The Wayback Machine - https://web.archive.org/all/20051217130329/http://janesoceania.com:80/oceania_origins/index.htm
Advances in biotechnology
and the development of DNA data bases, presently being undertaken, may
well provide the most definite answers yet to the ancient origins of
many of our Oceania people.
Most people can trace their origins back 200 to 300
years by following the paper trail of birth, marriage and death records
until the trail eventually runs cold. The tools of biotechnology, however,
have now become so powerful that it is now possible to determine our deep
ancestors going back 10,000 or more years. Like the layers of an
archaeological dig, distinctive mutations accumulate in the sequences of DNA
over many generations, allowing scientists to trace ancient genetic lineages
or tribes. By plotting these genetic markers on a map of the world, they can
ascertain the broad outlines of early human migration patterns. Indeed, if
the family tree of everybody on the planet were mapped forever backwards,
they would eventually converge on the ancestors of us all, a small band of
ancient Africans. The rich genetic diversity of the San Bushman of the
Kalahari puts them at the foot of the family tree.
There is no DNA evidence
to suggest that humans ever mated with the brawny, beetle-browed
Neanderthals who moved out of Africa and into the Middle East and
Europe thousands of years before modern humans. Certainly, if they did
mate, they must have given birth to sterile hybrids, or the offspring
simply died out.
Archaeologists determined decades ago that
modern-day humans arose in the highlands of East Africa - Ethiopia and Sudan
- between 140,000 and 200,000 years ago. Human fossil remains found in this
region are more ancient than those discovered anywhere else on the planet.
This evidence is now backed up by popular genetics, the DNA of native
Africans being more diverse than that of any other continents.
Indeed, some 50,000 years ago when the first humans
arrived at Lake Mungo in New South Wales, Australia, it was a very different
place. It was much cooler and wetter with vast freshwater lakes, grasslands,
shrubs and forests. Back then when the world was in the grip of an ice age,
when average summer temperatures were between 10 degrees C and 15 degrees C
cooler than today, when much of the Northern Hemisphere was encased in
massive ice sheets, Lake Mungo was about as good as it got for human
habitat. The people who lived here hunted for small games, fished for cod
and perch, gathered mussels and shellfish, observed religious rituals and
buried their dead. Archaeological remains confirm that these once busy
community numbered at least several hundreds.
The DNA of all humans today points back to a common
origin in East Africa 140,000 years ago. By comparing mutations in the genes
of people across the globe and plotting the results on a map, scientists can
see how man began to colonise the planet during the last ice age. The most
ancient marker below (M168) identifies the first journey out of Africa
60,000 years ago.
- First modern humans leave
their East African homeland.
- M45//35,000 years
- The thrust into Northern Asia
- Modern human reached
Australia, following the coastlines of India and Indonesia.
- Modern-day Thailand and Burma
receive their first humans, followed by China many generations
- M89//45,000 years
- The move into the Middle
- The colonisation of the Indian
subcontinent begins in earnest.
- M9//40,000 years
- First tribes move into Central
If Africa was the cradle of humanity, parts of
modern-day Mongolia and the Caucasus served as its nursery. It was from here
that early humans multiplied and set out to populate much of the globe.
Around 30,000 years ago, they reached Europe, some 20,000 years ago, a
separate group of Asians moved into the Arctic Circle, no more than 15,000
years ago they moved into the Americas, and around 1,200 years ago, the
first Maoris arrived in New Zealand.
An ambitious project called the Genographic
Project, has been set up by the National Geographic Society and the computer
giant, IBM. The project will involve a five-year study that will analyse
more than 100,000 DNA samples from indigenous population across the globe
including the Australian aborigines.
This project is open to anybody who would like to
use DNA to determine the nature of their ancient ancestors and, in doing so,
become part of the world's largest genetic data base. Details can be
obtained by visiting:
and paying $US99.95 (AU$130.00) plus postage.
Participation will involve providing a swab sample of saliva.
This is an exciting project which may well provide
many definite answers to the origins of our Melanesian, Polynesian and
Micronesian people. The more people that are able to participate, the better
and more definite the information regarding our ancient ancestors will be.