About 20,000 years old, the Gwion Gwion figures are more recent than other paintings in the area, which have been dated as being up to 40,000 years old.But Dr Michael Westaway, biological anthropologist from Griffith University, said genome sequencing dispels the myth that Indigenous Australians were not the first Australians."This is absolutely not in doubt," Dr Westaway told Richard Glover on 702 ABC Sydney. We know that they moved out of Africa over 60,000 years ago.One way of testing the various extinction models is by looking for megafauna in landscapes that show continuous Aboriginal occupation over the past 50,000 years.These landscapes should ideally also have conditions for the preservation of fossil bones.In recent years it has been suggested there are very few good dates for the extinction of megafauna.Some have argued that it is possible many of the 45 or so megafauna species thought to have become extinct after 50,000 years ago may have in fact slipped into the extinction abyss tens of thousands of years before the First Australians arrived.Indeed, the same questions as those asked in the 19th century by scientists, such as the British comparative anatomist Sir Richard Owen and the Prussian scientist and explorer Ludwig Leichhardt, remain: were people responsible for their demise or was it climate change?
The evidence for firing of the landscape, as studied through the genomes of fire sensitive plants, shows no record of plants going through genetic bottlenecks as a result of significant firing events.The research was conducted by a team led by evolutionary biologist Eske Willerslev, director of the Centre for Ancient Genetics at the University of Copenhagen, and published in 2011."This proves an unbroken lineage over 2,500 generations — about 65 to 70,000 years," Dr Westaway said.The first Aboriginal genome reinforces archaeological evidence that people arrived on the Australian continent at least 50,000 years ago, and that they share one of the oldest continuous cultures in the world.He said the weight of scientific evidence supported the notion that the first Australians were a continuous population isolated from the rest of the world for over 50,000 years.Michael Westaway receives funding from the Australian Research Council.This research was supported by the Three Tribal Groups of the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area and staff of Mungo National Park and the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area.