Document Type

Open Access Article


The "negrito" hypothesis predicts that a shared phenotype among various contemporary groups of hunter-gatherers in Southeast Asia - dark skin, short stature, tight curly hair - is due to common descent from a region-wide, pre-Neolithic substrate of humanity. The alternative is that their distinctive phenotype results from convergent evolution. The core issues of the negrito hypothesis are today more relevant than ever to studies of human evolution, including the out-of-Africa migration, admixture with Denisovans, and the effects of environment and ecology on life-history traits. Understanding the current distribution of the negrito phenotype dictates a wide-ranging remit for study, including the articulation of the relationship between foragers and farmers in the present, the development of settled agriculture in the mid-Holocene, and terminal Pleistocene population expansions. The consensus reached by the contributors to this special double issue of Human Biology is that there is not yet conclusive evidence either for or against the negrito hypothesis. Nevertheless, the process of revisiting the problem will benefit the knowledge of the human prehistory of Southeast Asia. Whether the term negrito accurately reflects the all-encompassing nature of the resulting inquiry is in itself questionable, but the publication of this double issue is testament to the enduring ability of this hypothesis to unite disparate academic disciplines in a common purpose.