Australian Aboriginal Hair Tells Two Stories of Human Migration
Finally the Australian Aboriginal people have been allowed to drag themselves off the bottom rung of the evolutionary pecking order. An article appearing in the New York Times (September 23) written by Nicholas Wade, stated that “a lock of hair, collected by a British anthropologist a century ago, has yielded the first genome of an Australian Aborigine.” The content within seems to summarise both the unexpected findings of this genetic analysis, and equally, a series of unresolved questions that the researchers openly concede do contradict their central hypothesis.
Until the announcement of the mapping of the genome of the hair of one Aboriginal man, the First Australians were assumed to be youngest of all races. So entrenched was this view, when Professors Alan Wilson and Rebecca Cann presented their seminal paper, The Recent African Gensis of Humans, proposing that “genetic studies reveal that an African woman of 200,000 years ago was our common ancestor,” their timing and sequencing, through the assistance of a ‘molecular clock’ they devised, was predicated upon the belief that the Africans were at least three times older than the Aboriginal Australians. Originally claimed to be last of the four races to evolve, they have been repositioned to either second or equal first. Over the last 50 years, it has been a constant ascension. It was claimed the First Australians came into existence 12,000 years ago, then 20, followed by the quite popular 40,000 years, since then there has been talk of 50,000, 60,000 and now we hear 75,000 years is a more appropriate timing. So equivocate the ‘experts,’ however, the custodians of Aboriginal lore and ancient history we have been consulting maintain none of these offerings are correct.
Before examining the Aboriginal custodian’s time-line, we need to examine what was discovered in the laboratory, along with the ambiguities attached to this new date. When reading this report what becomes immediately apparent is a liberal use of qualifiers (“best guesses,” “series of puzzles,” “enigma,” “we can’t really put geography in there”). We are of the belief the second and third sentence of Wade’s opening paragraph are pivotal in establishing the bona fides of this reversal in the positioning of the emergence of the Australian Aboriginal race, and upon further analysis, highlight two popular assumptions which contain flaws that seriously undermine any attempt to supply “best guesses.” It must be pointed out this is not meant to be a critique of either Wade or the scientists involved, they are relying upon what is readily available and accepted by nearly all authorities as fact.
Nevertheless, Wade states that “the Aboriginal genome bolsters genetic evidence showing that once the Aborigine’s ancestors arrived in Australia some 50,000 years ago, they somehow kept the whole continent to themselves without admitting any outsiders. The Aborigines are thus direct descendants of the first modern humans to leave Africa without any genetic mixture from other races so far as can be seen at present.” Within these two sentences, are what we believe two elemental errors. The first relates to the notion of entry into Australia occurring 50,000 years ago.
We are aware of ten sites/artefacts which are all claimed to be much older than the 50,000 years proposed, and what needs to be factored into any investigation of these locations and objects is that if just one is actually correct, the proposed date of 50,000 years is wrong. Conversely, for this entry date to stand firm, all ten findings must be wrong, nine out of ten is not enough. Each of these more challenging dates has the backing of highly qualified authorities/Elders, and of course in many instances, but not all, has attracted criticism from equally respected academics. The sites/relics include: Great Barrier Reef-firestick farming-180,000 years, Lake Eyre-skull cap-135,000, Lake George-firestick farming-120,000 years Jinmium-tools-116,000-175,000 years, Devonport-engravings >75,000-116,000 years, Jinmium-engravings-75,000-116,000 years. Panaramitee-engraving-75,000 years, Snowy Mountains-pebble chopper-60,000-100,000 years, Rottnest Island-tools-70,000 years and Lake Mungo-modern human skeleton->60,000 years.
Obviously all sites/relics have both critics and advocates, but again our goal is anything above 10%. For now an examination of four of these dates will be sufficient, especially since in each of the three sites and artefact we will now examine the probability of the older date is more likely.
Gurdup Singh was considered the leading expert in the field of core extraction. When supervising the drilling of a 4,000,000 year old core sample from the bed of Lake George (NSW) he noted a rather perplexing increase in the concentration of charcoal from 120,000 years onwards. Not only was the segment in stark contrast to the pattern repeated over the earlier 3,880,000 years, the appearance of noticeable peaks within this huge increase coincided with higher lake levels and greener vegetation. With the possibility of drought, lightning strikes and other natural agents discounted, Singh was left with only one possibility: human involvement through firestick farming.
None have challenged the implied human intervention through fire, but Richard Wright has questioned the date and according to respected archaeologist Josephine Flood, he “has argued convincingly for a date of about 60,000 years. To be honest either number achieves the same purpose and isolation. Obviously, if Singh is right, then the Out-of-Africa theory is not, but Wright’s 60,000 years offers little assistance and quite a stretch in logic. Lake George is over 100 kilometres from the coast and over 2,000 kilometres from any assumed northern entry point. Rightly assumed by Flood to be “beach huggers” explanations as to how such a complex community was established in such a distant location 10,000 years before these Africans supposedly first stepped ashore is a daunting task.
At a location over 2,000 kilometres from any suggested northern entry point there is an intricate rock carving of a crocodile head which was ‘discovered’ in 1923 at Panaramitee (SA). Not only is it an extremely fine piece of art, it was chiseled into rock over 75,000 years ago. Owing to the surrounding landscape and position, Josephine Flood was compelled to concede, “I am going to be so bold to suggest that it may derive from a time when terrestrial crocodiles and humans actually co-existed in South Australia, although the youngest crocodiles found so far date to 75,000 years at Cuddie Springs.” This animal could never be carved into rock unless a natural and permanent part of that region in distant times. That is the Law and can never be questioned, painted or engraved unless it was living within that tribal estate.
The third site, although closest in age to the claimed 50,000 year entry date, in many respects is the most inconvenient. Lake Mungo is more than 1,000 kilometres from the Top End. Until quite recently, the remains of a man and woman often referred to as Mungo Man (WLH3) and Mungo Woman (WLH1) were assumed to be nearly 30,000 years old. An extensive re-analysis of the bones of WLH3 through the use of three dating techniques, under the supervision of Dr. Alan Thorne, Rainer Grun and Nigel Spooner returned dates well in excess of 50,000 years. Dates of 62,000 years were obtained through Electro Spin Resonance (ESR) and Uranium Series, and in what must reduce considerably the potential that all three approaches are faulty, analysis by Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) returned a date of 61,000 years. What needs to be factored into this ancient equation is that the activities associated with the disposal of WLH3 are indicative of long-standing occupation, and something even more fascinating, religion. Around the corpse was a thick coating of red ochre, the body was positioned in exactly the same manner as that recorded by first settlers, and the front two teeth were removed when this male was a teenager. Such traits strongly suggest religion was an integral part of this community over 60,000 years ago.
Undeniably the research and science underpinning Thorne’s date has met with criticism. Jim Bowler challenges the methodology behind this comparative study, and although conceding the original dating of Mungo 1 and 3 was in need of revision, is more comfortable (as is nearly all of mainstream academia) with a shared date of 44,000 years. Although this more acceptable take can accommodate the suggested 50,000 years entry, it also refashions Bowler’s strident denial into an each-way bet. In 1983 Bowler, along with Gurdup Singh and Peter Ouwendyke, released the findings of their study of a core sample extracted from the Great Barrier Reef. According to all three academics they found evidence of firestick farming spanning back to 183,000 years. As it stands, whether relying on Thorne’s work or that of Bowler and his colleagues, the proposed entry date of 50,000 years is far too conservative.
Each of these three sites is the province of other experts, the fourth is neither a site nor is it unfamiliar to us. We have seen Angel John’s pebble chopper. Extremely worn and heavily striated by glacial abrasion, we are both convinced it is no less than 60,000 years and could be over 100,000 years old. The Snowy Mountains has been subject to three glacial eras, the lightest and most recent finished 15,000 years ago, while the two earlier events were of a much greater duration. The next occurring 60,000 years ago, and the third glacial period was 40,000 years earlier. So severe and pronounced is the erosion exhibited, it seems impossible to envisage so much damage was solely the result of the last brief glacial event.
For the sake of balance, let us assume that down the line all nine sites and Angel John’s chopper were proved to be less than 50,000 years old. The second of the two sentences Wade opened with also contains another proposal that is not supported by the facts. If keeping “the whole continent to themselves without admitting any outsiders,” and reputedly “without any genetic mixture,” one may ask why is the research examining Aboriginal mtDNA, Y Chromosomes, blood groupings and skull morphology consistent in denying one locality: Africa?
Returning to the notion of a molecular clock, ‘Eve’ and a shared African ancestry, the paper has within a real air of absolute conviction that everything was now resolved. This declaration was regarded as the final word, and the resolution of “15 years of disagreement” between two branches of science. Wilson and Cann triumphantly proclaimed victory on behalf of the molecular geneticists declaring that “we won the argument, when the paleontologists admitted we had been right and they had been wrong.”
With the case closed and bragging rights secured in perpetuity, science had once again provided certainty and an African ancestry. Or so it seemed, but not long after their paper was published Rebecca Cann realised they were mistaken. In 1982 she examined the mitochondrial DNA of 112 Indigenous people, including twelve full-descent Aboriginals, and the results were in total opposition to that which they assumed was fully resolved. Nevertheless, Cann was obliged to contradict a central tenet of their paper, in stating that “mitochondrial DNA puts the origin of Homo sapiens much further back and indicates that the Australian Aboriginals arose 400,000 years ago from two distinct lineages, far earlier than any other racial type.” Not only was the emergence of Aboriginal Homo sapiens “far earlier” than any Africans, she provided a sequence and motherland. “The Australian racial group has a much higher number of mutations than any other racial group, which suggests that the Australians split off from a common ancestor about 400,000 years ago. By the same theory, the Mongoloid originated about 100,000 years ago, and the Negroid and Caucasian groups about 40,000 years ago.”
The realignment and reversal were of immediate concern to Alan Wilson. If Cann was correct in detecting a “much higher number of mutations” they may as well tear up their original paper. Desperate to resolve the obvious inconsistencies, Wilson made two visits to Australia. In 1987, Wilson sampled the mtDNA of 21 full-descent Australian Aboriginals and provided 15 different strands. This number was well outside what anyone expected and compelled Wilson to unconvincingly conclude there were more than 15 pregnant females on the first boat. A second visit in 1989 increased the crew size to levels that quite literally sank the boat as it entered the water, and forced Wilson to abandon Africa as the place where Homo sapiens originated. From a second sampling of ten, a similar percentage (70%) of mutation was present. Upon receiving the results of his second mtDNA sampling Wilson immediately admitted the Out-of-Africa theory was wrong.
The math’s wasn’t complicated: the agreed rate of mtDNA mutation for every new strand is 3,500 years, therefore 22x 3,500 =77,000 years. Wilson realised if he returned and increased the population surveyed, so too would the crew-size increase. He was left with no other option but to dismiss their original paper.
“It seems too far out to admit, but while Homo erectus was muddling along in the rest of the world, a few erectus had got to Australia and did something dramatically different-not even with stone tools-but it is there that Homo sapiens have emerged and evolved … Homo sapiens would have evolved free from competition out of a small band of Homo erectus 400,000 years ago.”
Of itself, such a radical repositioning is not conclusive and needs further corroboration before it could gain any credence within the academic community. What continues to amaze us is that there is ample evidence which spans many disciplines that affirms what Wilson and Cann found, but for reasons that still escape us these inconvenient truths have been ignored.
Of the many investigations into the genetic characteristics of Australian Aboriginal blood conducted to this date, the work of Roy Simmons (Commonwealth Serum Laboratories) is impressive in terms of his studies’ scope, volume and stature. He was granted access to over one thousand blood samples, including those collected by Joseph Birdsell and Norman Tinsdale between 1926 and 1971. Unfortunately, Birdsell and Tindale began their work “before mitochondrial DNA studies arose in the 1980’s to revolutionise the field,” and were unable to fully appreciate the implications of what lay within the vials. Simmon’s primary task was to determine the location and ethnicity of those responsible for Aboriginal settlement of Australia. He looked near and far, but regardless, was none the wiser.
When examining potential connections within the immediate neighbourhood, Simmons began by comparing genetics with people and locations previously nominated as the most likely candidates. He found there were “no genetic connections between the Australian Aborigines and distant groups such as the Veddoid populations of India or Sri Lanka.” Not content to restrict himself to one geographic area he expanded his horizons, but to no avail, admitting he was “unable to provide any clues as to the biological origin of the first Australians.”
Simmons held one specific viewpoint with absolute certainty that placed him in opposition to the traditional expectations of academia. “There is no blood group evidence to indicate the African Negroes or Negritos had any connection to the Australian Aborigines.” And in what can only complicate proceedings, not only did he refute any African involvement in Australia, he felt there may be a need to re-evaluate who actually were the first Homo sapiens. Simmons declared “that the Australian data indicated that the Aborigines actually evolved earlier than African Negroes.”
Simmon’s conclusion and exclusion is a common response which was repeated by many other Australian researchers. Josephine Flood found that the Australian Aboriginal’s mtDNA was “most different from Black Africans.” Professor Keith Windshuttle was even more expansive in delineating the African ‘no-go’ zone, insisting that “50 years of blood genetic research has failed to provide any clue to Aboriginal origins … May I state here and now that our extensive blood survey … over 3 decades have produced no genetic evidence that the Negroes ever entered the Pacific.” Tina Jamieson highlighted the two major problems all of these researchers encountered, in that Australian Aboriginal “mtDNA is remarkably high,’ which then logically leads to a situation where if this hypothetical migration of Africans into Australia did actually take place, they “migrated earlier than expected.”
A study conducted of male equivalent to the female mtDNA, Y Chromosomes, was no less Africa-friendly. Containing “two halotypes unique to Australian Aboriginals,” the comparison made to populations outside Australia provided the same “unique” pattern. It was noted that the people measured outside Australia produced 41 halotypes, whereas “most (78%) of Aboriginal halotypes fell into two clusters, possibly indicating two original separate lineages of Aboriginal Australians.”
What does become obvious is the repeated use of the term “unique,” which contradicts Wade’s expectation that if these first African settlers were indeed sealed off, thus “without any genetic mixture,” steadfastly refusing to admit “any outsiders,” why is it that their mtDNA and Y Chromosomes bear no relationship to African people?
Consistent to that non-African theme is an analysis of over 10,000 vials of Aboriginal blood which was originally collected to be used for transfusions. Josephine Flood’s investigation begins where many others left off. “Uniquely, the full-descent Aboriginals lacked A2 and B of the ABO group system, S of the MNSs system and Rh negative genes r, r’ and r’’ … Western Desert people show a distinctive genetic pattern with the world’s largest value of the N gene of the MNSs system … possibly the world’s only racial group lacking in the S blood antigen.” If compelled to use terms such as “uniquely,” “distinctive” “world’s highest” and “completely lacking” describing a race that should be most similar to Africans, there is nothing in this report that will provide comfort for those championing the Out-of-Africa theory.
With mtDNA, Y Chromosomes and all three blood groupings yielding no similarities to African people, it should come as no surprise that a comparison of the skull morphology of Australian Aboriginals was consistent in denying access to the African people. Professor Lanarch (Sydney University) was unequivocal in stating that “we therefore have no hesitation in omitting the Negritos as the ancestors of the Australian Aborigines.”
When Wade makes claim to when and where the “Aboriginals split” from their African ancestors he wisely prefaces this theoretical division with a series of provisos. “But the genetic data offers no information as to where these population splits may have occurred,” noting that one of the team members of the Danish Natural History Museum, Morten Rasmussen, announced that “we really can’t put the geography in there.” So often this reality has been lost. Wilson and Cann’s original paper, which they recanted, acknowledges that genealogy can never supply geography when stating Eve was “probably”, never definitely, born in Africa. As Wade correctly pointed out, “genetic dates are based on a mixture of statistics and best guesses,” and in what must cast even more doubt in assuming that “the earliest known human presence in Australia at 44,000 years ago,” he also concedes that “the Aboriginal occupation of Australia presents a series of puzzles.”
To that “series of puzzles” we would like to add another fact that is always missing in action whenever the Out-of-Africa theory is discussed. Let us assume all nine sites/artefact are indeed 44,000 years or younger, and the collection of mtDNA, Y Chromosome, blood analysis and morphology studies are also in error, there is still remaining one event that contradicts common sense, human nature and runs in direct opposition to the notion of Africans migrating from the homeland irrespective of whether this occurred 75,000 years or even 60,000 years ago: the eruption of Mount Toba.
Irrespective of whether these Africans actually made their way to Australia, any such exodus must first be assessed after factoring in the impact the Mount Toba eruption had upon the world population. According to Josephine Flood, the “global population was reduced even more when the Toba volcano in Sumatra erupted 74,000 years ago-the world’s disaster of the last 2 million years. This enormous eruption spewed ash to the north-west covering India, Pakistan and the Gulf Region in a blanket 1-3 metres deep and spread as far as Greenland … this catastrophe reduced the world’s population to between two to ten thousand.” The expectation being is that two isolated pockets of humanity, one in the southern extremes of Africa, survived the holocaust, and secondly that Australia, which escaped the cloud of thick ash, was unpopulated.
Our problem is, as this eruption decimated the world population (except Australia) so severely, what inspired the very few Africans still standing to move to unknown locations? Such a scenario runs counter to human nature, surely after this eruption the fortunate few would first re-establish their tribal estates then slowly edge outwards. With so much of central and northern Africa now vacant, why were these unoccupied estates ignored. Apparently breeding like rabbits, the entire continent was restocked as they surged out of Africa. Ignoring thousands of kilometers of Asian land now vacant, they sped onwards until reaching the southern coast of Indonesia, then set sail towards a continent completely unsighted.
Alternately, with most of the world virtually unpopulated, and Australia untouched by the eruption, this was an ideal opportunity to set sail from, never to, Australia. As to which option makes more sense, it’s all a matter of “best guesses.”