Saturday, January 19, 2013

Indians sailed to Australia four millennia ago

Indians may have sailed to Australia about 4000 years before Captain Arthur Philip discovered it in 1788. The evidence is genetics-based - specifically what are known as single-nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs.

Dr. Irina Pugach of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in Leipzig, and her colleagues, discovered that there is a pattern of SNPs that is not found in people from New Guinea or the Philippines. But it is found in some Indians—particularly in Dravidian speakers from the southern part of the subcontinent. Combining the SNP data with the Y-Chromosome data they calculated that the Indians arrived in Australia about 141 generations ago - roughly around 2217BC!

Two surprising things about this - it implies that these sailors had access to seaworthy ships, not just boats. And secondly an interesting conflict - Dravidians herald from the southern part of the Indian sub-continent and the civilization that was well known during this time is the Indus Valley but it is was in the north west part of the subcontinent.

The research also indicates that this arrival of Indians resulted in three shifts in the Australian life:

Tools: Aboriginal culture, which had hitherto depended on the large and relatively crude stone tools of the palaeolithic, suddenly started using the smaller and finer ones of the neolithic.

Gastronomic: Removal of toxins from Cycad nuts - Cycad nuts are still familiar food in Kerala, India/

Dingo: This may explain the arrival of Dingo to Australia - they have resemblance to certain breeds found in India.

Source: The Economist, An Antipodean Raj

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