Australian Aboriginals: Origins, Arrival & Culture

Quake42

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#1
Forgive me if there is already a thread on this and Mods feel free to do whatever merging you consider appropriate!

I have recently returned from a trip to Australia and I was fascinated by what was left of the Aboriginal culture there. What I find most intriguing though is the question of where they came from originally and also I suppose how long they had lived in Australia - I read various estimates while I was there which ranged form 40,000 to 100,000 years ago.

The Aboriginals look unique as far as I can tell and certainly very different from Pacific Islanders or Indonesians, their closest neighbours geographically.

I do recall watching a documentary a few years ago where an anthropologist suggested the Australian Aboriginals may have come from Africa originally, island-hopping over several generations, and that similar people may have once lived in North America and elsewhere. However, I find it hard to credit such long boat journeys on what must have been very perilous craft.

Does anyone have any more information on this topic or suggested reading for me?
 

PeniG

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#2
Check out this site:
http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/journey/

and books such as "The Real Eve" which examine the evidence about how Homo Sapiens colonized the earth.

Many unanswered questions still exist, but it is possible to form a reasonable synthesis. I'll spare you my extensive opinions on the subject at this time, but don't promise to do so indefinitely. If you're interested in hearing what I have to say, go to:
http://www.txdirect.net/~griffin/iceage.htm

My primary interest is the Americas, but Australia is an excellent rock to pound infirm hyphotheses against, since it was so isolated for so long.

A couple of fallacies to avoid are the concept of "race" and the equation of primitive culture with primitive cognition.

Modern "races" are a modern accidental phenomenon based on past population movements. Pleistocene American bones who kindasorta resemble modern Aboriginal bones have no need to be from Australia but may indicate a common ancestry dating back to a quarrel on a beach is southeast Asia 70,000 years ago, which ended with half a family going south and placing grandchildren favorably to enter Australia and half a family going north and placing great-grandchildren favorably to exploit Beringian waters and thence America. The Australian grandchildren became isolated and the American grandchildren either died out or mingled their genes with other populations that arrived after accumulating various mutations. 10,000 year old bones can't be assigned to a "race," much less 60,000 year old ones!

Homo sapiens has been as smart as us since Day One and they populated the earth by solving problems. Just like us, they acquired knowledge and created inventions when they needed or wanted to, and abandoned them when the need or desire passed. They had geniuses and idiots, great heroes and great villains, charismatic leaders and restless iconoclasts, sociopaths and saints, workaholics and sloths, and an assortment of ordinary folks trying to feed their kids and have some fun occasionally. They had fewer giants on whose shoulders to stand than we do, but if they were sufficiently motivated to do something, they could do it.
 

kiev85

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#3
PeniG said:
Homo sapiens has been as smart as us since Day One and they populated the earth by solving problems.
I would personally go as far to say that from the introduction of the very first "Homo" ancestor. As soon as Homo habilis fashioned the first tools, we started on our way...


that is untill new evidence is found of pre habilis tools...which will probably happen one of these days...

Also look in to "mungo Man" found at mungo lake in australia...DNA analysis of remains show no direct link to modern humans...so must have evolved from a completely different line.

OR IS THIS A SIGN OF A HYBRID??

which would suggest mixing..
 

rynner2

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#4
Australian history rewritten in rock art
Cave paintings made over thousands of years – up until the 20th century – challenge the stereotypical view of Aboriginal people
By Kathy Marks in Sydney
Sunday, 5 October 2008

Arnhem Land, jutting into the Arafura Sea at the top of Australia, has always been a special place for Aboriginal people. Just how special has been reinforced by the discovery of an extraordinary collection of rock art recording life in the area for the past 15,000 years, up until 50 years ago.

Alongside ancient paintings of thylacines, a mammal long extinct on the mainland, are images documenting modern-day inventions – a car, a bicycle wheel, a biplane and a rifle – as well as portraits of a missionary and a sea captain. Scientists documenting the rock art, spread across at least 100 sites in the remote Wellington Range, say it ranks among the world's finest.

It also appears to rewrite Australian history, undermining the widely held assumption that the continent was isolated and largely unvisited until the First Fleet arrived in 1788. The paintings suggest that, on the contrary, the people of northern Australia have been interacting with seafaring visitors from Asia and Europe for hundreds, possibly thousands, of years.

A team of scientists on a recent expedition to the Wellington Range recorded 81 images of ships, ranging from the vessels of Macassan traders from Sulawesi (now part of Indonesia) to dugout canoes, 19th-century British tall ships, 20th-century steamers and Japanese pearling luggers. They even found paintings of a luxury cruise ship and a Second World War destroyer.

Twentieth-century rock art is extremely rare anywhere, and the scientists surveying the paintings with the help of a local Aboriginal elder, Ronald Lamilami, say they represent possibly the longest continuous record in the world.

"This seems to have been a key location where people went back again and again, adding to the art over thousands of years and many hundreds of generations," Professor Paul Tacon, an archaeologist from Griffith University in Queensland, said last week. "Each time they went back, they added new imagery and new experiences to the growing history book that they were creating. Many Aboriginal people across northern Australia describe these sorts of sites as their history books, or libraries."

The rock art has been known about since the 1970s, when a leading expert, George Chaloupka, was taken to the area by local people. But he saw only a tiny proportion of it, and records of its whereabouts were lost. It was only recently that they were rediscovered by a doctoral student, Daryl Guse, working with Mr Lamilami. Professor Tacon's team, which travelled to Arnhem Land last month, was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the art, much of which had never before been viewed by white people. In one rock shelter alone, they found 1,500 paintings, comprising "more 'contact era' art and more varied imagery than any other site in the world", according to Professor Tacon.

"This area is astounding," he said. "Every time we went out, we had a plan to survey a particular stretch of the range, but we could hardly move at all, because we were continually finding sites. Over a few days, we found 100 previously undocumented sites, and we've only just scratched the surface. There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of sites waiting to be revealed to the outside world. This area is of World Heritage significance, and it rivals the best of any area in Australia. It's right up there with the best rock art regions of Europe and South Africa and elsewhere."

The art contains subjects and styles not found elsewhere in Australia. Much of it consists of multiple layers applied over the millennia. On one wall, for instance, is a biplane painted over a kangaroo. One early depiction of a ship includes a wealth of interior detail, suggesting that Aboriginal people had been boarding vessels for generations. So, when the British arrived, Professor Tacon speculates, "it was not something bizarre and unusual; it was just the latest group in their latest newfangled ships".

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world ... 51828.html
 

DougalLongfoot

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#5
It also appears to rewrite Australian history, undermining the widely held assumption that the continent was isolated and largely unvisited until the First Fleet arrived in 1788. The paintings suggest that, on the contrary, the people of northern Australia have been interacting with seafaring visitors from Asia and Europe for hundreds, possibly thousands, of years...One early depiction of a ship includes a wealth of interior detail, suggesting that Aboriginal people had been boarding vessels for generations. So, when the British arrived, Professor Tacon speculates, "it was not something bizarre and unusual; it was just the latest group in their latest newfangled ships".
Certainly not a new idea. I was taught at school that there was interaction between the Aborigines of northern Australia and fishermen from what is now Indonesia. They came here for the Trochus (Sea Cucumber). I can't think of any textbooks I've used on early exploration of Australia that doesn't mention this, plus the multitudes of Dutch vessels that visited Australian shores.
 

OldTimeRadio

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#6
PeniG said:
A couple of fallacies to avoid are the concept of "race" and the equation of primitive culture with primitive cognition.
When I was in high school (a very academic public high school in a wealthy small town that saw itself competing with the best private prep schools) we were taught that the Australian Aborigines "are the very darkest members of the White race."

I understand that that view is highly frowned upon today.
 

OldTimeRadio

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#7
kiev85 said:
I would personally go as far to say that from the introduction of the very first "Homo" ancestor. As soon as Homo habilis fashioned the first tools, we started on our way...
I'll go even farther than that. I suspect that if Homo Habilis could, with proper training from his older peers, design and create an exquisite stone tool, a Homo Habilis raised amongst us today, and again with proper training, could most likely design and build a transistor radio.
 

PeniG

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#8
I would hardly call the Olduwan toolkit "exquisite," and I have to wonder whether, if habilis were reclassified as australopithecus, or if enough fossils were found to justify subdividing current specimens into an assortment of mixed homo and australopithecine species, people would be so eager to claim equality with them. Brains evolve just like the rest of us, and there's no reason to suppose that early humans needed all of our capabilities to survive any more than my cat does. Habilis, whatever she was, had the potential appropriate to her species.

But this is pretty widely off-topic, as, to the best of our knowledge, Australia has only known one human species. It would be interesting to find the bones of someone related to the Floresian hobbits, though, wouldn't it?
 

Quake42

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#10
But this is pretty widely off-topic, as, to the best of our knowledge, Australia has only known one human species. It would be interesting to find the bones of someone related to the Floresian hobbits, though, wouldn't it?
There are occasional reports from Australia of Flores-type humanoids, sometimes known as "brown Jacks". There has been speculation that these might be/have been a relict population of Homo Erectus or similar, and even that there may have been some mixing with the modern human population which resulted in the highly complex marriage laws of some Aboriginal tribes (to prevent "throwbacks" being born).

All very controversial and difficult to discuss because of the extreme racism which indigenous Australians still face.
 

Quake42

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#11
When I was in high school (a very academic public high school in a wealthy small town that saw itself competing with the best private prep schools) we were taught that the Australian Aborigines "are the very darkest members of the White race."

I understand that that view is highly frowned upon today.
Not frowned upon, more nonsensical. What is the "White Race" anyway? How on earth do indigenous Australians fit into this rather weird categorisation?
 

OldTimeRadio

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#12
Quake42 said:
How on earth do indigenous Australians fit into this rather weird categorisation?
I can only answer that as it was taught to me - that the White Race originally existed in a long ess-shaped curve stretching from Europe through India to the South Pacific and Australia.

That is the view which was expounded 50 years ago in an extremely academic public high school which was then (and still is today) regarded as one of the top five or ten such institutions in the United States.

But times obviously change.
 

Xanatico

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#13
I´m not one of those who claims race doesn´t exist, but I still don´t see how aboriginals would fit into the category of the white race. Seems an odd notion, all PC-ness aside.
 

Zilch5

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#14
From memory, I believe it went like this:

Aboriginals are descended from the Indian people, which in return are "Aryans" and related to the Germanic tribes. Or something like that.

All clap trap, as far as I know, as more modern genetic testing has revealed they are closely related to the Polynesians - which makes a lot more sense if you look at the geography.

The whole notion of "race" has long been discredited as it has no foundation in biology anyway.

Incidentally, there is a very good TV series about Aboriginals currently showing here called "First Australians" - and you can watch it, for free and perfectly legal, here:
http://player.sbs.com.au
 

DougalLongfoot

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#15
From Quake 42:
All very controversial and difficult to discuss because of the extreme racism which indigenous Australians still face.
Pardon? Things aren't perfect here, and many aboriginal people face huge socioeconomic disadvantage, but calling it extreme racism is a bit strong.
 

Zilch5

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#16
DougalLongfoot said:
From Quake 42:
All very controversial and difficult to discuss because of the extreme racism which indigenous Australians still face.
Pardon? Things aren't perfect here, and many aboriginal people face huge socioeconomic disadvantage, but calling it extreme racism is a bit strong.
I'd say there is some extreme - but the whole situation is rather complex and difficult. If someone had a quick fix, I haven't heard of it.
 

LaurenChurchill

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#17
There will always be extreme racism from some individuals. People can be arseholes. I don't see Australia as being any more racist a country than say the US or Britain. I've lived here my whole life and apart from the Coogee Beach riots that were led by some misguided dickheads wrapped in flags, I've never seen firsthand any examples of strong racism. The community I live in (Wollongong) is quite multicultural, as is my family and the families of most people I know.
We get a bum wrap thanks to the White Australia Policy that lasted for so many years, but few people outside of the country recognise that we have moved on from those times.
 

skinny46

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#18
Please watch this series currently running on Australia's SBS on Sunday and Tuesday nights. Each episode is an hour long.

http://www.sbs.com.au/firstaustralians/

It documents the story of the clash of cultures, the misunderstandings and the brutality that have shaped race relations within Australia over the 220 years of occupation since 1788. It is the most engaging history of Australia I've ever seen documented - almost entirely from the perspective of the Aboriginal people themselves. It is harrowing and there will be calls of BS from the anti-apologists, but that's par for the course. Donkeys bray. I admire this production enormously and commend it to everyone who hopes to expand their knowledge of Aboriginal peoples beyond the textbook interpretation most of us received at school. It is enlightening historically, and also makes clear why Rudd's national apology earlier this year was so essential to the ongoing reconciliation among our communities. Too many people judge the surface ugliness of the lives of urban Aboriginal groups and individuals trapped in the cycle of depression, substance abuse, violence, unemployment and homelessness without gaining any kind of clear background as to how and why they became this way. I've made it my ongoing committment as a teacher of international visitors (and locals where possible), to challenge the lazy assumptions they are offered from locals whose intention is to deflect rather than educate. This production is going to help me so much in that task. Please take the time to watch it and pass on the link to others.
 

DougalLongfoot

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#19
Gut bacteria reveals human migrations in Pacific

A bacterial parasite known to cause stomach ulcers is shedding new light on ancient patterns of human migration across the Pacific region, according to an international study.

In the latest edition of Science, researchers report that their study of the distribution of Helicobacter pylori genotypes has given further weight to the theory that Australia was first populated around 30,000 years ago.

H. pylori is particularly useful for studying the movement of human populations because it is extremely widespread, and is transmitted from mother to child.

Co-author Professor Barry Marshall, a microbiologist at the University of Western Australia, says H. pylori is a lot like mitochondrial DNA, which is also used to investigate human migration patterns...
Gut bacteria reveals human migrations in Pacific
 

Quake42

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#20
Pardon? Things aren't perfect here, and many aboriginal people face huge socioeconomic disadvantage, but calling it extreme racism is a bit strong.
Just picked up on this thread again now. I would stand by my comments. I was shocked when I went to Australia at the blatantly racist way the media covered Aboriginal issues and also by comments made about indigenous people by otherwise liberal white Australians. It was truly breathtaking.

I've also travelled around New Zealand and the position with the Maori was completely different - they certainly suffered socioeconomic disadvantage but seemed far more integrated and confident in their culture.
 
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#21
Quake42 said:
Pardon? Things aren't perfect here, and many aboriginal people face huge socioeconomic disadvantage, but calling it extreme racism is a bit strong.
Just picked up on this thread again now. I would stand by my comments. I was shocked when I went to Australia at the blatantly racist way the media covered Aboriginal issues and also by comments made about indigenous people by otherwise liberal white Australians. It was truly breathtaking.

I've also travelled around New Zealand and the position with the Maori was completely different - they certainly suffered socioeconomic disadvantage but seemed far more integrated and confident in their culture.
Maybe its because the Maori were more "advanced" when they encountered the white settlers. It was a close thing at one point as to whether the colonists wouls have to abando NZ. In the end the Maoris were beaten by logistics, the difficujty of keeping a standing army in the field.

But the colonists were forced to negotiate with the Maoris so they managed to keep some of the good land and weren't so excluded. They also got guaranteed seats in parliament.
 

DougalLongfoot

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#22
I would have said that the Maori had a culture that was more heirarchical and therefore more familiar and easier to understand for the pakeha. The treaty of Waitangi, which in the last 50-60 years has been turned into something it was certainly not intended to be at the time, is the basis of the agreement between Maori and Pakeha. Whilst the maori do appear to be in a stronger position than the Australian Aborigines, appearances can be deceiving. Many maori still live in a state of great socio-economic disadvantage.

I'd be interested in hearing more about which media outlets you were referring too and what issues were covered in a blatantly racist way.

I'm sorry you had a negative impression of Australia, but when I hear the words "extreme racism", I think of Apartheid and Nazism, and that is just not a fair comparison.

PS:
When are the German, French and Scandinavian occupiers going to give Britain back to the British?
 
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#23
DougalLongfoot said:
...

PS:
When are the German, French and Scandinavian occupiers going to give Britain back to the British?
You're probably about a thousand years too late with that joke. ;)
 

Zilch5

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#25
DougalLongfoot said:
I would have said that the Maori had a culture that was more heirarchical and therefore more familiar and easier to understand for the pakeha. The treaty of Waitangi, which in the last 50-60 years has been turned into something it was certainly not intended to be at the time, is the basis of the agreement between Maori and Pakeha. Whilst the maori do appear to be in a stronger position than the Australian Aborigines, appearances can be deceiving. Many maori still live in a state of great socio-economic disadvantage.

I'd be interested in hearing more about which media outlets you were referring too and what issues were covered in a blatantly racist way.

I'm sorry you had a negative impression of Australia, but when I hear the words "extreme racism", I think of Apartheid and Nazism, and that is just not a fair comparison.

PS:
When are the German, French and Scandinavian occupiers going to give Britain back to the British?
I would agree with Dougal there - I do not think our media is racist in dealing with the Aboriginal issues. You do get racist views from individuals - but actually the worst racism I've personally encountered came from immigrants themselves. There was an Austrian ranting against Asians, Asians ranting about the Lebanese, and the Lebanese ranting about Jews... All prejudices they brought with them from wherever they came from. But that's a different subject.

Comparing the story or the Maori with that of the Aboriginals would be an interesting one. Has it been done?

My belief is that the Maori adapted better because their society was closer to Western concepts than the Aboriginal one to start off with. They had concepts of land ownership, organised warfare and so forth. The Aboriginal culture is completely incompatible with Western civilisation and the choice they face is to completely abandon one for the other. To me at least, that's at the heart of the problem.
 

Quake42

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#26
I'd be interested in hearing more about which media outlets you were referring too and what issues were covered in a blatantly racist way.
The thing that really springs to mind was the hysterical coverage of an Aboriginal protest in Melbourne following the 2006 Commonwealth Games. A small group of Aboriginal people and their supporters kept an "eternal flame" burning in protest at various issues. The printed and television media constantly reported negative stories about the camp, including claims from a Kath lookalike that someone at the camp had chased her with a stick when she went out jogging. The interview with her was shown over and over, but as far as I could tell she wasn't especially near the camp and all that had happened was that she saw someone raise a branch over his head which may or may not have been directed at her.

Additionally, the leader of the protest was mixed-race and the media repeatedly dropped not-so-subtle hints that a "pure" indigenous Australian would not have been so articulate or reasonable.

Added to this, as I say, I have repeatedly come across otherwise liberal and left-wing Australians who have a curious blind spot when it comes to Aboriginal people and make appalling comments that would not be out of place in Apartheid South Africa.


I'm sorry you had a negative impression of Australia, but when I hear the words "extreme racism", I think of Apartheid and Nazism, and that is just not a fair comparison.
I don't have a negative impression of Australia overall - I love it and would like to move there one day. However, I was disappointed at the way Aboriginal issues are viewed even now.

Given that indigenous Australians only received the right to vote in the 60s, and even now are barred from possessing alcohol or pornography in certain areas, I'm not sure the Apartheid comparison is so wide of the mark. It could be argued that the main difference between South Africa and Australia is that in the latter case the settlers were more effective at exterminating the indigeous population.
 

Zilch5

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#27
I sort of understand where you are coming from - but please understand that people here are often talking from personal experiences that you (living in the UK) might not have had. And, being typical Australians, they wouldn't mince their words. Or express it in a manner which would lessen the impact of what they were saying.

I could tell you a few things from personal experience (no FOAF crap) - but you'd probably call me an otherwise liberal and left-wing Australian who has a curious blind spot when it comes to Aboriginal people.

Sorry, but it isn't as easy as judging someone by the colour of the skin. There are many "darker" skinned people in Australia who have no problems finding jobs and being accepted in the general public. There are also Aboriginal people who manage just fine in this society.

The Aboriginal problem runs far deeper than that.
 

katdeSade

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#28
I am actually of aboriginal decent.. my mother being born on Kamilaroi land, and living out her later years on Daruk land – west of Sydney. Many of my closest friends are from the Awabakal people who live in the Newcastle / Hunter Valley region of Aus.

Ask any elder, and they will always sware blindly we came from the creator sprit Pundjel. I’m at work, so sadly no time to cit references, but if need be, will post many a link when I get home. There is evidence we have been here for a lot longer then first realized when ‘white man came to settle’ I do believe that there is a high chance that we could be a separate fraction by still too little evidence to support this. There are many stories of our people in the past having interaction with the surrounding islands (pacific, Asia even as far as Africa)

One thing I have always found fascinating is up in Arnhem Land, it is one of two places in the world with the oldest geological record to date. The blue mountains are also home to one of the oldest species of trees long thought extinct. We have native animals and native fossils here that are only found on this continent.

Re: the protests and demonstrations, look up Uncle Chicka Dixon. He was a good man, who did a lot for our rights.

Any questions on our cultura or protests, feel free to throw this way :)
 

Dgeritz

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#29
What I find most intriguing though is the question of where they came from originally and also I suppose how long they had lived in Australia - I read various estimates while I was there which ranged form 40,000 to 100,000 years ago.
Sorry to intrude like this... The discussion has gone it's own way, but I have been away for many years and saw the original question, and it is a question that I have wondered about myself. So I hope I may go back for a moment to that...

I learned at school that Neanderthals lived in Europe from about 100.000 years ago to about 40.000 years ago (to, but that wasn't known back then, 28.000 years ago in southern Spain), and that cro magnon man, our direct ancestor, only appeared about 40.000 years ago. At the same time, I read in other books that Australia had been inhabitated by cro magnon man anywhere between 50.000 and 70.000 years ago. These figures don't combine, especially, but perhaps I'm thinking in the wrong direction, since Australia is a far longer distance from Africa then Europe.

At the same time, I noticed that none of the books I read tried to reconcile these numbers. What are your ideas about this? I always assumed that Europe would be one of the first areas (after perhaps the middle east) to be colonised by people coming from Africa, being so near, but perhaps this was not always the case. Perhaps it was true in the case of Neanderthal man, but cro magnon first went east, and later came back?

Concerning the racial discussion, do you know this wonderful article by Jared Diamond? http://discovermagazine.com/1994/nov/ra ... utcolor444

Sorry, I feel a bit like hijacking this discussion, but on the other hand, I am reacting to the original post.

David
 

Ffalstaf

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#30
Dgeritz said:
...I read in other books that Australia had been inhabitated by cro magnon man anywhere between 50.000 and 70.000 years ago.
In the late 1990s, a team from the Australian National University dated Mungo Man (a.k.a. Lake Mungo 3), the oldest modern human found in Australia, to 56,000 - 68,000 years old. It was a controversial finding.

Currently, the most reliable date is generally thought to be 42,000 - 48,000 years old. There's a good summary here, especially the link to Richard Gillespie's paper "Dating the first Australians":

www-personal.une.edu.au/~pbrown3/LM3.html
Link is dead. The MIA webpage can be retrieved using the Wayback Machine:

https://web.archive.org/web/20090520025047/http://www-personal.une.edu.au/~pbrown3/LM3.html

On that page, there's also mention of claims about mitochondrial DNA from Mungo Man which some say challenge the Out Of Africa theory. There's a fairly clear account of that debate on the Wikipedia page about Mungo Man:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mungo_Man


Dgeritz said:
Concerning the racial discussion, do you know this wonderful article by Jared Diamond? http://discovermagazine.com/1994/nov/ra ... utcolor444
I'm no fan of Jared Diamond but I looked at the article. Yes, there are infinitely many arbitrary ways to categorise humans. Yes, there is the intellectual argument that race can be reduced to genes and then, because of the subtlety of the genetic differences, dismissed. Yes, it would be wonderful if we could stop stereotyping each other. The very real problem, which Jared Diamond misses (and which just strengthens my existing suspicion that he doesn't live very much in the real world), is that people do stereotype each other based on visible differences, of which race is only one aspect.

Height, weight, hair colour, extra or missing body parts, glasses and other aids, habits of clothing, habits of speech - an apparent difference in any one of these is enough to get people to stereotype members of their own race, let alone others. The intellectual argument that visible (or rather, perceptible, not just by the visual sense) differences can be reduced to genes is like the intellectual argument that a chair is mostly empty space: sound, perhaps, but weak. We don't behave as if the chair is mostly empty space; we behave as if it is how it appears to our senses - solid. In the same way, when you have the intellectual preparation, the argument that race can be reduced to genes and then dismissed can be enlightening; and if you're that intellectually prepared, you might also find enlightenment about the illusory nature of race in other ideas, such as Buddhist non-duality. But in general, it's not the people who are intellectually prepared to receive such ideas fruitfully who are the problem when it comes to stereotyping based on perceptible differences. It's the people who perceive the obvious differences between people, whether they identify those people as belonging to another race or to their own, and who are not prepared to receive ideas of unity and harmony, who perpetuate harmful stereotyping. And I don't think they read Jared Diamond.
 
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