Who were the first Australians?
ArchaeoHeritage, Archaeology, Australasia, Australia, Breakingnews, Genetics, Indigenous Cultures, Oceania
The Bradshaw rock paintings, or the Gwion Gwion figures, found in the north-west Kimberly region of West Australia have in the past been used to argue that Indigenous Australians were not the first Australians.
Archaeologists claimed these paintings were produced by a different race.
About 20,000 years old, the Gwion Gwion figures are more recent than other paintings in the area, which have been dated as being up to 40,000 years old. But Dr Michael Westaway, biological anthropologist from Griffith University, said genome sequencing dispels the myth that Indigenous Australians were not the first Australians.
"This is absolutely not in doubt," Dr Westaway told Richard Glover on 702 ABC Sydney. "Many decades ago there were many hypotheses around but that hasn't really stood against any of the evidence."
A lock of hair taken from an unknown young Indigenous man in the 1920s has provided genetic evidence that Aboriginal Australians are descended from the first modern humans to walk out of Africa nearly 75,000 years ago.
The research was conducted by a team led by evolutionary biologist Eske Willerslev, director of the Centre for Ancient Genetics at the University of Copenhagen, and published in 2011.
"This proves an unbroken lineage over 2,500 generations — about 65 to 70,000 years," Dr Westaway said.
The first Aboriginal genome reinforces archaeological evidence that people arrived on the Australian continent at least 50,000 years ago, and that they share one of the oldest continuous cultures in the world.
"The DNA evidence is extraordinary," Dr Westaway said. "We know that they moved out of Africa over 60,000 years ago. We have this remarkable trail that has been recovered for the genomic sequence of the first Australians."
Lake Mungo in New South Wales is another key site.
It contains some of the oldest human remains outside Africa — including Mungo Man and Mungo Woman dating back 42,000 years.
"The morphology of Mungo Man is very similar to the first Australians of today," Dr Westaway said. "We have some of the earliest evidence of first Australians in Arnhem Land 55,000 years ago."
Dr Westaway said there was no archaeological, DNA, or human paleontological evidence to suggest there were people here prior to the first Australians.
Nineteenth century observational theories existed that there were genetic links between Indigenous Australians and Indians.
"This just doesn't hold up against the huge body of scientific evidence," Dr Westaway explained. He said the weight of scientific evidence supported the notion that the first Australians were a continuous population isolated from the rest of the world for over 50,000 years.
Author: John Donegan | Source: ABC News Website [June 30, 2015]