Australo-Melanesians (also known as Australasians or Australomelanesoid race or Australoid race) is an outdated historical grouping of various people indigenous to Melanesia and Australia. Groups that were controversially included are found in parts of Southeast Asia, and South Asia.
While most authors included Papuans, Aboriginal Australians and Melanesians (mainly from Fiji, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu), there was controversy about the inclusion of the various Southeast Asian populations grouped as "Negrito", or a number of dark-skinned tribal populations of the Indian subcontinent.
The concept of dividing humankind into three, four or five races (often called Caucasoid, Mongoloid, Negroid, and Australoid) was introduced in the 18th century and further developed by Western scholars in the context of "racist ideologies" during the age of colonialism. With the rise of modern genetics, the concept of distinct human races in a biological sense has become obsolete. In 2019, the American Association of Physical Anthropologists stated: "The belief in “races” as natural aspects of human biology, and the structures of inequality (racism) that emerge from such beliefs, are among the most damaging elements in the human experience both today and in the past."
The term "Australoid" was coined in ethnology in the mid 19th century, describing tribes or populations "of the type of native Australians". The term "Australioid race" was introduced by Thomas Huxley in 1870 to refer to certain peoples indigenous to South and Southeast Asia and Oceania. In physical anthropology, Australoid is used for morphological features characteristic of Aboriginal Australians by Daniel John Cunningham in his Text-book of Anatomy (1902). An Australioid (sic, with an additional -i-) racial group was first proposed by Thomas Huxley in an essay On the Geographical Distribution of the Chief Modifications of Mankind (1870), in which he divided humanity into four principal groups (Xanthochroic, Mongoloid, Negroid, and Australioid). Huxley's original model included the native inhabitants of South Asia under the Australoid category. Huxley further classified the Melanochroi (Peoples of the Mediterranean race) as a mixture of the Xanthochroi (northern Europeans) and Australioids.
Huxley (1870) described Australioids as dolichocephalic; their hair as usually silky, black and wavy or curly, with large, heavy jaws and prognathism, with skin the color of chocolate and irises which are dark brown or black.
The term "Proto-Australoid" was used by Roland Burrage Dixon in his Racial History of Man (1923). In The Origin of Races (1962), Carleton Coon expounded his system of five races (Australoid, Caucasoid, Mongoloid, Congoid and Capoid) with separate origins. Based on such evidence as claiming Australoids had the largest, megadont teeth, this group was assessed by Coon as being the most archaic and therefore the most primitive and backward. Coon's methods and conclusions were later discredited and show either a "poor understanding of human cultural history and evolution or his use of ethnology for a racialist agenda." Bellwood (1985) uses the terms "Australoid", "Australomelanesoid" and "Australo-Melanesians" to describe the genetic heritage of "the Southern Mongoloid populations of Indonesia and Malaysia".
The populations grouped as "Negrito" (the Andamanese – from the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean), the Semang and Batek peoples (from Malaysia), the Maniq people (from Thailand), the Aeta people, the Ati people, and certain other ethnic groups in the Philippines, the Vedda people of Sri Lanka and a number of dark-skinned tribal populations in the interior of the Indian subcontinent (some Dravidian-speaking groups and Austroasiatic-speaking peoples, like the Munda people) were also suggested by some to belong to the Australo-Melanesian group, but there were controversies about this inclusion.
The inclusion of Indian tribes in the group was not well-defined, and was closely related to the question of the original peopling of India, and the possible shared ancestry between Indian, Andamanese, and Sahulian populations of the Upper Paleolithic.
The suggested Australo-Melanesian ancestry of the original South Asian populations has long remained an open question. It was embraced by Indian anthropologists as emphasizing the deep antiquity of Indian prehistory. Australo-Melanesian hunter-gatherer and fisherman tribes of the interior of India were identified with the Nishada Kingdom described in the Mahabharata. Panchanan Mitra (1923) following Vincenzo Giuffrida-Ruggeri (1913) recognizes a Pre-Dravidian Australo-Veddaic stratum in India.
South Indian tribes specifically described as having Australo-Melanesian affinities include the Oraon, Munda, Santal, Bhil, Gondi, the Kadars of Kerala, the Kurumba and Irula of the Nilgiris, the Paniyans of Malabar, the Uralis, Kannikars, Mithuvan and Chenchus.
But other Indian anthropologists of the post-colonial period, such as S. P. Sharma (1971) and D. N. Majumdar (1946, 1965), have gone as far as claiming Australo-Melanesian ancestry, to a greater or lesser extent, for almost all the castes and tribes of India.
Individuals with Australo-Melanesian phenotypes existed possibly also in East Asia (in and toward the south of East Asia) at least since Middle Paleolithic, such as Liujiang but were largely displaced by migrations of Eastern Eurasian rice farmers since Neolithic, who may have spread from Siberia or Central China to Southeastern Asia during Mesolithic and Neolithic and after adopting farming to the rest of Southeast Asia and Oceania.
Criticism based on modern genetics
After discussing various criteria used in biology to define subspecies or races, Alan R. Templeton concludes in 2016: "[T]he answer to the question whether races exist in humans is clear and unambiguous: no.":360
- Pullaiah, T; Krishnamurthy, KV; Bahadur, Bir (2017). Ethnobotany of India, Volume 5: The Indo-Gangetic Region and Central India. p. 26. ISBN 9781351741316. names the tribes of Chota Nagpur, the Baiga, Gond, Bhil, Santal and Oroan tribes; counted as of partial Australoid and partial Mongoloid ancestry are certain Munda-speaking groups (Munda, Bonda, Gadaba, Santals) and certain Dravidian-speaking groups (Maria, Muria, Gond, Oroan).
- Kulatilake, Samanti. "Cranial Morphology of the Vedda people - the indigenes of Sri Lanka". Cite journal requires
- American Association of Physical Anthropologists (27 March 2019). "AAPA Statement on Race and Racism". American Association of Physical Anthropologists. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
- J.R. Logan (ed.), The Journal of the Indian archipelago and eastern Asia (1859), p. 68.
- Pearson, Roger (1985). Anthropological Glossary. Krieger Publishing Company. pp. 20, 128, 267. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
- Huxley, Thomas On the Geographical Distribution of the Chief Modifications of Mankind. 1870. August 14, 2006
- Huxley, Thomas. On the Geographical Distribution of the Chief Modifications of Mankind. 1870. August 14, 2006. 
- Huxley, T. H. "On the Geographical Distribution of the Chief Modifications of Mankind" (1870) Journal of the Ethnological Society of London
- Fluehr-Lobban, C. (2005). Race and racism : an Introduction. Lanham : Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 131–133. ISBN 9780759107953.
- Bellwood, Peter (1985). Prehistory of the Indo-Malaysian Archipelago. Australian National University. ISBN 978-1-921313-11-0.
- Black, Sue; Ferguson, Eilidh (2011). Forensic Anthropology: 2000 to 2010. Taylor and Francis Group. p. 127. ISBN 9781439845899. Retrieved 3 July 2018. "There are considered to be four basic ancestry groups into which an individual can be placed by physical appearance, not accounting for admixture: the sub-Saharan African group ("Negroid"), the European group ("Caucasoid"), the Central Asian group ("Mongoloid"), and the Australasian group ("Australoid"). The rather outdated names of all but one of these groups were originally derived from geography"
- "Ask Oxford – Definition of Australoid". Oxford Dictionary of English. 2018. Retrieved 2018-06-28.
- Coon, Carleton Stevens (1939). The Races of Europe. New York: The Macmillan Company. pp. 425–431.
- P. Mitra, Prehistoric India (1923), p. 48.
- Sarat Chandra Roy (Ral Bahadur) (2000). Man in India - Volume 80. A. K. Bose. p. 59. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
- R. R. Bhattacharya et al. (eds., Anthropology of B.S. Guha: a centenary tribute (1996), p. 50.
- Mhaiske, Vinod M., Patil, Vinayak K., Narkhede, S. S., Forest Tribology And Anthropology (2016), p. 5. Bhuban Mohan Das, The Peoples of Assam (1987), p. 78.
- cited after Bhuban Mohan Das, The Peoples of Assam (1987), 77f. "Majumder also subscribes to this view by saying that 'the Australo-Melanesian features are found throughout the length and breadth of Indian subcontinent 90% of Indian racial genetics population.
- Matsumura, H.; Hung, H. C.; Higham, C.; Zhang, C.; Yamagata, M.; Nguyen, L. C.; Li, Z.; Fan, X. C.; Simanjuntak, T.; Oktaviana, A. A.; He, J. N.; Chen, C. Y.; Pan, C. K.; He, G.; Sun, G. P.; Huang, W. J.; Li, X. W.; Wei, X. T.; Domett, K.; Halcrow, S.; Nguyen, K. D.; Trinh, H. H.; Bui, C. H.; Nguyen, K. T.; Reinecke, A. (2019). "Craniometrics Reveal "Two Layers" of Prehistoric Human Dispersal in Eastern Eurasia". Scientific Reports. 9 (1): 1451. Bibcode:2019NatSR...9.1451M. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-35426-z. PMC 6363732. PMID 30723215.
- Oxenham, Marc; Tayles, Nancy (2006-04-20). Bioarchaeology of Southeast Asia - Google Books. ISBN 9780521825801.
- Templeton, A. (2016). EVOLUTION AND NOTIONS OF HUMAN RACE. In Losos J. & Lenski R. (Eds.), How Evolution Shapes Our Lives: Essays on Biology and Society (pp. 346-361). Princeton; Oxford: Princeton University Press. doi:10.2307/j.ctv7h0s6j.26. That this view reflects the consensus among American anthropologists is stated in: Wagner, Jennifer K.; Yu, Joon-Ho; Ifekwunigwe, Jayne O.; Harrell, Tanya M.; Bamshad, Michael J.; Royal, Charmaine D. (February 2017). "Anthropologists' views on race, ancestry, and genetics". American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 162 (2): 318–327. doi:10.1002/ajpa.23120. PMC 5299519. PMID 27874171. See also: American Association of Physical Anthropologists (27 March 2019). "AAPA Statement on Race and Racism". American Association of Physical Anthropologists. Retrieved 19 June 2020.