Three Strikes and we are all out of Africa and into Australia
By Steven & Evan Strong
The most recent mtDNA study we stumbled across, is from our perspective the final nail in the coffin of the Out-of-Africa theory. Once, twice and a third time over, separate genetic studies of Homo sapien sapiens, dingoes and now song birds, stand united in ascribing the same place of origin: Australia.
The genetic facts in these equations are incontestable, the distinctive and unique nature of the mitochondrial DNA of both the dingo and Mungo Man (WLH 3) cannot be matched to any like species on this planet.
In 1991 mtDNA was extracted from the bones of Mungo Man (WLH3). Agreed to be the oldest Homo sapien sapien yet found in Australia and dated by Alan Thorne to be over 60,000 years old, his internal genetic code should reek of African ancestry. Theoretically, the African castaways who first got to Australia around 50-60,000 years ago would have barely set up camp on a beach thousands of kilometres to the north, but here they were fully settled by a lake system positioned well to the south and a thousand kilometres from any coast. In what is as unexpected as it is inconvenient, a comparison of Mungo Man’s mitochondrial DNA to every other hominid and primate past and present, came up empty. The lack of connection to any person, ape or monkey presented a real problem for the researchers who responded in the only way they could, declaring the sample to be “an extinct gene.”(1) Rather than choosing a description like ‘separate,’ ‘different,’ ‘older,’ or ‘ancestral,’ the idea it is a long lost off-shoot or some form of mutation is self-serving in dismissing Mungo Man as part of an irrelevant genetic cul-de-sac. The real possibility that Mungo Man is not African, nor are any other Original people, is a far less appealing path for mainstream academia to embark.
So too this year’s genetic research investigating the make-up of the dingo found the same lack of connection to any other species or location on the planet outside Australia. After extensive research by a team of Australian geneticists, they were quick to concede that the genes of the dingo are markedly different from all other dogs and wolves found everywhere else. They are adamant that the dingo did not descend from any canine in Southern India or any other location. In the simplest terms the dingo is genetically unique and separate and its ancestry is now unknown. Regrettably but predictably, there is no prospect of further research in solving this genetic impasse. The whole result was unforseen and from the perspective of the academics in research it just doesn’t make sense, and when that happens it easier to walk away and look the other way.
These observations are not opinions but agreed facts, the problem is that what follows is far less digestible. What is as real as it was lamentable is the researchers’ narrow focus in being unable to appreciate all the implications and avenues of research beginning to unfold. The logic lost in transmission is as simple as it is compelling: if the dingo and the oldest modern human found in Australia are genetically unique and cannot be genetically linked to any dog, wolf, human, hominid or primate that ever lived on this planet, they are neither related to others of their type nor do they share a common ancestry.
Bad Science and Lazy Thinking
The insurmountable problem these genetic studies creates is obvious, if both Australian dingo and human are unique, the question that demands to be answered relates to how can it be that there is common belief that Original Australians came from Africa and the ancestor of the dingo lived in Southern India? What is puzzling is that despite the imposing evidence to the contrary, every text, university and lecturer will earnestly claim that the Out-of-Africa theory is an unquestionable fact. Equally, from the same department their books assure us that all dogs, canines and wolves share the same ancestry, but that is not true in the dingoes’ case. All of this smells like bad science and lazy thinking, but it gets worse, there are birds in the air to reconsider and reposition.
In what only highlights the inability of mainstream academia to respond with an open mind and clear vision, yet another mtDNA study of a different species, song birds, came to the same conclusion and continent.
Singing up the Wrong Tree
The Australian researcher who has rewritten so much on the history of birds, entered the field when the prevailing belief that Australia had ‘second-hand bird fauna’ was regarded as a sacrosanct truth. Professor Les Christidis (director of Southern Cross University’s National Marine Science Centre) has impeccable credentials, and we sincerely doubt there is a person more qualified to embark on such a massive study. He has a Bachelor of Science with honours in zoology and genetics (University of Melbourne), a PhD in population and evolutionary genetics (ANU), senior co-author of Systematics and Taxonomy of Australian Birds, co-editor of the Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World, and so the list of his achievements continue.
In what is a touch ironic Professor Christidis was a reluctant passenger when it came to birds of any type, and was not an avid bird watcher. From the age of seven he harboured a strong passion to become a zoologist and held no interest in birds, what really captured his attention were mammals. By default he was born in a continent inhabited by marsupials, bats and rodents, and to begin with became interested in the genetics of insects.
It was only while working on insects did Les Christidis realise there was virtually no research being done on birds in Australia. With such a vacuum seen not as an academic black-hole but an opportunity, pragmatism stepped in as he realised that there was an opportunity to become an expert in bird genetics. When first venturing into this academic field, it was blighted by the same narrow focus that taints so much Original archaeology in Australia, that we are merely recipients from abroad. It was assumed that this continent was a global backwater, a place of second-hand birds, dingoes and hominids, somewhat of an afterthought to real action taking place everywhere else on the planet.
When Christidis first suggested that “nightingales, mockingbirds and songbirds around the world originated in Australia then populated the rest of the globe”(2) during “the late 1980s”(3) it was considered “ludicrous.”(4) “When we first suggested this … we got laughed at … Australia doesn’t have that many birds relative to the rest of the world, so how can it be the centre of everything? It turns out that lowly Australia is the centre. Australia can lay claim to songbirds without a shadow of a doubt.”(5)
As Professor Christidis started to analyse the real science, as opposed to comfortable assumptions, he too found everything was back-the-front. Australia was never a passive recipient but a major global provider. “Up until the last four or five years it’s always been thought that the passerine birds originated in the northern hemisphere and spread south and that’s been the gospel for the last 200 years.”(6)
“The Gospel”(7) Versus Good Science
For daring to suggest a species evolved in Australia first, Les Christidis was attacked by many academic quarters and for quite some time no accepted journal would go near him or his research. This sounds so familiar and is the same decidedly hostile path we are also trying to navigate. As expected such a revolutionary theory gained very little traction and was “mocked by the scientific community.”(8) After receiving a not so “friendly response”(9) the criticism was certainly ramped up in vitriol, so much so that they did concede thinking “let’s not pursue it anymore because you know, life’s too short to have to constantly be ridiculed on these things.”(10) Fortunately good science did prevail over bad manners and we noted that with further genetic research in collaboration with European researchers, they eventually confirmed their initial findings. With the tick gained abroad, as is so often the case, all Australian academics then fell into line.
What is rather ironic and symptomatic of the conservative academic climate is that which was vigorously denied by the experts then, is now accepted “without a shadow of a doubt”(11) as a scientific truth. But to begin with this latter-day fact was regarded as a ridiculous proposition, and a permanent reminder of the intellectual apathy that reigned at the time and how quickly people in control never learn from the errors.
In our experience this predisposition towards labelling anything new as “ludicrous”(12) is actually a collective aversion towards questioning evidence inconvenient or unfamiliar. But as things stood, in Australia in 1986 this country was assumed to be a land of ‘second-hand’ birds, a place where one species of what is now categorised a non-dog/wolf was thought to be a younger off-shot of a dog from Southern India, and a continent who were populated by a people who came from Africa. Even though the mtDNA extracted from the oldest Original person (Lake Mungo Man) has no relationship to any African and was deemed to be an “extinct gene,”(13) nothing really changes in the corridors of …
The Original Verdict
As is our custom and preference, we always seek Original guidance when dealing with any aspect of Lore and ancient Australian history, there is no other course available. But in going back to the very beginning, first hand witness accounts are sparse on the ground, and under these conditions near enough will suffice. There is an account found in A. W. Reed’s book Aboriginal (sic) Myths, Legends & Fables which provides an exceptional overview as to the interconnectedness of dingo, human, bird and all creations, and the place from which all forms of creation originated.
In a Dreaming story, The Making of Mankind, which is essentially about “how the world began and was populated with animal life,”(14) the Creation Spirit Biamie “was entrusted the task of forming and caring for animal life.”(15) This was first occurring in Australia, but Biamie’s task was “lacking.”(16) The missing ingredient to complete what he set out to do was “the form and intelligence of man.”(17)
At this point the narrative gets decidedly genetic, but leaving that aside, there is an underlying message of an eternal inter-species connection that seems long forgotten in today’s race forward. Adamant this genesis took place in the land where Original people always inhabited since the beginning, the Original Creation Spirit had all but completed his plan of life. “When at last the experiments were complete. Baiame gathered birds, animals, and insects together in a cave. Baiame and Yhi acted in concert, plucking what may be described as the incubated fragments of the spirit of man from their animal hosts, amalgamating them into one cohesive whole. The animals looked on in astonishment. The longings and aspirations that belong to man alone were lost to them forever. Content with their nature …”(18)
This Dreaming story is as much about the origins of so many life-forms as it is a cautionary tale about the “desires”(19) and “pride”(20) purged from all of Biamie’s creations bar one, Homo sapien sapiens. Central to this account of creation, is that there is an inherent connection that binds all forms of life and that it all begins here.
The White-fella Verdict
So once again another avenue of research in Australia into an area of genetics that was assumed to be fact, has been found fundamentally flawed and wrong. It would seem that the rest of the world has ‘second-hand’ sapiens, song birds and dogs. Feather, fur or skin, in each case their origin lay in Australia, simply because the genetics and Original Custodians of the Old Ways will have it no other way.
1. Flood, Josephine, Archaeology of the Dreamtime (Marleston, South Australia: J.B. Publishing, 2004) 7.
2. Skatssoon, Judy, “Earliest songbirds had an Aussie twang”, News In Science, (20/07/2004), http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2004/07/20/1157172.htm
8. Demasi, Dr Maryanne (Reporter/Prod.), Taylor, Anja (Assoc. Prod/ Researcher.), “Transcript, Story Archive – Songbirds Update”, Catalyst, (01/03/2007), http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/s1860533.htm
12. Skatssoon, News In Science.
13. Flood, Archaeology of the Dreamtime, 7.
14. Reed, A.W. Aboriginal Myths, Legends & Fables (Chatswood, Australia: Reed- William Heinemann Australia, 1993) 46.