DNA testing has shown Aboriginal people were the first to inhabit Australia and not “Mungo Man” as previously thought.
The research, reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, disputes earlier work that claimed the oldest known Australian, dubbed Mungo Man, was an extinct lineage of modern humans which occupied the continent before Aboriginal Australians.
Scientists from Griffith University’s Research Centre for Human Evolution used the very latest DNA sequencing methods to re-analyse the 40,000-year-old remains of Mungo Man from the World Heritage listed landscape of the Willandra Lakes in far western New South Wales.
Professor David Lambert says it was clear incorrect conclusions were drawn in relation to Mungo Man in the research in 2001.
“The sample from Mungo Man which we retested contained sequences from five different European people suggesting that these all represent contamination,” he says.
“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.”
He says the results prove that more advanced genomic technology is capable of unlocking further secrets from Australia’s human past.
“We now know that meaningful genetic information can be recovered from ancient Aboriginal Australian remains,” he says.
“This represents the first time researchers have recovered an ancient mitochondrial genome sequence from an Aboriginal person who lived before the arrival of the Europeans.”
The research was planned and conducted with the support of the Barkindjii, Ngiyampaa and Muthi Muthi indigenous people.
There has been considerable debate in Australia and around the world about the origins of the first Australians since the publication in 1863 of Thomas Henry Huxley’s Man’s Place in Nature.
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