Myanmar's most mysterious neighbours:  the peoples of the Andaman Islands

Myanmar's most mysterious neighbours:  the peoples of the Andaman Islands

မြန်မာဘာသာဖြင့် ဖတ်ရန်

The Andaman Islands are closer to Yangon than Mandalay.  They are today part of India.  But their indigenous peoples are perhaps the most isolated anywhere in the world.

There are today only several hundred native Andamanese people left.  They speak languages that are unrelated to any other.  

Genetically, they are closer to Asians than anyone else.  Interestingly, the few whose DNA have been tested are of the Y Haplogroup D-M174, which is found also in Tibet, Yunnan and Japan.  Scientists believe they are descended from the first people who left Africa 60,000 years ago and then over thousands of years followed the coasts to Myanmar then down to Australia. One branch may have also travelled north and become the first people in eastern Asia.  During the last Ice Age, the Andaman Islands were connected by land to Myanmar, but became islands with the rising in sea levels 10,000 years ago.  The Andaman people have been almost entirely isolated ever since.

The Burmese call the Islands "Kappali Kyun" after the Arab word Kaffir (now derogatory) originally meaning non-Muslims, and now (especially in South Africa) referring to black Africans.

One of the islands - North Sentinel Island - is completely isolated even today.  We know almost nothing about the people there.  Any attempt to contact the Sentinelse have been met with a hail of arrows (top photo).  They clearly want to be left alone.  It is the last place in the world not connected to anywhere else. 

Explore more in Before history

Explore more in Myanmar's Neighbours Past and Present

Explore all Topics