Human settlement of Madagascar occurred during or before the mid first millennium AD by Austronesian peoples, presumably arriving on outrigger canoes from present-day Indonesia. These were joined around the 9th century AD by Bantu migrants crossing the Mozambique Channel from East Africa. Other groups continued to settle on Madagascar over time, each one making lasting contributions to Malagasy cultural life. The Malagasy ethnic group is often divided into 18 or more subgroups, of which the largest are the Merina of the central highlands.
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Engraving captioned Urania riphaeus from Charles D. d'Orbigny's Dictionnaire universel d'histoire naturelle (1849)
Chrysiridia rhipheus, the Madagascan sunset moth, is a species of day-flying moth of the family Uraniidae. It is considered one of the most impressive and appealing-looking lepidopterans. Famous worldwide, it is featured in most coffee table books on Lepidoptera and is much sought after by collectors, though many older sources misspell the species name as "ripheus". The colours originate from optical interference in the iridescent parts of the wings, while the black parts are pigmented. Adults have a wingspan of 7–9 cm (2.8–3.5 in).
The Hova, or free commoners, were one of the three principal historical castes in the Merina Kingdom of Madagascar, alongside the Andriana (nobles) and Andevo (slaves). The term hova originally applied to all members of a Malagasy clan (possibly of the Zafiraminia people) that migrated into the central highlands from the southeast coast of the island around the 15th century and absorbed the existing population of Vazimba. Andriamanelo (1540–1575) consolidated the power of the Hova when he united many of the Hova chiefdoms around Antananarivo under his rule. The term Hova remained in use through the 20th century, though some foreigners transliterated that word to be Ankova, and increasingly used since the 19th century.
In and after the 16th century, slaves were brought into Madagascar's various kingdoms, and social strata emerged in Merina kingdom. The Hova emerged as the free commoners caste below the nobles hierarchy. The subset of Hova related to the king by blood came under the title Andriana. The social structure of the new kingdom became further defined under his son Ralambo (1575–1612), who further subdivided the Andriana into four ranks. Ralambo was also the first to use the term Imerina (land of the Merina) to describe the land occupied by the Hova people, who thereafter gradually adopted the identity and label of Merina. (Full article...)
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Andriamanelo (fl. 1540–1575) was king of Alasora in the central highlands region of Madagascar. He is generally considered by historians to be the founder of the Kingdom of Imerina and originator of the Merina royal line that, by the 19th century, had extended its rule over virtually all of Madagascar. The son of a Vazimba mother and a man of the newly arrived Hova people originating in southeast Madagascar, Andriamanelo ultimately led a series of military campaigns against the Vazimba, beginning a several-decade process to drive them from the Highlands. The conflict that defined his reign also produced many lasting innovations, including the development of fortified villages in the highlands and the use of iron weapons. Oral tradition furthermore credits Andriamanelo with establishing a ruling class of nobles (andriana) and defining the rules of succession. Numerous cultural traditions, including the ritual of circumcision, the wedding custom of vodiondry and the art of Malagasy astrology (sikidy) are likewise associated with this king. (Full article...)
Image 6Canoe-sarcophagus of the Dayak: a burial that recalls the Malagasy tradition that former Ntaolo Vazimba and Vezo buried their dead in canoe-sarcophagi in the sea or in a lake (from History of Madagascar)
Image 7National monument in Moramanga commemorating the beginning of the Malagasy Uprising on 29 March 1947. Between 11,000 and 90,000 Malagasy died during the uprising which lasted nearly two years. (from Madagascar)
Image 36A Sumatran village showing several traditional houses (Malagasy levu). The vahoaka ntaolo villages of Madagascar were probably similar in the first millennium AD. This model is still currently present on every coast and in the remote inland areas and forests. (from History of Madagascar)
Image 50The taro (saonjo in Malagasy) is, according to an old Malagasy proverb, "the elder of the rice" (Ny saonjo no zokin'ny vary), and was also a staple diet for the proto-Austronesians (from History of Madagascar)