Science

Aborigines in Australia Descended From a Colonizing Population That Arrived 50,000 Years Ago

By Charles Omedo , Mar 09, 2017 12:43 AM EST
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Human life in Australia began a lot earlier than we thought, 65,000 years ago

A new study published in the journal Nature reveals that Australian Aborigines descended from a population that colonized Australia some 50,000 years ago. This was at a period when New Guinea and Australia were joined together as one single continent, and before they eventually drifted apart. Scientists used mitochondrial DNA and hair samples from descendants of ancient Aborigines to trace their history and how they came to be located in Australia alone.

Researcher had always wanted to know how the Aboriginal people came to dwell exclusively in Australia today. They have also wanted to know where the original colonists came from, and when they actually arrived Australia. Scientists had often used human skeletons and archaeological remains to determine these issues, but a recent study sheds more light on these concerns.

The original Aboriginal group split into two - wanderers and settlers

Mitochondrial DNA is exclusively passed on from mothers to children and they remain unchanged for hundreds of years. A study of the mitochondrial DNA of several Aboriginal groups and communities shows they have a common genome, possibly passed on by an ancient woman that lived nearly 50,000 years. Further studies show the Aborigines could have been descended from a single group of people that migrated to Australia 50,000 years ago and then colonized the continent, Ars Technica wrote.

How the original Aborigines quickly dispersed and spread all over Australia remains a mystery. But genetic evidence suggests the original settlers eventually divided into two groups, with one group moving east and the other moving west before meeting again tens of thousands of years later in southern Australia. These two groups were isolated from each other for tens of decades - a group migrated farther and the other remained rooted in local communities to develop different languages, cultures, tools, and physical features.

How did researchers arrive at their conclusions?

Led by Alan Cooper, a biologist from the University of Adelaide, the researchers approved the descendants of the original Aborigines to analyze their mitochondrial DNA and hair samples. They collected hair samples and mitochondrial DNA from 111 people living in the Point Pearce area and Koonibba community of South Australia, as well as the Cherbourg of Queensland. This evidence they compared with similar mitochondrial DNA and hair samples collected from over 5,000 Australian Aboriginals between 1926 and 1963. Cross-referencing all data supports earlier facts obtained from archaeological finds suggesting that all Aborigines descended from the same colonial group that took over Australia 50,000 years ago.

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