You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

People first arrived in Australia in large groups 50,000 years ago, computer modelling reveals

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 2019-06-18 Ian Randall For Mailonline
a person sitting on a bench: The ancestors of the aboriginal peoples of Australia (pictured) and the Torres Strait Islands arrived in the country one or more large groups, totalling at least 1,300 people © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited The ancestors of the aboriginal peoples of Australia (pictured) and the Torres Strait Islands arrived in the country one or more large groups, totalling at least 1,300 people

The ancestors of the aboriginal peoples of Australia and the Torres Strait Islands arrived in the country one or more large groups, totalling at least 1,300 people.

Experts used complex models to determine which island-hopping routes the original migrants must have taken to reach Australia, coming up with two possibilities.

The most likely involved an island-hoping route, arriving first in West Papua New Guinea around 50,000 years ago.

The researchers also calculated the minimum number of people that must have arrived to enable the burgeoning population to survive.

These travellers may either have arrived in one single migration event, or alternatively in a series of pulses over a space of around 700 years.

Although many Aboriginal cultures believe that they originate in Australia, some have strong oral histories of their distant ancestors having arrived from the north.

'We know that Aboriginal people have lived here [in Australia] for more than 50,000 years,' said earth scientist Michael Bird of the James Cook University, in Queensland.

Professor Bird and his colleagues from the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH) and the national science agency (CSIRO) investigated how the aboriginal people first came to Australia.

'We developed demographic models to determine which island-hopping route ancient people most likely took,' said ecologist Corey Bradshaw of CABAH and Flinders University in Adelaide.

'A northern route connecting the islands of Mangoli, Buru, and Seram into West Papua New Guinea would probably have been easiest to navigate and survive,' he added.

'This route was easiest when compared to the southern route from Timor that leads to the now-drowned Sahul Shelf in the modern-day Kimberley region.'

At this time, lower sea levels would have joined Australia, New Guinea and Tasmania in an ancient mega-continent that experts have dubbed Sahul.

Using complex mathematical models, researchers also calculated the minimum number of ancient people that would have needed to migrate to Australia in order to ensure that the population could survive in the long run.

They considered various factors, including the people's fertility and longevity, as well as the past climate conditions and other ecological principles.

The team found that at least 1,300 people would have been needed to form the founding population.

These may either have arrived in a single migration event, or through successive waves averaging around at least 130 people every 70 years across the course of around 700 years. 

'This suggests planned and well-organised maritime migration, rather than accidental arrival,' said Professor Bradshaw. 

The findings confirm not only that the ancestors of the aborigines and Torres Strait islanders must have had sophisticated enough technology to both built watercraft and plan, navigate and execute open-ocean voyages for large numbers of people.

'Both studies are unique because they relied on past environmental information and did not use any genetic data,' said biologist Laura Weyrich, who is a CABAH investigator at the University of Adelaide.

'We are very excited to see how further archaeological and genetics studies in CABAH can contribute to this story.'

AdChoices
AdChoices

More From Daily Mail

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon