is most common in Cambodia and Laos.


The Lebbo' have the following mtDNA haplogroups:

B4a (21.05%), B5a (15.79%), M20 (15.79%), M71a2 (15.79%), R9b1a1a (10.53%),  and E1a (21.05%) out of a sample size of 19 Lebbo' people. This is about a 50% overlap with the diversity of the Ma'anyan people. 

mtDNA B4a, B5a, M71a, and R9 are all also found in aboriginal populations in Southern Laos, while mtDNA E1a is typically Austronesian haplogroup. 

mtDNA M20 is typical of Southern China and mainland Southeast Asia.

The mtDNA M71a2 is a rare haplogroup associated with mainland Asia. mtDNA M71 is found in Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam, the Philippines, and China. 

mtDNA E is found especially in Taiwan (aborigines), Maritime Southeast Asia, and the Mariana Islands. mtDNA E is a descendant of mtDNA M9 which is found in East Asia and Central Asia, especially in Tibet.  

mtDNA B is a descendant of mtDNA R which, in turn, is derived from mtDNA N. mtDNA B4a is found among Polynesians including the Malagasy people of Madagascar, among Koreans and among some Native Americans. 

mtDNA B5a is found, among other places, in Southern China such as in Hubei province. 

mtDNA R9b is typical of Southeast Asia and mtDNA R is derived from mtDNA N. 

Of course, both mtDNA m and mtDNA N are derived from mtDNA L3, an African mtDNA clade.

South Asia Compared

Neither of these sets of uniparental markers significantly overlap with the uniparental markers of South Asia.

Culture and Language

One of the few good references directly discussing the Lebbo' people is a closed access chapter in book of conference proceedings entitled "The Lebbo’ Language and Culture: A Window on Borneo’s Ancient Past" (January 2015), by Antonio Guerreiro, in the book: 12-ICAL Bali, Proceedings volume I, Publisher: ANU, Editors: Wayan Arka, I, pp.149-177. This paper is, however, discussed in a secondary source which recounts that abstract:
The Lebbo’ are former hunter-gatherers/horticulturists; they are localized in remote places in Eastern Borneo, in the regencies of East Kutai and Berau (Province of East Kalimantan). 
Linguistically, they are distinct from the neighbouring Dayak, and Punan (Pnaan) belonging to various branches of the Kayanic and Kenyahic linguistic groups. While the other languages spoken in the region are the Kutai and Berau Malay dialects, besides Bajau and Bugis (on the coastal areas). 
The paper considers the main features and the lexical/phonological aspects of the two Lebbo’ isolects, Lebbo’ Aso’ and Lebbo’ Isi, which amount to less than 1,000 speakers. Both isolects have evolved from the so-called “Basap” language (known also as “Bahasa Sanimban” in Dutch sources). I will relate the Lebbo’ to the other components of this scattered linguistic and cultural group, such as the Ulun Darat (Basap Selatan) in Mangkalihat, the Ulun Latti in Northern Berau and related Basap in Talisayan. Until now the Lebbo’ language has not been recorded and described systematically. 
In central Borneo, the ancient links of the Lebbo’ are to be found with the proposed Rejang-Sajau linguistic group (Hudson 1978). These links, spread across the Island, point to other languages from East to Western Borneo. The field research was carried from 2009 to 2011 in the frame of the French-Indonesian pluridisciplinary programme, and supplemented by the study of archival materials.
Another story (in Spanish) advocating for designation of parts of their homeland as a UNESCO World Heritage site notes (via Google translation of the Spanish) that:
In karst, thick tropical forests conceal the worn limestone towers, among which the team discovered 35,000-year-old bones and charcoal, the oldest test of human occupation found so far in Kalimantan. "These remains are interesting because for a long time Kalimantan was excluded from the history of human evolution." . . .
The Franco-Indonesian team is working in an area where ancient peoples left impressions of their hands in caverns 10,000 years ago or more. In addition to ancient bones, they found hundreds of rock paintings in orange to brown pigments showing figures of tapirs (now extinct in Borneo), wild cattle and some creatures unknown to us today. 
The wonders of the Sangkulirang-Mangkalihat karst are not limited to the human footprint: the southeastern limestone hills and valleys of Southeast Asia have been called "biodiversity coffers" in danger. The region abounds in rare species restricted to limestone. "I saw blind freshwater fish, rare bats, black and white swifts, innumerable animals. It is also a refuge for orangutans fleeing forest fires during the El NiƱo years," explains biologist Rondang Siregar of the University of Indonesia. 
The diversity of species of bats is greater than in any point of Southeast Asia. Also discovered cockroaches of a species endemic to a cave and that with its 10 centimeters is the largest in the world. 
About 2,000 Lebbo live in the region, the only ethnic group that inhabits this inland part of eastern Borneo. The Lebbo incorporate to their narrations elements of the cave paintings. One of his myths speaks of a young shaman and his eight wives who took possession of the Karst territory marking the caves with paintings of their hands, as was done in the caves millennia ago. 
The Lebbo have been a great help since they know the karst and the forest and collaborate in the location of the shelters and interpret the paintings.
A DVD recounting of the story of the Shaman is available. See also this description of those materials:
A Lebbo' Shaman's Tale 
During the first part of the interview, Pak Kuling, a Lebbo' shaman (belian) from the village of Pana'an (aged about 50), who is currently the kepala adat, tells of the feats of Belian Danyam. Belian Danyam, literally, "The Young Shaman," is a culture hero of the Lebbo' people of the Lesan River area of East Kalimantan. Among the villagers the hero's legacy remains alive to this day. Several important aspects of this narrative are stressed. Generally, the narrative focuses on the idea of territorial origins and shamanic powers. Belian Danyam was miraculously born as a shaman among human beings on earth. However, who his parents were is not known. As a child he was ready to practice rituals at once and did not have to study first with an elder shaman as is usually the case. During his travels and adventures in the Karst region, the hero expelled evil spirits from the earth, thus making it a suitable place for humans to live. Because he was jealous of his eight wives' behavior, he broke the taboo against mocking animals and so had to cope with the anger of the powerful Thunder God, Meruaa Laut, the protector of adat. Eventually, in his flight the hero vanished into a mountain named Batu Lujep located at the headwater boundary of the upper Lesan and Tabalar Rivers. After his disappearance into the rock his seven successors, known by their shamanic titles, continued to perform in the shamanic tradition (adat belian) he instituted. 
It was Belian Danyam's eight wives who made the stencils of their hands and other marks in the caves as a sign of "being there" and of taking possession of the surrounding area. The hero thus produced a social space in this remote Karstic region. Perhaps, this aspect of the narrative can be related to the holistic character of Lebbo' shamanistic representations, involving the forested landscape and the plentiful reproduction of natural resources (fruits, honey, game). Conversely, a feature that is prevalent in the tale is the notion of bounded territories ascribed to Lebbo' local groups. Spatial boundaries are well-known and relate directly to natural resource exploitation within local group territories. 
In the second part of the interview, Pak Ruling describes ritual ideas and practices at the core of Lebbo' shamanism, i.e. the Tuak harvest festival and the Nobet curative/ purification rites.
Not much is known about their languages, as explained in the link to a presentation describing an effort to document these languages:
The project is focussed on documenting the oral traditions and compiling bilingual vocabularies of some former hunters-gatherers’ languages in the Province of East Kalimantan. Until now these languages, mainly the Punan Tubu’ and the Ulun Lebbo’ and Ulun Darat are poorly known and scattered in different Regencies. The topics addressed in this documentation project are: 
• oral traditions (songs, epics, stories, myths, proverbs); 
• linguistic interactions and borrowings, phenomenon of diglossia with the National language (Bahasa Indonesia), and other, regional, languages; 
• lexicology and dialectal variations. 
• Very little information on the oral traditions of these people is available. 
• The main kind of narrative genre is mbui. 15 mbui have been collected and 8 have been transcribed and translated. A dictionary is being prepared and will be published together with the stories and their translations in Indonesian. 
Many languages from multiple only modestly related language families are spoken in the region, although all (including their's) are apparently Austronesian languages, albeit with substrate influences probably from Austro-Asiatic languages which are common in mainland Southeast Asia.

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