Indians broke Australian isolation 4,000 years ago: study

Updated 15 January 2013
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Indians broke Australian isolation 4,000 years ago: study

SYDNEY: Ancient Indians migrated to Australia and mixed with Aborigines 4,000 years ago, bringing the dingo’s ancestor with them, according to new research that re-evaluates the continent’s long isolation before European settlement.
The vast southern continent was thought to have been cut off from other populations until Europeans landed at the end of the 1700s, but the latest genetic and archaeological evidence throws that theory out.
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, reported “evidence of substantial gene flow between Indian populations and Australia about 4,000 years ago.”
They analyzed genetic variations across the genome from Australian Aborigines to New Guineans, Southeast Asians, and Indians, including Dravidian speakers from the south.
“The prevailing view is that until the arrival of Europeans late in the 18th century, there was little, if any, contact between Australia and the rest of the world,” the study released on Tuesday noted.
However, analysis of genome-wide data gave a “significant signature of gene flow from India to Australia which we date to about 4,230 years ago,” or 141 generations back.
“Long before Europeans settled in Australia humans had migrated from the Indian subcontinent to Australia and mixed with Australian Aborigines,” the study said.
“Interestingly,” said lead researcher Irina Pugach, “this date also coincides with many changes in the archaeological record of Australia, which include a sudden change in plant processing and stone tool technologies... and the first appearance of the dingo in the fossil record.”
The study explained that although dingo DNA appears to have a southeast Asian origin, “morphologically, the dingo most closely resembles Indian dogs.
“The fact that we detect a substantial inflow of genes from India to Australia at about this time does suggest that all of these changes in Australia may be related to this migration.”
The predatory wild dingo (canis dingo) has grown into something of an Australian legend alongside kangaroos, but is often treated as a pest attacking sheep and cattle.
They roam the outback, hunting alone or in packs, communicate with wolf-like howls and scavenge from humans.
The term is believed to have been picked up by early settlers from a similar sounding Aboriginal word for a tame dog.
A common origin was also discovered for the Australian, New Guinean and Philippine Mamanwa populations, who had followed a southern migration route out of Africa beginning more than 40,000 years ago.
The researchers estimate the groups split about 36,000 years ago when Australia and New Guinea formed one land mass.
“Outside Africa, Aboriginial Australians are the oldest continuous population in the world,” said Pugach, a molecular anthropologist.
Australia offers some of the earliest archaeological evidence for the presence of humans outside Africa, with sites dated to at least 45,000 years ago.


Rickshaw pullers fade from India’s streets

Updated 27 April 2018
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Rickshaw pullers fade from India’s streets

KOLKATA: Mohammad Maqbool Ansari puffs and sweats as he pulls his rickshaw through Kolkata’s teeming streets, a veteran of a gruelling trade long outlawed in most parts of the world and slowly fading from India too.
Kolkata is one of the last places on earth where pulled rickshaws still feature in daily life, but Ansari is among a dying breed still eking a living from this back-breaking labor.
The 62-year-old has been pulling rickshaws for nearly four decades, hauling cargo and passengers by hand in drenching monsoon rains and stifling heat that envelops India’s heaving eastern metropolis.
Their numbers are declining as pulled rickshaws are relegated to history, usurped by tuk tuks, Kolkata’s signature yellow taxis and modern conveniences like Uber.
Ansari cannot imagine life for Kolkata’s thousands of rickshaw-wallahs if the job ceased to exist.
“If we don’t do it, how will we survive? We can’t read or write. We can’t do any other work. Once you start, that’s it. This is our life,” he tells AFP.
Sweating profusely on a searing hot day, his singlet soaked and face dripping, Ansari skilfully weaves his rickshaw through crowded markets and bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Wearing simple shoes and a chequered sarong, the only real giveaway of his age is his long beard, snow white and frizzy, and a face weathered from a lifetime plying this disappearing trade.
Twenty minutes later, he stops, wiping his face on a rag. The passenger offers him a glass of water — a rare blessing — and hands a note over.
“When it’s hot, for a trip that costs 50 rupees ($0.75) I’ll ask for an extra 10 rupees. Some will give, some don’t,” he said.
“But I’m happy with being a rickshaw puller. I’m able to feed myself and my family.”