Wednesday, February 3, 2010

305. Aftermath 20: Australia and New Guinea

(. . . continued from previous post.)

9. As the Y chromosome evidence presented by Redd et al [5] suggests, we can posit the arrival of a largely or exclusively male "Australoid" group, with roots in or near India, somewhere on the beach of Sahul, an event I'd place, very roughly, at some time between 15,000 years ago and 5,000 years ago, but possibly much earlier. If we choose the most recent date, we can associate this arrival with the advent of the Dingo (or the New Guinea Singing Dog, which might have been the original canine immigrant) and the other changes suggested by Redd et al, as quoted in the previous post. If we prefer an earlier date, then maybe we can explain the Holocene-era changes as due to Austronesian influence, either direct or indirect.

10. We can now extrapolate backward to speculate on how the arrival of these strangers could have led to the conditions we now see. And the first thing to consider is the fact that, in order to produce the largely Australoid population of today, the immigrants would have to have mated with the "native" women, probably forcibly at first, and at the same time largely either killed, displaced or enslaved the native men, wherever they encountered them. This would explain the "different histories" of males and females we see in at least some of the genetic evidence, as reported in Redd et al. The mtDNA picture would not reflect the presence of men from a completely different population, but the Y chromosome evidence would -- and that does seem to be the case. Over time, as the more aggressive and belligerent newcomers expanded throughout the continent, the original inhabitants would have done what so many relatively non-aggressive, non-competitive, non-violent peoples have done throughout history -- retired to easily defended or undesirable refuge areas. This would explain the special status of Tasmania [8], which could have served as a last stand for some of the natives as they retreated southeast to the point farthest away from the most likely point where the newcomers would have arrived, the northwest. And since Tasmania was originally a kind of peninsula with a fairly narrow land bridge, that might have worked for them as a last line of defense until the sea level rose and they became completely isolated on the island .

11. Since Australia is relatively flat and easily traversed, the original inhabitants would not have had much of a chance of survival, but could easily have been hunted down and slaughtered or enslaved, with their women appropriated for the usual reasons. Northeast Queensland contains a tropical forest, which was until recently, according to Birdsell's research, the home of a few small groups of Pygmies [2], who may have originally retreated to this area as a refuge, possibly many thousands of years ago. (For a summary of the controversy relating to the status of Australian Pygmies, see The Sydney Line.) But the most obvious refuge area would have been to the north, in what is now New Guinea, and it is the highlands of New Guinea that we can posit as the most likely refuge area for the newly victimized natives. If the newcomers arrived while New Guinea was still attached to Australia, they would have made their way north by land, but if the sea had already separated the two regions, they could still have retreated in crude boats or rafts, at least while the distance was not too great. The immigrants would have followed them, and could at that time have taken over the New Guinea coast, while the natives retreated into the hills.

(to be continued . . . )

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