Researchers have conducted the world’s first comprehensive genomic study of Indigenous Australians, which has traced their history back 50,000 years to their first arrival on the continent of Sahul – the former landmass which comprised of Tasmania, Australia and New Guinea.

Professor Eske Willerslev, an evolutionary geneticist who led the research, said that Indigenous Australians were always a missing piece in humanity’s genomic puzzle:

This story has been missing for a long time in science. Now we know their relatives are the guys who were the first real human explorers. Our ancestors were sitting being kind of scared of the world while they set out on this exceptional journey across Asia and across the sea.

This should also put to bed the very odd narrative – often deployed by opponents of treaty and contitutional recognition – who argue against all available evidence that Indigenous Australians were not the first humans on the continent. This argument apparently justifies British colonialism in some roundabout way, but this study confirms what most reasonable people knew anyway: it’s bunkum. 

“They are probably the oldest group in the world that you can link to one particular place,” said Willerslev.

The study also confirms that modern humans are descended from a single wave of migrants who left Africa around 72,000 years ago. It took tens of thousands of years of movement for generations of intrepid explorers to reach what is now Australia.

Co-author Colleen Wall, an Aboriginal woman of the Dauwa Kau’bvai nation, sees this as an extremely important study which confirms much of what Aboriginal Australia already knew to be the case. “As a society we already believe that we are the oldest race on Earth, and from my point of view this research goes some way towards proving that,” she said.

She was also pleased with the central role women took in research, in stark contrast to many similar projects. “It has been difficult over the years for Aboriginal women to maintain their senior status in a mainstream society and be invited to sit at the table to negotiate our issues,” she said.

Source: The Guardian.

Photo: Getty Images.