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Indians moved to Australia 4,000 years ago

Kalyan Ray New Delhi,Jan 15 , 2013, DHNS 0:47 IST
This file photo taken on October 1, 2010 shows Warrmarn-Kija Aborigines performing in Sydney. People from the Indian sub-continent migrated to Australia and mixed with Aborigines 4,000 years ago, bringing the dingo dog with them, according to a study published on January 15, 2013. AFP PHOTO
Indians migrated to Australia more than 4,000 years ago, much before Europeans set their foot on the Land of Oz.

Reconstructing the genetic history of human migration to Australia, scientists found a large presence of Indian genes among Australians that may have come from Indians travelling to the continent, staying and mixing with local population.

But how many Indians may have migrated and following exactly what route remain unknown.

The migration happened 4,230 years or 141 generations ago assuming a generation time of 30 years.

The finding contradicts prevailing knowledge, which suggests Australia remained largely isolated between its initial colonisation around 40,000 years ago and the arrival of Europeans in the late 1800s.

Indians might have carried their dogs as well as their knowledge of making smaller stone tools and processing of food plants, though the evidence is far from being conclusive.

Since the time period coincides with appearance of changes in stone tool technology and food processing in the Australian archaeological record, and first appearance of dingoes (Australian dogs) in the fossil record, scientists suggest these changes may be related to migration from India.

“ Morphologically, dingo most closely resembles Indian dogs”, a team of researchers from Europe and the Philippines who conducted the genetic analysis, said.

“ We detect a substantial inflow of genes from India into Australia at about the same time, which suggests all of these changes (stone tools, food processing and dingo) in Australia may be related to this migration,” they reported in the January 15th issue of “Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences”.

Genetic and archaeological evidence suggest modern humans originated in Africa and expanded to colonise all corners of the world. The migration happened in two routes—a northern dispersal that gave rise to modern day Asians and a southern dispersal along the Arabian peninsula and India, which went up to South Asia.

“ It is interesting that authors find evidence of admixture between Indian and Australian populations dating back to 4,000 years. More interesting, however, is relating that to other evidences from archaeology like changes in food processing, tool technology and dingo,” said Analabha Basu, a scientist at National Institute of Biomedical Genetics in Kalyani who is not linked to the study.

“ Interesting as it may seem, however, the inference relies heavily on time estimate from a small set of individuals and a relatively small number of markers. The time estimates of the other archaeological events are also not beyond doubt,” he told Deccan Herald.

Genetic data from aboriginal Australians, highlanders of Papua New Guinea, 11 Southeast Asian and 26 Indian populations, including Dravidian speakers from South India, were analysed before deriving the conclusion.

The authors found a common origin for populations from Australia, New Guinea and the Mamanwa (a Negrito group from the Philippines). They estimated these groups split from one another about 36,000 years ago and represent descendants of an ancient southwards migration out of Africa. Other populations arrived later by a separate dispersal.

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