Thursday, September 22, 2016

Linguistic and Genetic Mystery in Australia

Hola darlings!  I'm back, at least for this post.  I'm still very busy doing "homey" things around Maison Newton and, frankly, have not felt much like posting.

I am still funding prizes, though, for the chess tournaments that Goddesschess helps to sponsor, rest assured.  The latest was the Montreal Open Championship, I'll write about that soon.  Upcoming is the - I lose count - the 20th-something Hales Corners Chess Challenge in October, going all the way back to Challenge VIII.  As this is the fall challenge and it is traditionally held around the anniversary of Don's death, in his memory we also fund prizes for the best male player in both the Open and Reserve sections.  More about this upcoming event later.

Okay - so this article jumped out at me this morning as I was doing my morning news check.  The wonderful thing about being retired is that I can take 2-3 hours every morning during coffee, breakfast, and feeding my various outdoor critters and other puttering about the house, to enjoy visiting multiple news sites to see what has happened while I was sleeping.  Is there anything more decadent than spending so much time just enjoying reading the news on my computer???  Okay, that was a rhetorical question...

The article is from PhysOrg.  I won't post the entire thing, it is lengthy, but worth the read.  The part I found most fascinating, however, was tucked away at the very end of the article in the last 4-5 paragraphs!

Unprecedented study of Aboriginal Australians points to one shared Out of Africa migration for modern humans

September 22, 2016 by Tom Kirk

I have questions about the methodology employed in this study but, of course, I'm by no means an expert and wouldn't ever claim to be!  From the article:

"...[Aboriginal] DNA extracted from saliva.

This was compared with existing genetic information about other populations. The researchers modelled the likely genetic impact of different human dispersals from Africa and towards Australia, looking for patterns that best matched the data they had acquired. Dr Marta Mirazon Lahr and Professor Robert Foley, both from the Leverhulme Centre, assisted in particular by analysing the likely correspondences between this newly-acquired genetic evidence and a wider framework of existing archaeological and anthropological evidence about early human population movements."
The "model" would only be as good as the information used to create it, of course, so that is a natural concern.  Interpretation of data is also subject to preconceived notions because, as we know, what we think we know about any given subject is not always correct, and an analysis based upon erroneous information is, itself, erroneous.

Map showing main findings from the paper. Credit: St John's College, Cambridge
So - the latest data and interpretation thereof point to NO multiple mass migrations out of Africa over time that led to the entire world being colonized by so-called "modern" man, and particularly, that Papuans and Aboriginal Australians were not descendants of a separate "out of Africa" event, but part of one event that occurred around 72,000 years ago, and THAT one event led to the populating of the entire globe with so-called "modern" man.

AND, another mysterious "hominin" has made a mysterious appearance, evidently somewhere in southeast Asia, that interbred with a portion of the "out of Africa modern humans" headed toward eventual settling in what was then an Australian supercontinent.  It was not specified in the article when this intermingling occurred, but it was evidently after 58,000 years ago, when ancestors of the Papuans and Aboriginal Australians split from the main "out of Africa" group.  The mysterious hominin DNA shows up in Aboriginal DNA, but researchers haven't found it anywhere else (yet).  It is not Denisovan, but it is somewhat like it?  Hmmm...  As this research is still in its early stages, it will be interesting to see how things develop as our understanding (and technology) continues to mature.

Now - here's the WILD CARD KICKER in the article:

[T]he research also offers an intriguing new perspective on how Aboriginal culture itself developed, raising the possibility of a mysterious, internal migration 4,000 years ago.
About 90% of Aboriginal communities today speak languages belonging to the "Pama-Nyungan" linguistic family. The study finds that all of these people are descendants of the founding population which diverged from the Papuans 37,000 years ago, then diverged further into genetically isolated communities.
This, however, throws up a long-established paradox. Language experts are adamant that Pama-Nyungan languages are much younger, dating back 4,000 years, and coinciding with the appearance of new stone technologies in the archaeological record.
Scientists have long puzzled over how – if these communities were completely isolated from each other and the rest of the world – they ended up sharing a language family that is much younger? The traditional answer has been that there was a second migration into Australia 4,000 years ago, by people speaking this language.
But the new research finds no evidence of this. Instead, the team uncovered signs of a tiny gene flow, indicating a small population movement from north-east Australia across the continent, potentially at the time the Pama-Nyungan language and new stone tool technologies appeared. [Emphasis added].
These intrepid travellers, who must have braved forbidding environmental barriers, were small in number, but had a significant, sweeping impact on the continent's culture. Mysteriously, however, the genetic evidence for them then disappears. In short, their influential language and culture survived – but they, as a distinctive group, did not.
"It's a really weird scenario," Willerslev said. "A few immigrants appear in different villages and communities around Australia. They change the way people speak and think; then they disappear, like ghosts. And people just carry on living in isolation the same way they always have. This may have happened for religious or cultural reasons that we can only speculate about. But in genetic terms, we have never seen anything like it before."
So what the hell happened here???  And no, darlings, I don't believe that it was "gods from outer-space," LOL!    But, clearly, SOMETHING happened that impacted a small group of genetically Aboriginal Australians in the northeast of the Australian continent around 2000 BCE that led to them developing a new language and a new technology and - not only that - but ALSO inspired them to undertake the daunting task of SPREADING WHAT THEY HAD LEARNED!

This is MASSIVE - EARTH-SHAKING LINGUISTIC AND CULTURE CHANGING EVENTS.  Bu we're only just NOW beginning tentative steps to unravelling the mystery, and it wasn't even planned -- the genetic "surprise" was entirely serendipitous.  Holy Hathor!

I wonder if Aboriginal legends would tell us anything about what might have happened.  Where to find Aboriginal Australian legends -- if any are even recorded???  Would Aboriginal Australians even consider revealing any information they might know to outsiders?  They have good reason not to!

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