Some 40,000 to 50,000 years ago, a band of intrepid Southeast Asians became the first humans to reach Australia, and without a single glance at a GPS unit. Now new research suggests that perhaps 3000 people—many more than previously thought—made that foray into the unknown to become the continent's founding population and the ancestors of Australia's aboriginal people.
Other recent estimates—based on genetic diversity in aboriginal Australians—range from "small" to "hundreds" to "more than 1000."
Other scientists, while praising some aspects of the study, raise questions about its methodology and some of its conclusions. The number of radiocarbon dates might fluctuate because of factors other than population change, says Simon Holdaway of the University of Auckland in New Zealand, who has studied the radiocarbon method. For example, archaeological sites are more readily preserved in some landscapes than in others, which could lead to a high number of radiocarbon dates at a site with good preservation and low numbers of dates at a site with poor preservation.
Also, the study relies on a low number of data points from the early years of human occupation, says Barry Brook of the University of Adelaide in Australia, who has found evidence for a late population rise. The sparse record means that the paper's models can't distinguish between a founding population of 5000 that grew little and a founding population of 100 that quickly multiplied to 5000, he says. "For the most recent times, (the model) is reasonably realistic," he says. "For a long time ago, the model is pretty uncertain." He agrees with Williams that there was a population explosion in the more recent past, but he thinks the continent was settled by at most a few hundred people.
Originally posted by MrJohnSmith
reply to post by Cinrad
Interesting post !
I seem to remember that the word " Aborigine " ( Or " Ab origine " ) meant
" From the beginning "
Implying that the Aborigine people's are indigenous to Australia ?edit on 28-4-2013 by MrJohnSmith because: ( Spelling error.)
Originally posted by Aliensun
Further, I don't understand how examining sites can forecast how many made the journey.
Kow Swamp, in northern Victoria, had a lake-full stage from the end of the Pleistocene to early in the Holocene, at which point it covered about 25 km 2 to a depth of 3-4 m. Wind-blown sand from the beach of this lake-full phase formed a low dune on the southeast shoreline, known as the Kow Sand. It was in this dune that the burials were situated.
In 1968 excavation of a site on the edge of Kow Swamp, not far from that of the Cohuna skull,uncovered a partial skeleton, the other half of which was already in the National Museum of Victoria, which had led to the search for the remainder of the skeleton. This Skelton was named Kow Swamp 1. By 1972 the skeletons of nearly 40 individuals had been uncovered around the edge of Kow Swamp, mostly along the eastern shore, in a narrow belt of lake silt. This silt was partially overlain by a crescentic sand dune (lunette). Radiocarbon dates from bone and charcoal associated with the burials, show that the burials span a period from about 13000 to 9500 BP.
The graves were in relatively soft silt and sand. The preservation of the skeletons was enhanced by the formation of carbonate crusts on the bone, in some cases up to 1 cm thick. Construction of an irrigation ditch through the site has disturbed some of the burials. Differential mineralisation allowed the disturbed skeletons to be reassembled because of the slightly different colours of the different skeletons.
Some of the undisturbed skeletons displayed a variety of orientations of burials, some stretched out on their backs, some on their sides, some were in a crouched position, one facing downward and forward, the knees drawn up to the chest with hands in front of the face, some were tightly flexed, with the body on its side or back, and there was 1 cremation.
This is the largest single population burial site in one locality of the late Pleistocene in the world. They were of men, women, juveniles and infants. Kow Swamp is thus of great importance to world prehistory.
The enigma of Kow Swamp is that the skulls are younger than those at Keilor and Willandra Lakes, but appear much more archaic. The people at Kow Swamp had large, long heads with very thick bone, up to 13 mm thick. Their faces were large, wide and projecting, with prominent brow ridges and flat, receding foreheads. From above they show a pronounced inward curvature behind the eye sockets,giving the skull the appearance of a flask. They had enormous teeth and jaws, some even larger than Java Man, Homo erectus (Previously called Pithecanthropus, from the middle Pleistocene of Sangiran.
Teeth are usually the most resistant body parts found in excavations of animals, but at Kow Swamp the teeth are not well preserved, few being found with their enamel crows still intact. Some of the damage to the teeth was caused by post-mortem erosion, but as well as that, the teeth of all adults display pronounced wear. It is thought it was probably the result of using grindstones to crush seeds, the stone particles in the ground seeds being responsible for the large amount of wear on the molars.
Only 1 individual at this site is of advanced age. The first molars of nearly all adults show such severe wear that the roots are exposed and worn down half way to their ends. The result that many individuals had chronic periodontal disease.
The appearance of the skulls at Kow Swamp suggest they were physically similar to those at Cohuna and Talgai. This contrasts strongly with the more gracile appearance of the inhabitants of Keilor and WLH 1 (LM1) & WLH 3 (LM3). The gracile people lack the flat, receding foreheads, pronounced brow ridges, massive jaws and thick bone of the Kow Swamp people.
Several of the Kow Swamp burials included grave goods. One body was placed on a bed of mussel shells, others included ochre, shells, marsupial teeth and quartz artefacts. One body was covered with powdered ochre. The same had occurred in a 40,000 year earlier burial at Mungo, showing a long continuity of customs, even though the people were apparently physically different.