DNA testing has backed up claims that indigenous Australians are the oldest civilisation on the planet.

Researchers collected DNA samples from Aboriginal people living in Australia to try and trace their origins. They now believe the civilisation is more than 50,000 years old, dating all the way back to the Old Stone Age.

It is believed indigenous Australians are descended from explorers who left Africa and settled on an enormous continent known as Sahul around 58,000 years ago. This mass of land eventually broke up into what is now Australia, Tasmania and Papua New Guinea.

The study, which was published in Nature, claims that those who are native to Australia and Papua New Guinea bred with an unknown race of humans, who are responsible for about four per cent of the indigenous Australian genome.

Professor Eske Willerslev, who led the study, said: “We don’t know who these people were, but they were a distant relative of Denisovans, and the Papuan/Australian ancestors probably encountered them close to Sahul.”

This research supports the theory that there was a wave of migration from Africa and that this group of explorers then broke up into smaller sets of people which scattered across the globe.

Roots traced back to ancient continent

DNA testing showed that Aborigines could trace their genetic roots back to the group of travellers who reached Sahul from Africa. This race of people then remained isolated for around 50,000 years until migrants from India arrived in the country about 4,000 years ago.

Prof Willerslev said: “They are probably the oldest group in the world that you can link to one particular place.”

Dr Michael Westaway, the study’s co-author, said that there was a large range of genetic diversity found in the indigenous Australian population.

He added: “That great genetic diversity in Aboriginal populations reflects the huge amount of time they have occupied the continent.”

DNA testing can give us answers to lots of questions about where people come from and how they are related to each other. However, for most people, tests solve mysteries which are much more recent than thousands of years ago.

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