24th March 2014
By Steven Strong
Contributing Writer for Wake Up World
Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are warned that this article contains images of deceased persons.
During 2011 I wrote over a dozen articles for Australia’s highest selling Original weekly newspaper, the National Indigenous Times. My most indepth article was selected by the editor, Stephen Hagan, as the major story for the Wednesday November 16, 2011 edition and was featured in “The Big Read”. Stephen was convinced our belief that “modern mankind originated in Australia” is an elemental part of Original Lore and history, and felt this article shed a different and venerable light on an ancient narrative and ancestry. He not only selected our article as a feature, but openly endorsed our research and central theme in his weekly editorial:
“Steven Strong, a regular contributor to the National Indigenous Times, provides a wonderful Big Read feature article on what he believes is evidence that modern mankind originated from Australia. I’ve been advocating this theory for as long as I can remember, in line with what’s been passed on to me through the generations for eons”.
After writing that article, Evan and I moved on to other fields of research and bid the evolutionary theories of Dr. Hermann Klaatsch (1863-1916) a not so fond farewell; we felt his contributions were complete and there were ‘greener pastures’ to explore. It was only after completing a recent overview of the site that another respected Australian academic, Frederic Slater, claimed to be “Australia’s Stonehenge” did memories of Klaatsch’s earlier expeditions return.
Both Slater and Klaatsch’s work suggested an Original ancestry for the first modern humans, both were convinced there was a link between ancient Aboriginals and Egyptians, and both believed the First Language began in Australia – and so it continues. The two scholars were separated by decades, first tongue, continents of birth, and attitude towards the First Australians, but were united by their academic standing and the rigour of their research in this field. Despite many instances of blatant racism apparent in Klaatsch’s accounts, it makes no difference whether you’re consulting Slater’s research or Klaatsch’s book, The Evolution and Progress of Mankind, the same historical truths are apparent in their work.
Undoubtedly, our more recent assessment of Slaters’ research deserves the corroboration that Klaatsch’s work certainly provides. So today, I will revisit the subject of my earlier article from National Indigenous Times, bringing more recent revelations, revisions and additions to the discussion. If you are interested in reading the original article, it is still available through the NIT website.
Original Research, Unexpected Inspiration
As I was cleaning out my classroom, rummaging through a few extremely ancient textbooks (some of which were written before I was born!), I came upon an old and tattered copy of “The Aborigines” by R.M. Gibbs.
Barely in tact, and obviously much the worse for wear thirty-five years after it was published, I randomly opened the book with the intention of briefly scanning the contents before consigning it to the bin. But there within the very first paragraph my eyes focused on, on the first page I opened, numbered twenty-five, was a piece of information I could scarcely believe was in print.
Our theory, which we assumed to be unique within non-Aboriginal circles, took years of consultation, research and lateral thinking to slowly cobble together. Never did we rely upon the opinions of scholars. But we should have, at least in one particular case, as it would have saved us five years of re-drafting, adding and subtracting, before finally convincing ourselves that Original people were the first oceanic mariners. If only we had opened to this page five years earlier, we would have shortened our journey and reluctantly accepted an age old truth: there are no original thoughts and all we ever do is repeat what others said before us.
According to Gibbs “one early theory suggested that the Aborigines did not migrate to Australia, but that mankind may have actually originated in the Australian region, and that subsequent human groups evolved from there. This was the theory put forward by Dr. Klaatsch”, who, as would be expected, was summarily dismissed by Gibbs and his colleagues.
Dr. Hermann Klaatsch – Scholar and Racist
Most assuredly, before Klaatsch’s study of Original tribes, and for some considerable time after, the analysis of Aboriginal habitation and culture was not deemed worthy of intensive academic or scientific interest – with one notable exception. During the time Klaatsch spent in research in Australia (1904-1906), Original people who still lived by the Old Ways were regarded as relics of primitive days and ways. Their stick-and-stone technology, culture and lifestyle were pronounced by a bevy of experts to be the last primitive vestiges of a supposedly disappearing race.
While on-site in Australia, Klaatsch’s intention was to assess whether his hypothesis was true, that the “skeletons and skulls” of “the Australian blacks” exhibit a “close similarity between… those of primitive man in Europe”. Their many shared physical characteristics Klaatsch was seeking to establish were “first pointed out by Professor Huxley”. This was the general theme of his research, as he, along with Huxley and others, was convinced there was a connection between Australia and many races throughout the globe. He was driven by the belief that there was great “importance of the Australian race in comparison with Anthropoids, the fossil man of European Stone Age, and the now existing races of mankind”.
Klaatsch was aware, as any academic should be, never to use absolutes, especially when dealing with such an important topic. Even though he hedged his bets, he still expressed confidence that, in general terms:
We can only suggest a very broad outline of the dispersion of the human race from its hypothetical “cradle”. There probably were repeated out-pours over Africa and Asia, one wave of population falling upon another. The western stream we have recognised in the primitive Negroids of Africa, the gorilloid stem, and the final offshoot, the Neanderthal race. An eastern-flowing stream, after detaching the Australians, gave the Asiatic continent its first population, of which there are traces in various places today. Such are, for instance, the Aino, the original population of Japan, who remind us so strongly of the cruder European types and the Australians.
Klaatsch believed that the “cruder European types” and “Australians” are of the same original stock, and in substantiating his claim of physical similarities between races separated by thousands of kilometres of ocean, he chose to present a photograph of a traditional “Aino” (Ainu) male Elder seated beside a crude stick and bark shelter. The geography and backdrop in this picture was a secondary consideration. The aspects that immediately stand out are the thick lips, broad nose, curly black hair and every other facial feature of the person seated, was, for want of a better description, very Original.
When comparing facial features and physiques of early Homo sapien sapiens throughout the world, Klaatsch was not sure where some populations within Asia should be categorised as they appeared to sit outside what he considered the global norm: the Australian Original race. In fact, Klaatsch was so certain the Aboriginals were the legitimate ancestors of all European and Indian races that he deduced any group that did not fit into his world map was even more ape-like and less sapien (wise) worthy than Australian Original people.
Klaatsch also theorised that one group may not just have stagnated at the bottom of the sapien ‘pile’, as did the “primitive” Original race, but partially regressed to an even more primitive ancestry. He felt the “Malays have in many respects the specific characters of the Mongoloid stem: the obliquity of the eyes (which is due to the development of the “Mongol fold”, a peculiarity of the upper eye-lid which is rarely found in Europe), the prominence of cheek-bones (which begins in the primitive Australian type), and the proportion of the limbs or shortening of the legs (a more or less parallel development to that of apes)”.
Although he investigated many diverse areas of research, some quite surprising, it was characteristic of Klaatsch to nearly always couch his findings in racist terms. When attempting to justify his belief as to the origins and traits of the “Australo-Caucasian” race, he found that it was “difficult to explain the differences in the development of hair on the head in various peoples. We have, it is true, some reason to think that the wavy hair of the Australo-Caucasian is the primitive type, and that the others diverge from this in all directions”.
Original Genes in America
When the question as to the origin of the Native American people was raised, Klaatsch’s suspicions were correct (in the broadest of terms) and, quite by accident, ahead of his time. In his world map, “the common stem of the Europeans, Hindus, and Australians” form the elevated tier of humanity’s evolution. However he is unsure of where the “side branch of the Australo-Caucasians” with which he includes “the Malays and Mongoloids” should be categorised.
Klaatsch mistakenly suggested a land-bridge was the most likely means used to leave Australia en route to America, but does admit that with the facts available that “the origin of the primitive population of America cannot yet be decided”. Ignoring these qualifications, he was not hesitant in proposing a likely scenario involving “a migration from Asia by a land-bridge across Europe”. He believes this passage is confirmed by the “many resemblances between the culture of the Eskimo and that of the Paleolithic man in France”.
In what only adds to the “puzzle”, Klaatsch acknowledged the whole issue of determining the most likely place of origin of the Native Americans was far from resolved. In particular, he found “the question is still full of puzzles, especially as regards the Yahgans of Tierra del Fuego, whose very primitive physical cultural features remind us of the lowest known races of the Old World; though no points of contact have yet been established”. Of course, exemplifying his racial bias, Klaatsch believed “the lowest known races of the Old World” began in Australia.
The problem Klaatsch faced here related to him not understanding that he was examining the skulls of two different races in America; the bones of the ancient Australian settlers, and many more remains sourced from a much later influx of Asian Homo sapien sapiens around 10,000 years ago.
That much earlier migration was evident in a photograph titled “Fuegians, Man and Woman”, which highlights both the dramatic variation in facial features and the obvious answer to the “question… full of puzzles”. The features of the two people were very similar to that of the Australian Aboriginal people: their lips and noses are distinctly broader, cheeks are more pronounced and they have wider and rounder skulls than the Native Americans. At the time of writing, Klaatsch was correct in observing “no points of contact have yet been established”. However, since his time of writing, many points of contact have been established — and they all radiate out from Australia.
Discovered by Dr. Dubois between 1891 and 1893 were of a group of Pithecanthropus skulls in Java, which according to an examination Klaatsch personally conducted, displayed “some peculiar features in which it is connected with the Australian type of cranium”. That tipped the scales; it was the final piece of evidence Klaatsch needed to justify three years on-site in direct anthropological study. He saw Java as a mid-point, one of the first obvious destinations for those exiting northern Australia. He was certain that the many common physical traits were “connected in one direction with the ancestry of the Australian and Tasmanian aboriginals (sic), and in the other direction with the fossil man of the European Stone Age”.