Maritime Exploration of Australia: The Aborigines

The history of Aboriginal Australians is thought to have spanned 30,000 to 45,000 years, although some estimates have put the figure at up to 60,000 years before European settlement. The Aboriginal Australians lived with a strong dependence on the land, and also the water. Each group developed skills for the area in which they would live  hunting or fishing or gathering.

Recorded Australian Aboriginal history began after the 18th- and 19th-century British colonisation, which also changed traditional culture. Indigenous people were displaced from their ways of life, were forced to submit to European rule, and were later encouraged to assimilate into Western culture. Since the 1960s, reconciliation has been the pursuit of European Australian Aboriginal Australian relations.

There are no clear tribes or an accepted origin of the indigenous people of Australia, although they are believed to be among the earliest human migrations out of Africa. Although they likely migrated to Australia through Southeast Asia they are not demonstrably related to any known Asian or Polynesian population. There is evidence of genetic and linguistic interchange between Australians in the far north and the Austronesian peoples of modern-day New Guinea and the islands, but this may be the result of recent trade and intermarriage.

It is believed that, 30,000 years ago, at the time known as the last great Ice Age, Australia was joined to New Guinea. Islands such as Java and Borneo were larger than today, sea passages between them narrower. This made it possible for the ancestors of the people now called Australian Aboriginals to reach Australia from lands to the north. It is not known from where the Aboriginals began their journey or when, but it is certain that people with some kind of water craft crossed the 100 - 160 kilometre stretches of water between the islands to the north, and reach the southern continent. These sea voyages are the earliest evidence of sea travel by man.

As the ice flows of the Ice Age began to melt, the sea level rose, isolating Australia, and making the sea passages too wide for crossing by the simple forms of watercraft available at the time and isolated those who had previously made the journey.

10,000 years ago, as the meltdown of the last great Ice Age reached its conclusion, it is believed that Tasmania became separated from the mainland, thus isolating the Aboriginal peoples there. By this time, the Aborigines are believed to have reached all parts of the mainland. 5,000 years ago, with the Ice Age totally over, the Australian continent took on the shape that it has today.


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