How old is Aboriginal culture?

The age of Aboriginal culture changes with new research. Some researchers claim 400,000 years.

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Aboriginal history grows both ways

Aboriginal history is the only history that grows both ways - forward into the present and backwards into the past as new scientific methods indicate that archaeological sites are much older than originally thought.

The origin of the Aboriginal people of Australia is not entirely clear. Some studies link Aboriginal people to the first African nomads or to Siberian ancestors .

One study determined that Aboriginal people descended from the first people to leave Africa up to 75,000 years ago, reaching Asia at least 24,000 years before other human migrants. Traversing into Australia "must have demanded exceptional survival skills and bravery," said one researcher .

Studies published in 2016 confirm a migration out of Africa and place Aboriginal ancestors as the oldest continuous civilisation on Earth. The extensive study of Aboriginal people's DNA dates their origins to more than 50,000 years ago and shows that their ancestors were probably the first humans to journey across Asia and cross an ocean. The findings also show that these Aboriginal ancestors remained almost entirely isolated until around 4,000 years ago.

[Australian Aboriginal people] are probably the oldest group in the world that you can link to one particular place.

— Prof Eske Willerslev, evolutionary geneticist, University of Copenhagen

Another study found that a primitive group of humans descended from the Neanderthals and migrated from Siberia to tropical parts of Asia . They contributed DNA to Aboriginal people in Australia along with present-day New Guineans and an Aboriginal tribe of the Philippines. This mixing of genes was reported to have happened 44,000 years ago, before Australia separated from Papua New Guinea.

As scientific methods evolve they place the origin of the Homo Sapiens in Australia--not Africa.

Professor Rebecca L. Cann, together with her colleague Alan C. Wilson, previously claimed that humanity can be traced to people living "about 200,000 years ago, probably in Africa". But she later revoked that claim, declaring that "Mitochondrial DNA puts the origin of Homo Sapiens much further back and indicates that the Australian Aborigines arose 400,000 years ago from two distinct lineages, far earlier than any other racial group."

Research by other scientists supports the theory that Australia's Aboriginal people did not descend from ancestors in Africa or Siberia, but Australia.

Were Aboriginal people the first inhabitants of Australia?

Discussions about the age of Aboriginal culture often debate whether there have been people in Australia prior to Aboriginal people.

Historically there has been "a small number of claims that there were people in Australia before Australian Aborigines, but these claims have all been refuted and are no longer widely debated. The overwhelming weight of evidence supports the idea that Aboriginal people were the first Australians.

A comprehensive genomic study of Aboriginal people in Australia confirmed that modern Aboriginal people are the descendants of the first people to inhabit Australia and descendants of a single wave of migrants who left Africa about 72,000 years ago.

"The disagreements that can be found in the literature are normal in the accumulation of knowledge but do not undermine the strength of the modern consensus that the first people to live in Australia were ancestors of the Aboriginal people who lived here when Europeans first arrived and colonised."

Age of Aboriginal archaeological sites

The following table shows the estimated age of archaeological sites in Australia .

Trying to solve it: How old is Australian Aboriginal culture?
SiteLocationEstimated age
Ganga Maya CavePilbara, Western Australia45,000 years
MalakunanjaRock shelter, Arnhem Land, NT45,000 years
Devil's LairLimestone cave, south-west Western Australia41,000 .. 46,000 years
Lake MungoDry lake basin, Willandra Billabong Creek, western NSW43,000 years
NauwalabilaRock shelter, Arnhem Land, NT40,000 years

If it wasn't for the footprints…

If it wasn't for the footprints, we would not know about 'before',
And Australia's history we have today would not make sense anymore.

If it wasn't for the footsteps, which created the path we share,
Our survival in this landscape would lead us to nowhere.

If it wasn't for the footpaths still here from that long ago,
Our heritage in writing would only reflect our woes.

If it wasn't for the footprints which were made into the sand,
The ones left by ancestors, our Aboriginal clans;

If it wasn't for their footsteps which carved the land and lore,
Australians would not know about these footprints from 'before'.

Poem by Zelda Quakawoot . Read more Aboriginal poetry.


View article sources (7)

[1] [1a] [1b] 'Genetic studies claim to reveal our origins', Koori Mail 511 p.5
[2] [2a] 'Indigenous Australians most ancient civilisation on Earth, DNA study confirms', The Guardian 22/9/2016
[3] 'DNA Evidence Debunks the “Out-of-Africa” Theory of Human Evolution', Wakeup World, wakeup-world.com/2013/12/16/dna-evidence-debunks-the-out-of-africa-theory-of-human-evolution/, retrieved 4/5/2014
[4] 'World-first genome study reveals rich history of Aboriginal Australians', ABC News 22/9/2016
[5] 'FactCheck: might there have been people in Australia prior to Aboriginal people?', SBS News 30/6/2015
[6] '45,000 years on, cave reveals its secrets', SMH 15/6/2014
[7] 'If it wasn't for the footprints...', Koori Mail 516 p.23

Cite this page

Korff, J 2020, How old is Aboriginal culture?, <https://stage.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/history/how-old-is-aboriginal-culture>, retrieved 17 June 2024

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