While many Native American cultures believe they have always lived across Australia, some have strong oral lore of ancestors coming from the north.
Despite scarce archaeological evidence, experts believe that humanity first arrived in northwest Australia, only to spread to Tasmania in the southeast.
Researchers used advanced models to predict how humankind colonized “sahul” – the land that formed when Australia and New Guinea were connected by low sea levels.
Researchers believe that the first humans likely arrived in Australia around 70,000 to 50,000 years ago and could have spread across the continent in around 5,000 years.
The research was led by the Australian Research Council’s Center of Excellence on Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH).
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Scientists have discovered the migratory highways (pictured) that up to 6.5 million indigenous people likely traveled through Australia around 70,000 years ago
“Australia is not only the driest, but also the least populated continent on earth,” said archaeologist Sean Ulm from James Cook University in Queensland.
“Our research shows that outstanding landscape features and water sources were critical to the navigation and survival of people on the continent.”
“In many Aboriginal societies it is believed that landscape features were created by ancestral beings during dreaming.”
“Every ridge line, every hill, every river, every beach and every water source is named, stored and inscribed in the very fabric of societies, emphasizing the close relationship between people and place,” he explained.
“The landscape is literally embedded in people’s lives and their history.”
“It seems that these human-land relationships probably date back to the earliest population on the continent.”
To determine the locations of the ancient migration routes, the researchers first build the most complete digital elevation model ever made for Australia and New Guinea – one that includes areas that are now underwater.
This enabled the team to determine which features of the landscape would have been highlighted and possibly used for navigation.
They then took into account important factors such as the difficulty of the different areas, the local availability of water and the physiological capacity of the people.
“When it’s a new landscape and we don’t have a map, we want to know how to move efficiently around a space, where we can find water, and where we can camp,” said Utah paper writer and archaeologist Stefani Crabtree State University.
“We will be guided by the highlights of the country,” he added.
In the largest migration simulation to date, researchers identified and tested more than 125 billion possible routes through Sahul and compared them to Australia’s oldest known archaeological sites (pictured left) to uncover the most likely routes. The team also considered key factors such as the difficulty of the different areas, the local availability of water (pictured on the right, with red rivers) and the physiological capacity of the people
“Guided by indigenous knowledge, we will appreciate the complexity, skill, capacity and resilience of the ancestors of the Australian indigenous peoples,” said Corey Bradshaw, paper writer and ecologist of Flinders University in Adelaide. Depicted is a map of the land mass of Sahul with modern coasts overlaid with white
In the largest migration simulation to date, researchers identified and tested more than 125 billion possible routes through Sahul – comparing them to Australia’s oldest known archaeological sites to uncover the most likely routes.
These patterns revealed a network of “highways” that crossed the old continent, as well as numerous back roads.
According to the researchers, several of the main migration paths reflect well-documented Aboriginal trade routes.
These included those used to transport Pituri tobacco from Cape York via Birdsville to South Australia and balers from Kimberley to Central Australia.
“Guided by indigenous knowledge, we will appreciate the complexity, skill, capacity and resilience of the ancestors of the Australian indigenous peoples,” said Corey Bradshaw, paper writer and ecologist of Flinders University in Adelaide.
“The more we look into the deep past, the more we understand that many people have long underestimated the ingenuity of these extraordinary cultures.”
According to the researchers, several of the main migration paths reflect well-documented Aboriginal trade routes. These included those used to transport pituri tobacco (like the one made from the plant shown on the right) from Cape York via Birdsville to South Australia and baler trays (right) from Kimberley to central Australia
The second part of the investigation used 120 different simulations – taking into account factors such as survival and fertility rates – to determine how long it would take humans to colonize the 3,861,021 square miles of supercontinent.
They concluded that the indigenous population is expanding with an average settlement rate of 1 km per year and a maximum population of up to 6.5 million people.
After completing their first study, the researchers said their approach could be used in the future to analyze the migration of people from Africa 120,000 years ago – or to look for undiscovered archaeological sites.
It could also be used to predict future human migrations – as expected in the near future by populations fleeing drowning coasts and other climate-related disruptions.
The full results of the studies have been published in the journals Nature Communications and Nature Human Behavior.
HOW WAS AUSTRALIA CONNECTED TO CANADA? ROCKS DISCOVER THE TIME OF THE EVENTS 1.7 BILLION YEARS AGO
Over the course of geological time, the earth’s continents have moved and arranged differently.
The movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates over time is part of what experts call the “supercontinent cycle”.
A new study suggests that Georgetown, a city 400 km west of Cairns, Queensland, Australia, became part of Australia when it collided with the North American landmass 1.7 billion years ago during the formation of the supercontinent Nuna.
The events that led to it happened as follows.
Australia and North America were once part of the supercontinent Nuna, which was founded 1.7 billion years ago.
But Australia and North America separated when the Nuna landmass disintegrated 1.6 billion years ago.
When the vast land mass split up, a small area of what is now Queensland, Australia, broke off from North America.
Georgetown stones were deposited in a shallow sea when the region was part of North America.
When Georgetown broke away from North America, it collided with the Mount Isa region of northern Australia.
Since the 1960s, researchers have proposed joining Australia and North America as part of Nuna, but the new study provides conclusive evidence that the two were once paired.