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  • Writer's pictureAkasha Usmani

The genetic connection between Australian aboriginals and India

As the present relations between India and Australia unfold in various ways, there may be a rather deeper historical connect between our peoples.

Recent research on prehistoric migration is linking Australia’s Aboriginal to India.

Australian Aboriginals are the Indigenous tribes of Australia. They are known as the first Australians as they came first to the Australian continent more than 50,000 years ago, making them the oldest cultures of the world. In recent years, theories have come forward, proposing connections between India and Australia’s Aboriginals.

In order to trace the genetic ancestry of the Aboriginals, researchers analyzed their DNA and compared it with genetic data from people in South East Asia, New Guinea, and India. By examining certain genetic markers, they were able to determine the genetic links between them, and the researchers discovered a significant gene flow between Australia and India.

The Anthropological Survey of India's eminent researcher Dr. Raghvendra Rao has been searching for evidence of contacts between India’s and Australia's prehistoric populations. Researchers believed that connections between ancient Indians and Australian Aboriginal tribes were based on measurements of the human body after observing and studying physical similarities between indigenous tribes in Southern India and Australian Aboriginals as early as the 1870s. Rao stated, "There are morphological similarities between Indian and Australian Aboriginal tribes…. See any Australian Aboriginal photographs… and you see Central Dravidian tribes, you see the facial features are similar.”

One of the most interesting theories is that Australia experienced a wave of migration from India around 4,000 years ago. The researchers have linked the arrival of dingo (Australia’s wild dog) to the Indian migrants, believing that the Indian migrants may have introduced dingo to Australia as according to the researchers of the National Academy of Sciences, the fossil records indicate that the wild dogs arrived in Australia at about the same time. Dingoes have played a significant part in Aboriginal culture, appearing in tales, rituals, and cave paintings.

In 1999, geneticist Alan Redd and Mark Stoneking published proof of a maternal genetic link between Australia and India. They used apparent linguistic connections and events found in the archaeological record, particularly the emergence of the dingo, to support their theories. Redd and Stoneking speculated that around 3.5 thousand years ago, people from India migrated in northern Australia and left a significant genetic and cultural impact with the Indigenous people of Australia.

Research led by Dr. Mark Stoneking of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology discovered that the first indications of Indian influence occurred at a time when Aboriginal groups underwent considerable changes to their way of life. Dr Stoneking says there are two explanations for the Indian DNA link, "It could have been by people actually moving, physically traveling from India directly to Australia, or their genetic material could have moved in terms of contact between India and neighboring populations who then had contact with other neighbor populations and eventually, there would have been contact with Australia,"

Around 4,000 years ago, the first appearance of the dingo and a new small stone tool technology called microliths occurred in Australia, coinciding with a possible migration from India. These changes influenced the way Aboriginal societies obtained and prepared their food. Dr Stoneking stated "The date that we get for when this gene flow from India occurred - roughly around 4,000 years ago - does coincide remarkably well with the first appearance of microliths - the small stone tool technology - in the archaeological record for Australia and with the first appearance of the dingo."

According to Alan Cooper, an ancient DNA researcher and director at the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA at the University of Adelaide, claims that this connection to the discovery of dingo cannot be completely ignored and disregarded. "The timing of all those things in the archaeological record, about 4,000 to 5,000 years ago, happens to match the timing estimated for this genetic influx from India," he said.

The researchers also examined archeological finds from this time period, including fossils. They claimed that new migrants may be responsible for technological advancements in tools and the appearance of new animals. Although there is no direct proof, there is substantial evidence that the movement of people, dingoes, and microliths were all linked.

Due to Indigenous Australians reluctance to participate in genetic studies, it has taken some time to uncover their links to India. Many Aboriginal groups have been cautious about the purpose and potential outcomes of such studies due to their history with the previous mistreatment.

Thus it can be said that Australia and India had some kind of contact around 4,000 years ago. According to Dr. Stoneking, while the genetic data cannot pinpoint the specific migration route taken by the Indian migrants to reach Australia, it does provide evidence that Indians did indeed migrate to the continent. This challenges the notion that Australia was a completely isolated continent and suggests that there was more interaction and movement between populations than previously believed.

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