A study research institute has been set up to determine whether Austronesians - a distinct ethnic group that speaks a family of languages and is today spread across Southeast Asia, Oceana and Madagascar - originated on the Chinese mainland.
The International Research Center for Austronesian Archaeology in Pingtan, Fujian province, is being led by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences" Institute of Archaeology and Fujian Museum.
Austronesian languages have nearly 400 million speakers, making the language group the world"s fifth-largest by population.
Researchers have subdivided it into nine basic tongues, with eight spoken by aboriginal inhabitants of Taiwan. That"s a big reason for the belief that original speakers came from the island in the prehistoric period, before migrating far and wide.
However, a new view has surfaced in academic circles suggesting that Taiwan was probably a midway station, with the origins of Austronesian languages on the Chinese mainland.
The research center is near a Neolithic site - the Keqiutou ruins - where archaeologists have found many stone tools, including rudimentary hand-axes. The artifacts are similar to those found in Taiwan"s Dachakeng ruins, believed to be the home of the ancestors of the Austronesians.
"It is a piece of significant evidence confirming a close link between Fujian and Taiwan in the New Stone Age," said Zhao Zhijun, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Fan Xuechun, from the Fujian Museum, said the discoveries suggest ancient people might have crossed the Taiwan Straits some 7,000 years ago and that the Chinese mainland was indeed the original homeland of the Austronesians.
Researchers have said they will first collect and restore the Keqiutou findings and then display them at the center. Their work will serve as a base for Austronesian archaeological studies.