The Balinese are an Austronesian people who share a common historical and cultural background with the other peoples of the region. It seems likely that the homeland of the Austronesians was Taiwan, but some 6,000 years ago this population began to disperse, migrating southwards through the Philippines before turning eastwards into the Pacific and west towards islands of Indonesia. This movement of people was not a mass exodus, but probably consisted of small groups of related kin, travelling by outrigger canoe who over the course of several millennia, island—hopped their way across both the Pacific and lndians Oceans to constitute the world’s most widely dispersed language group prior to the modern era. Bali was probably settled some 3 to 4 thousand years ago by people who were farmers and herders, and who brought with them a bronze- and possibly iron-age technology. ln the course of time, the human population has had a considerable impact on the natural history of the island, most notably in terms of deforestation and species extinction. The most populated region has for centuries been the coastal plains and fertile valleys to die south of the central mountain range. It is here that the work of man is most evident in the form of the remarkable terraced rice field which have been sculpted by band from the natural contours of the land.