A Staff Report from the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board

Where did Australian aborigines come from?

March 23, 1999

Dear Straight Dope:

My brother and I were watching a movie that had a subplot about Australian aborigines. We were wondering whether the aborigines came from Asia. If so, where? Who are their closest genetic relitives? Please, our curiosity is killing us!!!

SDStaff Tech replies:

Around 75000 BC, archaeologists have decided, anatomically modern humans first began sweeping southward into Indochina from China and India. From there, it took awhile for them to figure out such things as "boats," but evidence seems to indicate that the first humans made the move across Indonesia, and thence to Australia and Tasmania, sometime around 40000 BC. (Boats, by the way, may not have been necessary for all of this journey; sea levels are thought to have been lower then and the aborigines may have used a now-submerged land bridge known as the Sahul Shelf.)

Genetically, aborigines are classified as "Australoid;" they're essentially a mixing of Caucasoid, Mongoloid, and Negroid stock, and it's hard to say who their closest "relatives" would be.

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