Modelling plots first migration
New modelling has found that the First Australians arrived in large groups using complex technologies.
Scientists have used sophisticated modelling to determine not only the likely routes travelled by Aboriginal people tens of thousands of years ago, but also the sizes of groups required for the population to survive in harsh conditions.
The study supports the theory that people arrived in several large and deliberate migrations by island-hopping to reach West Papua more than 50,000 years ago.
While many Aboriginal cultures believe they originated here, others have strong oral histories of ancestral beings arriving from the north.
A multidisciplinary team of researchers set out to establish the most likely route travelled to reach the ancient mega-continent, known as Sahul (New Guinea, Australia and Tasmania joined at times of low sea level).
“We developed demographic models to determine which island-hopping route ancient people most likely took,” said Professor Corey Bradshaw from Flinders University.
“A northern route connecting the islands of Mangoli, Buru, and Seram into West Papua New Guinea would probably have been easiest to navigate and survive.
“This route was easiest when compared to the southern route from Timor that leads to the now-drowned Sahul Shelf in the modern-day Kimberley region.”
The researchers also used complex mathematical modelling — considering factors including fertility, longevity, past climate conditions, and other ecological principles — to calculate the numbers of people required for the population as a whole to survive.
The simulations indicate that at least 1300 people arrived in either a single migration event or smaller, successive waves averaging at least 130 people every 70 years or so, over the course of about 700 years.
“This suggests planned and well-organised maritime migration, rather than accidental arrival” Professor Bradshaw added.
The studies confirm the ancestors of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people possessed sophisticated technology and knowledge to build watercraft.
This research also showcases the remarkable ability at that time to plan, navigate, and make multiple complicated, open-ocean voyages to directly transport large numbers of people.