Category Archives: AUSTRALIA

DNA confirms Aboriginal culture one of Earth’s oldest

The first Aboriginal genome sequence confirms Australia’s native people left Africa 75,000 years ago.

ABORIGINAL AUSTRALIANS ARE Descendents of the first people to leave Africa up to 75,000 years ago, a genetic study has found, confirming they may have the oldest continuous culture on the planet.

Perhaps the most prominent claim to whether the last three decades largely unchanged is that around 70,000 years ago modern humans began to migrate out from their homelands in sub-Saharan Africa to colonize the world beyond.

The “Recent Out of Africa Theory” remains at the core of most consensus models tackling human origins and migrations, but in the background, a series of discoveries are threatening to consign this theory to the garbage bin of history.

Most of the contrary evidence is emerging from studies focused on the largely sidelined (from a palaeoanthropology perspective) continent of Australasia.

Until around eight months ago, the scientific community was in broad agreement that the first humans to reach Australasia had walked from Africa, probably close to 60,000 years ago, and finally sailed through Indonesia to the continent’s shores 50,000 years ago. This scenario certainly seemed to fit well with the overall expectations of the recent out of Africa model and seemed to embrace most of the available evidence.

Then came the announcement of a 65,000-year-old Aboriginal site at the Madjedbebe rock shelter in the far north. Some of the associated stone artifacts mentioned in the paper that was published in Nature on July 2017, “Human Occupation of Northern Australia by 65,000 years ago,” produced dates closer to 80,000 years.

“People got here much earlier than we thought, which means, of course, they must also have left Africa much earlier to have traveled on their long journey through Asia and south-east Asia to Australia,” said the lead author, Associate Professor Chris Clarkson, from the University of Queensland.

There is no conceivable way in which the presence of humans in Australia 65,000 years ago can be explained by a migration moving slowly from Africa through Eurasia 60,000 years ago; even at the 70,000-year upper limit for dating this expansion, it simply does not make sense. Multiple genome studies have indicated that the ancestors of modern Eurasians diverged from their source population between 60,000 and 50,000 years ago.

Before going any further, it is essential to understand why the populating of Eurasia is understood to be the outcome of expansion from Africa; it’s all to do with modern Africans’ genes.

The ancestors of all living Europeans and Asians carried the mitochondrial haplogroups (genetic markers) M and N; they also carried Y-chromosomal haplogroup CF. A sampling of modern African DNA revealed that the Eurasian haplogroups stemmed back to mutations which had appeared in the African genome around 70,000 years ago, respectively, these earlier haplogroups were mitochondrial DNA HgL3 and Y-chromosomal HgCT.

You are probably wondering what, then, is the problem with the above modeling; surely this DNA data offers definitive evidence of a shared African origin for all modern humans.

The reason for extreme doubt is that the oldest sample of African DNA yet recovered is 8,100 years old. The lack of sufficiently old African genetic samples means we can’t use DNA to geographically place the ancestors of modern Africans living 70,000 years ago; they may have been living well beyond the African continent.

Researchers at the University of La Laguna have suggested that haplogroup L3 entered Africa during a migration, explained in a paper published in December, “Carriers of Mitochondrial DNA macrohaplogroup L3 Basic Lineages Migrated Back to Africa from Asia Around 70,000 Years Ago.” Though the authors of the paper still posit a possible earlier African origin for these migrants, they highlight another glaring anomaly within their data:

“The southern route hypothesis proposes that the Eurasian branches (M and N) of the macrohaplogroup L3 differentiated in or near the African continent and rapidly spread across the Asian peninsulas to reach Australia and Melanesia. Under this assumption, it is expected that, in general, coalescence ages of haplogroups should decrease from Africa to Australia.

However, we have demonstrated that this is not the case. Just on the contrary, the oldest M and N haplogroups are detected in southern China and Australasia instead of India, and associations between longitudinal geographic distances and relative ages of M and N haplogroups run, against to expectation, westwards with younger haplogroup ages going to Africa.”

With confirmation that humans were already living in Australasia 65,000 years ago, and that these people carried the oldest variants of the haplogroups considered ancestral for all modern Eurasians, we can redraw the migration map.

Somewhere between 60,000 to 50,000 years ago, people carrying the identified ancestral lineages began to move through Asia, heading westwards towards Europe and Africa, reaching these lands 45,000 years ago. These migrants are almost certainly Australasians; no other interpretation better fits the evidence.

Once we abandon the reliance upon modern DNA samples and instead focus on archaeology, paleontology, paleoclimate modeling, and archaeogenetic data, the “recent out of Africa theory” is immediately displaced. We may well find that by the end of 2018 a far more harmonious consensus model involving a recent migration out of Australasia.

Bruce R. Fenton: The Forgotten Exodus, A New Theory on Human Evolution

Bruce R. Fenton is a researcher of human evolution and ancient hominin migrations, with a special focus on the rise of the first /Homo sapiens/. Fenton is the author of the pop-science book ‘The Forgotten Exodus: The Into Africa Theory of Human Evolution’, as well as a regular guest writer for several online magazines. His research interests have taken him to all six inhabited continents and led to his being featured in the UK Telegraph and acting as an expedition leader for the Science Chanel. He is a current member of both the Palaeoanthropology Society and the Scientific and Medical Network.

Newly Discovered Human-Sized Dinosaur Footprint Is The Largest Ever Found

Newly Discovered Human-Sized Dinosaur Footprint Is The Largest Ever Found

The prints indicate enormous animals that were probably around 5.3 to 5.5 metres at the hip.

Australian researchers digging in the area known as “Australia’s Jurassic Park” have found the world’s biggest dinosaur footprint yet to be discovered.

According to their findings published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, the University of Queensland and James Cook University paleontologists found 20 more dinosaur footprints while digging around the Kimberly area in Western Australia.

Until now, the biggest known dinosaur footprint was a 106cm track discovered in the Mongolian desert.

At the new site, along the Kimberley shoreline in a remote region of Western Australia, paleontologists discovered a rich collection of dinosaur footprints in the sandstone rock, many of which are only visible at low tide.

The prints, belonging to about 21 different types of dinosaur, are also thought to be the most diverse collection of prints in the world.

Steve Salisbury, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Queensland told ABC News: “We’ve got several tracks up in that area that is about 1.7 meters long.

So most people would be able to fit inside tracks that big, and they indicate animals that are probably around 5.3 to 5.5 meters at the hip, which is enormous.”

The prints, found along the Kimberley shoreline, belong to about 21 different types of dinosaur and are thought to be the most diverse collection of prints in the world.

Salisbury said the diversity of the tracks was globally unparalleled and made the area the “Cretaceous equivalent of the Serengeti”. He also dubbed it “Australia’s own Jurassic Park”.

“It is extremely significant, forming the primary record of non-avian dinosaurs in the western half the continent and providing the only glimpse of Australia’s dinosaur fauna during the first half of the early Cretaceous period,” he said.

The findings were reported in the Memoir of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.

“There are thousands of tracks,” said Salisbury. “Of these, 150 can confidently be assigned to 21 specific track types, representing four main groups of dinosaurs.”

The largest tracks belonged to sauropods, huge Diplodocus-like herbivores with long necks and tails.

The scientists also discovered tracks from about four different types of ornithopod dinosaurs (two-legged herbivores) and six types of armored dinosaurs, including Stegosaurs, which had not previously been seen in Australia.

At the time the prints were left, 130m years ago, the area was a large river delta and dinosaurs would have traversed wet sandy areas between surrounding forests.

The latest investigation was prompted after the region was selected as the site for a liquid natural gas processing precinct in 2008.

The area’s traditional custodians, the Goolarabooloo people, who were aware of the prints, contacted Salisbury and his team and asked them to investigate.

The scientists from Queensland University and James Cook University, along with Indigenous representatives, spent 400 hours documenting the prints.

“Dinosaur tracks have been known through that area, probably for thousands of years. They form part of the song cycle,” Salisbury said told ABC News.

“We got contacted to come in and have a closer look, and it didn’t take long for us to realize that … there was a spectacular dinosaur track fauna preserved there that was at risk.”

Scientists Spot Merchant Vessel Sunk During World War II

Long-lost shipwreck found off Victorian coast, 77 years after being torpedoed by Japanese submarine in WWII

The wreckage of an Australian freight ship sunk by a Japanese submarine during World War II has been uncovered by archaeologists off the coast of Victoria.

The ore freighter SS Iron Crown sank within 60 seconds in June 1942 after it was hit by a torpedo while travelling through Bass Strait, killing 38 people.

The shipwreck was discovered by marine archaeologists aboard CSIRO research vessel Investigator, using sonar equipment and a special drop camera.

Maritime archaeologist at Heritage Victoria Peter Harvey said he hoped the discovery would bring closure to the families of the seamen who died.”The ship is in a really good state of preservation, although I’m pretty sure the stern of it, where it was hit by the torpedo, was pretty broken up,” he said.”

The archaeology of these sites enables us to finally find out what happened and why it happened.”

It tells us the human story of the wreck.”SS Iron Crown was a 100-metre-long freighter that was chartered by BHP to transport ore from Whyalla in South Australia to Newcastle in New South Wales.

There were 43 crew from the Australian Merchant Navy on board, but only five sailors survived.

According to the Heritage Council of Victoria, the survivors managed to grab lifejackets, jump clear of the ship and cling to wreckage until they were rescued by SS Mulbera.”

There were roughly 13 Japanese submarines operating on the Australian coast around that time that resulted in quite a number of casualties that nobody really knew about until well after the war,” Mr Harvey said.”

“The loss of 40 lives is a terrible thing in any measure, but I think if it had been common knowledge at the time, I think Australians would’ve been quite alarmed.

I don’t think the majority of the population was aware that there was so much enemy activity off the coast of south-eastern Australia.”

Chief Scientist at the Australian Maritime Museum, Emily Jateff
Chief Scientist at the Australian Maritime Museum, Emily Jateff

Voyage chief scientist Emily Jateff from the Australian National Maritime Museum said the shipwreck was found 100 kilometres off the Victorian coastline.”The wreck of Iron Crown appears to be relatively intact and the ship is sitting upright on the seafloor in about 700 metres of water,” she said.”

We have mapped the site and surrounding sea floor using sonar, but have also taken a lot of close-up vision of the ship structure using a drop camera.”

Ms Jateff said it was an important discovery.

“The fact that so many lives were lost … was something that hit home with all crew working onboard Investigator.”

The finding has been reported to the Australian Government and a memorial service will be planned for the site.

One of the saddest’ parts of seaman’s life

Tasmanian man George Fisher worked on the Iron Crown as a deck boy when he was 18 and was one of the five survivors.

George Fisher was a deck boy on the SS Iron Crown when he was 18.
George Fisher was a deck boy on the SS Iron Crown when he was 18.

He was the last surviving crew member before his death in 2012. In an interview with the Australians at War Film Archive in 2003, Mr. Fisher was asked whether the sinking of the Iron Crown haunted him.”

No, not really,” he said.

“At times I get sort of upset when I sort of think of it.

That’s a very sad part of my life, perhaps. One of the saddest.”His partner Lorraine Silvester said she was emotional when she heard about the discovery.”George was so passionate about having his shipmates remembered,” she said.”

It’s a pity it wasn’t found before he died.”Ms Silvester said Mr Fisher had been coming up from below deck when he heard a terrible explosion.”

He grabbed the life jacket and he was calling to all the others to get out, get out,” she said.”They knew the ship was going down. He jumped overboard, and it was the life jacket that saved him.”Mr Fisher kept in touch with the other survivors, including his close friend Bruce Miel from Adelaide.

Before Mr. Fisher died, he organized a plaque to be placed near the cenotaph in Mallacoota in Victoria to honor his shipmates.