By Mayuk Saha
A study on genetics published in the journal ‘Nature’ has proved that the Aborigines descended from people who migrated to Australia around 58,000 years ago. Titled ‘A Genomic History of Aboriginal Australia’, this is the first time that such a genetic study has been conducted. The results are ground breaking as they show that these ancestors make up the world’s oldest known culture.
Conducted at Cambridge University under the supervision of Professor Eske Willerslev, elders from the aboriginal tribes in Australia were also part of this team. Genetic sequencing with the genes of a number of Indigenous Australians and some natives of New Guinea extracted from their saliva was achieved. Prior to this, the same study had only been conducted on three people. The subjects in the study came from many places, some quite far from each other.
Earlier, experts did wonder if the recent generations of Indigenous communities had descended from the very first set of people to live in Australia. Their theories have now been confirmed. Being the most thorough study of its kinds, it has also proved that all of us are descended from the same group of ancestors who migrated out of Africa.
In Australia, this migration happened when the ancestors of the Papuans and the Aborigines moved along with others a little over 70,000 years ago. They then separated from that group some 14,000 years later and were most likely the first of our kind to make it across a large water body like an ocean. This group landed in Sahul, the landmass that broke into separate pieces to become the places that are now Tasmania, Australia and New Guinea. However, this separation occurred only some 50,000 years later.
According to the study, Australia has a long, unbroken history of being occupied by humans and this throws up interesting possibilities about where they originated from, the relationships between different populations, and adjusting to variations. The study also found that Australians have the same DNA markings as people from Europe and Asia which indicates that all these people are descended from one ancestor.
The findings also tell us that the Indigenous communities of Australia have been there for so many years that their bodies have adapted to their surroundings. The various groups have been able to accustom themselves in a variety of ways in order to best suit the climatic nature of their different regions. Australia is also vast that these tribes had very little contact with each other making them genetically very diverse. For instance, those living in Australian deserts where the nightly temperature dropped below zero are able to adjust to the cold without any increase in their metabolism. People native to Europe haven’t yet achieved this.
Over the past century, rising waves of anti colonialism has lead to more importance being given to indigenous cultures and histories. This study only goes on to show that native tribes boast of more ancient civilisations and possible troves of knowledge that are yet to be revealed. In the face of anti immigration sentiments, it only goes to show that even the people currently living in Australia only arrived there recently and took over the country that belonged to the world’s most ancient cultures.
IMAGE CREDEIT: Wikipedia Commons