Four Thousand Years Ago Indians Landed in Australia

A new study has confirmed India’s early arrival in Australia

Genetic evidence suggests that just over 4 millennia ago a group of Indian travellers landed in Australia and stayed. The evidence emerged a few years ago after a group of Aboriginal men’s Y chromosomes matched with Y chromosomes typically found in Indian men.  Up until now, the exact details, though, have been unclear.

But Irina Pugach from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology may have recently solved the thousand-year-old case. 4,000 years before the First Fleet landed on our fair shores, Indian adventurers had already settled and were accepted into the Indigenous Australian culture.

By studying the single-nucleotide polymorphisms and their patterns, Dr Pugach revealed a diverse tapestry of ancestry, one different from the lineage of New Guineans or the Philippines. The study found a pattern of SNPs that is only found in Indian genetics, specifically the Dravidian speakers from South India. Dr Pugach’s results were consistent with the Y-chromosome data found years earlier. Using both results she calculated exactly when India arrived in Australia.

Dr Pugach estimates this to be around 2217 BC. An interesting time for both Australia and India. Indian civilisation was just about formed and Australian culture and wildlife were rearranging.

The Indus Valley civilisation (India) emerged between 2600 BC and 1900 BC. During this period, Indus Valley managed to develop seaworthy boats, which they used to trade with their neighbours: The Middle East. This new technology was used to get to Australia.

There is evidence of a shift in technology that coincides with the time Indians were thought to have arrived in Australia. Indigenous Australians switched their palaeolithic crude, stone tools, for neolithic refined tools. Again around about the time India washed up in Australia, the way food was collected and cooked changed, particularly the preparation of the cycad nut. An important source of food for early Australians, the cycad nut is quite toxic until the toxins are drawn out. The indigenous method always involved roasting the nut, but by 2000 BC Indigenous Australians were removing the toxins via water and fermentation. Similarly, the nut, which is found in Kerala in Southern India is commonly dried or roasted. The last rather important piece of evidence that suggests Indian settled in Australia is our beloved dingo.

:A lesson in spinning string, Central Australia.Image: Wikimedia Commons, A lesson in spinning string, Central Australia.

The dingo has always been an enigma. No one really knows how or why it ended up in Australia. We know it probably exterminated the Tasmanian Tiger on Mainland Australia (apart from the dingo-free island known as Tasmania) and we know it didn’t originate here. The dingo has a striking resemblance to wild dogs found in India and so may have travelled with the first Indian settlers to our Island. However, there are similar looking dogs found in New Guinea and South East Asia.

Whatever the case, modern genetics has highlighted a part of Indigenous Ancestry previously lost to the world.
Makes you think what else we’ll find.

Header: Max Pixel, Asia, India, Nepal, Australia, Indian Ocean, Map

Related Articles

Discuss this article

Newsletter

Never miss a Nat Geo moment

Your email address
Submit