A DNA Study Reveals That Aboriginal Australians Were The Planet’s ‘First Human Explorers’

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These days many of us trot around the globe seeking adventure and chasing new experiences. We hashtag our way around South East Asia. We Vine as we zip-line through Amazonian canopy. Our digital egos are never sated as we explore new corners of the earth. And it turns out that we humans have been wanderlusting throughout the world for a very long time — sans Snapchat, of course.

A newly released study has confirmed that Indigenous Australians, Torres Straight Islanders, and Papuans are the oldest continuous population in the world — dating back approximately 50,000 years. The study shows how humans first migrated from the African continent and spread across the globe by studying DNA markers to track where and how we evolved. These are humans who crossed massive amounts of land and sea to arrive in Australia, where their society was allowed to develop independently until very recently (in the grand scheme of things).

Overall, the study also shows that early groups of DNA splits happened before and after what we call culture happened (think cave art and tools). This suggest that it wasn’t evolution or genetic mutation that gave us the spirit of innovation, but that we had it in us all along. Or as the head of the study, Professor Eske Willerslev puts it, “There is no evidence for a magic mutation that made us human.”

In case you’re still trying to wrap your head around these weary travelers from 50,000 years ago traversing the planet, we’ll leave you with the professor’s jocular words about what it might have been like. “It’s almost like two guys entering a village and saying ‘guys, now we have to speak another language and use another stone tool and they have a little bit of sex in that village and then they disappear again.’ ”

As for Australia’s Aboriginal community, no one seems shocked by the findings. Aubrey Lynch, an Indigenous elder from the Goldfields region, told the Guardian, “This study confirms our beliefs that we have ancient connections to our lands and have been here far longer than anyone else.”

(Via the Guardian)