An Ancient Australian Connection to India?

An Ancient Australian Connection to India?

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Yet, Backed Blades were later shown to be present in archaeological deposits near Sydney dating back to about 8 thousand years old and in northern Queensland to around 15 thousand years old. The contradictory evidence was overlooked by Redd and Stoneking.

Their work was followed by more genetic studies supporting the hypothesis and a range of others seemingly rejecting it.

Then last month, the latest salvo against the India connection was launched and, I must confess, I may have greeted it a little too enthusiastically.

The work, led by Anders Bergström of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, and published in Current Biology , fully sequenced and compared globally the Y-chromosomes of 13 Aboriginal Australian men.

In a nutshell, their study found that Aboriginal men are descended from early modern human populations identified as living broadly across East Asia by at least 60 thousand years ago.

A subset of these people migrated to New Guinea and Australia, settling these areas by about 55 thousand years ago, according to genetic clocks.

The divergence of Papua New Guinean, Aboriginal Australian, and South Asian Y-chromosomes.

The divergence of Papua New Guinean, Aboriginal Australian, and South Asian Y-chromosomes. ( Bergström et al .)

The research has confirmed a large number of other genetic studies showing that soon after Australia was peopled, Indigenous New Guineans and Australians became isolated from each other, except in a few places in the north like the Torres Strait.

A very ancient origin for Indigenous Australians is also supported by the human fossil and archaeological records showing an arrival at least 40-50 thousand years ago or more.

Even Redd and Stoneking and their subsequent supporters all agreed on these points.

Australia was also, according to last month’s research, peopled once, and only once, before Europeans came by the boat load from 1788. No signs of Indian gene flow here; contrary to Redd and Stoneking’s ideas.

Yes, there was certainly trade and contact with the outside world, such as with the Macassans from Sulawesi beginning in the 1600s. But it seems for the most part not to have left a genetic footprint among living Aboriginal people.

Now, all of this leaves really only the geneticists arguing over the India connection, and they seem to be coming at the question from quite different angles; despite using very similar kinds of evidence.

Why such strong disagreement? I think the simplest explanation is that we don’t yet have enough data to provide a clear answer, from the DNA or human fossil remains. Archaeology is clearly very important, but not the full picture.

Aboriginal Australians have without doubt been living here for tens of thousands of years, but whether they were completely (genetically) isolated until 1788 is not yet certain.

An Indigenous Australian playing the Didgeridoo

An Indigenous Australian playing the Didgeridoo ( CC BY-SA 3.0 ).

What about the dingo? The latest genetic research suggests it may have come from New Guinea or even directly from Taiwan by Austronesian speaking people, with no indications of India ancestry whatsoever.

The burden of proof lies with those proposing the idea of a link between some Indigenous Australians and far away India, because the alternative view is the one that receives support from other kinds of evidence.

Also, I think it’s way too easy to ‘cherry-pick’ the physical anthropology, linguistic and archaeological literature, as geneticists are prone to doing, when the picture emerging from all these areas of research is much more complicated than most geneticists would concede.

Still, we’ve come a long way since Huxley’s insightful speculation, and who knows whether he’ll ultimately be proved right.

Top Image: An Aboriginal rock painting in Kakadu National Park of an early European ship. Source: Griffith University /Public Domain

The article ‘ An ancient Australian connection to India? ’ by Darren Curnoe was originally published on The Conversation and has been republished under a Creative Commons license.

Comments

Max Planck Institute has confirmed that approximately 4300 years ago there was a major injection of Indian DNA into the aboriginal genome. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-01-15/research-shows-ancient-indian-migr...

This article is on the money. Only male DNA has been confirmed, the matriarchal line goes back unbroken over 50,000 years.

The Coromandel referred to above is likely the location in India, not Coromandel in New Zealand. Abel Tasman is generally seen as the first European to have seen New Zealand on his 1642 voyage.
Jan Carstenz could not, in 1623, have likened the people to the Maori in New Zealand (who are incidently polynesian), when Europeans wouldn't even sail around New Zealand for another two decades. Poor scholarship, Mr. Curnoe.

Unless you can find a DNA link all this conjecture is useless, the Aboriginals of Aussie are nothing even remotely close to tamil's...regardless of migration trails.

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