Aboriginal people were definitely first Australians

By AG Staff Writer June 7, 2016
Reading Time: 2 Minutes Print this page
New DNA sequencing has proven Aboriginal people really were the first to inhabit Australia.

ABORIGINAL AUSTRALIANS really were the first people to inhabit the continent and a 2001 study that suggested otherwise was likely the result of unreliable earlier DNA methods, according to new research.

Researchers at Griffith University, Queensland, have used advanced new DNA sequencing methods to reanalyse the remains of the famous Mungo Man – the oldest known Australian.

Their findings, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science journal, refute a landmark 2001 study that suggested Mungo Man represented an extinct lineage of modern humans that occupied Australia before Aboriginal people. 

RELATED: Messages from Mungo Man

VIDEO: The landscapes of Mungo National Park, AG#123. (Credit: Michael Amendolia)

The researchers say these new findings confirm earlier suspicions about the 2001 results.

“The sample from Mungo Man which we retested contained sequences from five different European people, suggesting that these all represent contamination,” explained Professor David Lambert, from Griffith University’s Research Centre for Human Evolution (RCHE). 

“At the same time we re-analysed more than 20 of the other ancient people from Willandra. We were successful in recovering the genomic sequence of one of the early inhabitants of Lake Mungo, a man buried very close to the location where Mungo Man was originally interred.

“By going back and reanalysing the samples with more advanced technology, we have found compelling support for the argument that Aboriginal Australians were the first inhabitants of Australia.”

‘Mungo Man’ was originally discovered on 26 February 1974 in the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area in south-western NSW. The remains were eventually confirmed as the oldest human remains ever found in Australia, dating back to roughly 43,000 years.

The RCHE at Griffith University is a new research centre and the first of its kind in Australasia to study human evolution with a focus on this region.