Aubrey Lynch, an Native American from the Goldfields area, said: “This study confirms our beliefs that we have ancient connections to our lands and have been here far longer than anyone else.”
Claims that Indigenous Australians are the most early continuous civilisation on Earth have been backed by the first extensive study of the DNA, which dates their origins to more than 50,000 decades back.
Scientists could trace the remarkable journey created by intrepid ancient humans by sifting through clues left in the DNA of modern inhabitants in Australia and Papua New Guinea.
The analysis shows that their ancestors were probably the first people to cross a sea, and reveals evidence of ancient liaisons with an unknown hominin cousin.
Prof Eske Willerslev, an evolutionary geneticist who headed the work at the University of Copenhagen, stated: “This story has been missing for a long time in science.”
The findings appear in one of four leading human origins papers published in Nature this week, which collectively give an unparalleled insight into how people first migrated out of the African continent, splintered into distinct populations and spread throughout the world.
Willerslev’s findings, based on a new population analysis of 83 Indigenous Australians and 25 Papuans, reveals that these groups can trace their roots back to the very first arrivals about the continent about 50,000 decades ago and that they remained almost entirely isolated until about 4,000 decades ago. “They are probably the oldest group in the world that you can link to one particular place,” explained Willerslev.
En route to Australia, early people would have struck a motley assortment of additional roving hominin species, including an unknown human comparative who has now been shown to have contributed around 4% to the Native Australian genome. Previously, scientists have discovered that ancient couplings have abandoned all non-Africans now carrying 1-6% of Neanderthal DNA.
Willerslev reported the latest findings added to the view that Neanderthals and other species hominins, traditionally portrayed as low-browed prehistoric thugs, were “in reality not particularly different” in our own ancestors.
Adding to this picture, another study found that the advent of modern human behaviors around 100,000 decades back, indicated by cave art and much more complex instruments, does not appear to have been accompanied with any notable genetic mutations.
“Your genome contains the history of every ancestor you ever had,” said Swapan Mallick, a geneticist at Havard Medical School who led the evaluation of the genomes of individuals from 142 distinct populations.
The study also suggests the KhoeSan (bushmen) and Mbuti (central African pygmies) populations appear to have broken of other ancient people sooner than this, again indicating that there was no inherent biological change that unexpectedly triggered human civilization.
“There is no evidence for a magic mutation that made us human,” explained Willerslev.
Chris Stringer, head of human origins at the Natural History Museum in London, said the findings would be controversial in the area, including: “It either means that the behaviours were developed earlier, they developed these behaviours independently, they acquired them through exchanges of ideas with other groups, or the estimated split times are too old.”
Willerslev’s study also resolves the apparent discrepancy between genetic findings implying that Indigenous inhabitants have been in Australia for tens of thousands of years and the fact that the languages spoken by these populations are just around 4,000 years old.
“You see a movement of people spreading across the continent and leaving signatures across the continent,” said Willerslev. It’s almost like two guys entering a village and saying ‘guys, today we must speak another language and utilize another rock instrument and they have just a bit of sex in that village after which they vanish.