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11.9.04

The Aussies Were Here First?

Who discovered the Americas?

The first colonizers of the Americas came from Australia, according to archaeologists who have analysed skulls from 12,000-year-old skeletons found in California. The finding contradicts the traditional view that the first immigrants were the ancestors of modern Native Americans.

The skulls, taken from skeletal remains found in the desert of the Baja California peninsula in Mexico, are long and narrow. "This is completely different to the Native Americans' rounder skull shape," explains lead researcher Silvia Gonzalez from the Liverpool John Moores University, UK.

... Traditional colonization theories hold that the first wave of humans to migrate to the Americas came from Siberia at the end of the last ice age. Skeletons of these migrants are dated at about 9,000 years old. So Gonzalez says the new evidence means that the Siberians, who are related to modern day Native Americans, did not get there first after all.


I would not be at all surprised if the closest living relatives of the very first Americans are Australian Aborigines. My knowledge of the American colonization debate is rather slim, but it doesn't seem inconsistent with any evidence I know of that there was a first wave of migrants early on, followed by a second stronger wave of people related to modern Siberians. Indeed, this would explain the sudden explosion of sites at the appearance of the Clovis culture, and the relative lack of very early Native American-like sites in Siberia.

But I see no reason to think that the first Americans came from Australia. While many sites were drowned by rising seas at the end of the last ice age, we have no evidence of major indigenous seafaring cultures in Australia. Aborigines made it to the Solomon Islands, but never got to Indonesia on their own. It seems much more likely that an early wave of humans leaving Africa got to China and then split -- some moving south to Australia, and others heading north along the coast and eventually winding up in America. Later arrivals killed or absorbed most of the Aborigines' Asian and American cousins.

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