Remembering yesteryear: The first Americans were black according to a BBC documentary

July 29, 2013

Did you know?, International

The first Americans were black according to a BBC documentary

BBC News

The first Americans were descended from black Australian aborigines, according to evidence in a BBC documentary.

The program, Ancient Voices, shows that the dimensions of prehistoric skulls found in Brazil match those of the aboriginal peoples of Australia and Melanesia. Other evidence suggests that these first Americans were later massacred by invaders from Asia.

Until now, native Americans were believed to have descended from Asian ancestors who arrived over a land bridge between Siberia and Alaska and then migrated across the whole of north and south America. The land bridge was formed 11,000 years ago during the ice age, when sea level dropped.

However, the new evidence shows that these people did not arrive in an empty wilderness. Stone tools and charcoal from the site in Brazil show evidence of human habitation as long ago as 50,000 years.

Fantastic voyage
Archaeologists speculate that such an incredible sea voyage, from Australia to Brazil, would not have been undertaken knowingly but by accident.

Five African fishermen were caught in a storm and a few weeks later were washed up on the shores of South America. Two of the fishermen died, but three made it alive.

But if the first Americans had drifted from Australia, where are their descendants now? Again, the skulls suggest an answer.

The shape of the skulls changes between 9,000 and 7,000 years ago from being exclusively negroid to exclusively mongoloid. Combined with rock art evidence of increasing violence at this time, it appears that the mongoloid people from the north invaded and wiped out the original Americans.

The only evidence of any survivors comes from Terra del Fuego, the islands at the remotest southern tip of South America.

The pre-European Fuegeans, who lived stone age-style lives until this century, show hybrid skull features which could have resulted from intermarrying between mongoloid and negroid peoples. Their rituals and traditions also bear some resemblance to the ancient rock art in Brazil.

The identity of the first Americans is an emotive and controversial question. But the evidence from Brazil, and a handful of people who still live at the very tip of South America, suggests that the Americas have been home to a greater diversity of humans than previously thought – and for much longer.

Source: BBC News August 26, 1999


First Americans

Video: BBC- First Americans were Black Aborigines
Ancient Voices: The hunt for the first Americans was originally shown on BBC Two

On February 13, 2008 then Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd apologized to Australia’s stolen generations of the black indigenous people


Lock of Aboriginal Man’s Hair Unlocks Secrets of Human Migration
September 22, 2011

Wynne Parry, LiveScience Senior Writer

Scientists sequenced the genome, or genetic blueprint, contained in this hair, donated to a British anthropologist in 1921, and compared it to the genomes sequenced from Asians, Europeans and Africans. They found evidence that Aborigines are descendants of an early wave of people leaving Africa, who branched off from their Eurasian ancestors Credit: by Mikal Schlosser / © Science/AAAS

Using a genetic blueprint contained in a nearly century-old lock of hair from an Aboriginal Australian man, scientists have found evidence the Aborigines are descendants of an early wave of people who left Africa and branched off on their own as long ago as 75,000 years, before Asians and Europeans became distinct groups.

This means Aborigines are likely one of the oldest continuous populations outside Africa, they write.

In 1921, the hair was donated to British anthropologist Alfred Cort Haddon when he was traveling through Golden Ridge near the town of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, according to Morten Rasmussen, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and one of the international team researchers.

The researchers used this sample — which became the first genome sequenced from an Aboriginal Australian — to look far back into human history and clarify how our ancestors spread around the world from Africa, where they are believed to have emerged.

The lock of hair made good material for this kind of study because its owner was likely to have pure Aborigine heritage, not yet mixed with the European immigrants that settled Australia in relatively modern times. A genetic analysis of the hair sample confirmed this.

The researchers sequenced the Aboriginal man’s genome — his complete genetic blueprint — and compared it with those from Chinese, Europeans and Africans. By looking at differences, caused by mutations in the DNA code, the researchers were able to infer these populations’ relationships to one another. (The more closely the groups are related the fewer differences their DNA should show.)

They found unique mutations in the Aboriginal man’s DNA, indicating that his ancestors must have branched off from Europeans and Asians before these two groups split.

“So when Europeans and Asians were a single population, Aborigines’ ancestors were already on their way to Australia,” Rasmussen said.

However, all three groups showed roughly the same genetic distance from the Africans, indicating they all had split from Africans long ago, he said.

To check the accuracy of the results, the scientists used a total of three Han Chinese genomes, which they sequenced, as well as pre-sequenced genomes from two Europeans and two Africans belonging to the Yoruban people. They found that switching the individuals used in the comparison made little difference in the results, Rasmussen said.

“We are selecting a few individuals to represent whole populations. That does give some limitations — the more genomes we could add, the more certainty we could add and the more detail we could add,” he said.

Small changes in our DNA code occur at a constant rate, so using this rate, the scientists were able to calculate an approximate time when the Aboriginal ancestors split off from the ancestral Eurasian population: somewhere between 62,000 and 75,000 years ago.

This calculation fits with the archeological evidence provided by Mungo Man, the name given to human remains found near Lake Mungo in Australia and dated to about 45,000 years ago, since the split would have occurred before the arrival of the Aborigines’ ancestors in Australia, Rasmussen said. Based on genetic data, it is impossible to say where, geographically, the split occurred. [8 Grisly Archaeological Discoveries]

They also found evidence that the Aborigines’ ancestors had mixed with archaic humans called Denisovans, whose remains were found in a cave in the Altai Mountains of Siberia.

The genomic analysis indicates that Aborigines are not descended from ancestral Asian populations, the authors write; rather, it implicates multiple waves of migration, with Aboriginal Australians descending from an early wave. Europeans and Asians appear to have emerged later, as the result of later waves. Thousands of years after that, ancestors of American Indians split from Asian populations when they crossed the Bering Strait.

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