Ancient DNA study shows the first Australians were Aboriginal

Research confirms Aboriginal people were the first people of Australia. Mungo Man, the oldest known Australian, was in an extinct line of humans.

Researchers from Griffith University have revisited the ancient DNA sequence from the first Australians, confirming that Aboriginal people were the first inhabitants of Australia. This new evidence refutes an earlier study that claimed to recover DNA sequences from Mungo Man, the oldest known Australian. This study suggested that Mungo Man represented an extinct line of humans thought to originally inhabit the continent.

The earlier study of Mungo Man in 2001 found that his DNA didn’t share similarities with any contemporary humans, suggesting multiple waves of migration to Australia. It was argued that Aboriginal origins were the results of two independent migrations, and there was a previous population to the Aboriginal people. These controversial claims were challenged by other researchers and the authenticity of the DNA sequences were brought into question. The researchers opposing this study highlighted issues with the methods used to analyse the DNA sequences leading to concerns about the validity of the conclusion made.

A team of scientists have now published a new study using new methods of DNA sequencing to reanalyse the DNA of Mungo Man and 20 specimens from the same region. The study revealed Mungo Man had no recoverable DNA, it was only able to replace one sequence from the original study; a genome belonging to one of the researchers. The Mungo Man DNA also contained four different sequences from European people, leading researchers to believe that the sample could have been exposed to contamination.

A set of remains that were discovered close to the Mungo Man, were made up of a complete mitochondrial genome similar to those of modern Aborigines. It is now believed to be the first genome of an ancient Aborigine who lived before the arrival of Europeans. The sequence found belongs to haplotype S2, which is exclusively found among contemporary Aboriginal Australian populations.

This study refutes earlier claims that another extinct line of humans inhabited Australia before Aboriginal Australians. The genetics analysed in the study provide strong evidence that the first people inhabited the continent over 50,000 years ago, which is long before Europeans arrived in Australia.

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