Re: origin of australian aborigines

Rod Hagen (
Wed, 07 Dec 1994 12:10:29 +1000

In article <lettej.786205312@alize.ERE.UMontreal.CA>,
lettej@ERE.UMontreal.CA (Lette Jean) wrote:

> (Opiowade) writes:
> >In article <>, lettej@ERE.UMontreal.CA (Lette
> >Jean) writes:
> >:A few years ago, I read that there were 2 theories about the origin of
> >:the australian aborigines to explain their distinct features.
> >:Either they had been isolated from other humans and thus evolved
> >:separately after the australian continent came into existence OR they
> >:had a distinct genetic background meaning that they would be the only
> >:humans on the planet who are not homo sapiens sapiens, but a small
> >:terminal parallel branch (but by no means inferior) in the evolution
> >tree.

You are probably partly remembering the controversy which has raged over
the issue of whether Australia was settled by two distinct groups of
people with markedly different characteristics, or whether it was a single
group with substantial internal variation. There is no doubt whatsoever
that Aborigines are Homo Sapiens Sapiens.

> >My understanding about the origins of Australian aboriginals is that they
> >arrived on the islands of Australia and New Zealand about 30,000 yrs ago.
> >They are genetically related to other groups found in the archipelagos off
> >of southeast Asia such as Polynesians (probably the closest relatives),
> >Indonesians, Melanesians, and so on. In terms of visible physical
> >features, they are similar to groups also found in Papua New Guinea.

Aborigines arrived in Australia between 120,000 and 50,000 years ago.
(some evidence, particularly changes in pollen counts, changes in the fire
regime etc suggests the earlier date. Actual "hard" site evidence
(artefacts, bones etc) is only available back to the later date.). There
is little doubt that they arrived through New Guinea (which has, on
occasion been connected to Australia during the period concerned) from
south east asia. It is also thought probable that further groups entered
Australia from the north during the following tens of millenia.

New Zealand, however, only appears to have been populated by humans for
about 700 years. The Maori's who are Polynesians, arrived around 1300AD.
Any genealogical inter-relationships between the Maoris who arrived in New
Zealand and the Australian Aborigines, probably pre-dates the original
occupation of Australia. The relationship bewteen Aborigines and the
population of New Guinea is probably much more recent (trade occured
between Aboriginal people of Cape York and the Torres Strait Islands prior
to white contact, and asociations between Aborigines on the Arnhem land
coast and people from Indonesia etc are well documented).

> > One last interesting fact about the Australians is that they brought
> >dogs with them to the island. These dogs were domesticated relatives of
> >the Asian Wolf and came with the first wave of inhabitants at 30,000 yrs
> >ago. This predates the earliest known domestication of the dog (or any
> >animal) found anywhere else in the world by almost 15,000 yrs. At some
> >point, however, they ceased using these animals and they returned to a
> >ferrel state. Unrelated, but kind of interesting anyway.

Dingos did not arrive in Australia with the "first wave of inhabitants".
Most authorities suggest that Dingos arrived much more recently, perhaps
4000 to 5000 years ago. Dogs had been domesticated in other parts of the
world for thousands of years before this. Aborigines never ceased using
dingos. They were a ubiquitous acommpaniment of Aboriginal groups at the
time of white occupation. Dingos did, of course, escape, run wild and
establish independent lives for themselves!

> 1- Interestingly, an australian anthropologist told me specifically no less
> than 2 weeks ago, that australian aborigines were UNRELATED to the
> Polynesians and those from Papua New Guinea. If I understand you note
> correctly, this is not even controversial, he was wrong.

Well, taken far enough back, most professionals accept a "single origin"
explanation of humananity. We are all, ultimately, related. As explained
above, the relationship of contemporary Aborigines to people from New
Guinea is closer than the relationship between Aborigines and Polynesians.
The people of New Guinea are probably the closest "relatives" of
Australian Aborigines. The people of further north in South East Asia and
the Pacific Islanders are another step or two removed. The people North
east asia, the Amerindians and the Caucasians are probably another step
removed again, (there has been interesting research following linquistic,
rather than genetic, markers suggesting much the same pattern) but the
genetic differences between us all are trivial.
> 2- A follow-up question: are there any populations of humans who are
> possibly not homo sapiens sapiens in today's world ? If so, who are the
> most likely candidates ?

emphatically, NO.

Rod Hagen