By Steven Strong
Contributing Writer for Wake Up World
A little over two years ago, the somewhat intriguing headline “Gone fishing, 42,000 years ago” introduced an article in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper which was based on the findings of a team of Australian archaeologists from the Australian National University (Canberra). Their 2011 discovery of a fish hook at East Timor, along with evidence of deep-sea fishing occurring up to 42,000 years ago, carried with it some unexpected repercussions and was the catalyst for a considerable reshuffling of deck-chairs on an African boat that supposedly made landfall in Australia around 50,000 years ago.
The problem is that the claims made by these scientists seem to contradict an elemental assumption underpinning what another group of eminent genetic experts concluded when examining the genome patterns found within a hundred year old piece of hair belonging to an Australian Aboriginal man. Quite simply as things stand, the conclusions of each investigation are in open defiance to each other and logic demands that at least one theory has to be wrong.
Gone Fishing… and Hunting
The recent archaeological dig at East Timor bears witness that modern humans possessed “quite sophisticated technology and watercraft”, and through use of hooks (like the one discovered) were engaged in “deep-sea fishing for large delicacies such as tuna”. The Australian researchers insist that a high degree of skill was essential “in catching the types of fish that would be challenging even today”.
If relying upon the accepted pre-historical narrative, the people exhibiting these “amazingly advanced maritime skills” must have originated in Africa. “An archaeologist at the Australian National University, Sue O’Connor” saw this settlement and activity as proof of African mariners’ ocean transit to Australia. She believes that “the first people who arrived in Australia at least 50,000 years ago must have had boats because they had to cross hundreds of kilometers of deep ocean trenches to get here from south-east Asia”.
Possibly… but there is more to this discovery than one solitary hook.
The analysis of bones found in the “oldest area of occupation… dated at 38,000 and 42,000 years old” of which “50% came from ocean fish, such as tuna and trevally” also included “small amounts of marine turtles, rats, bats, birds and snakes”. These people employed a highly sophisticated technology when deep-sea fishing and obviously co-operated extensively in fishing, sailing and living together. But not only did they sail and fish upon the open seas, food from coastal and inland areas was also consumed. The sea, although used often, was not the only place to hunt and gather food.
Until this discovery in East Timor, the only evidence of ancient maritime technology of this sophistication was the hypothetical settlement by Africans in Australia. At first glance this belief seems to be supported by the 42,000 year old dicovery in Timor. However, further analysis and comparison to recent genome research casts considerable doubt, and raises questions that can neither be answered nor accommodated by the Out-of-Africa theory.
Africa Europe Asia Australia
The findings of the recent genome analysis of Aboriginal genetics are absolute: whoever was fishing for tuna and other deep-sea fish off the coast of Timor 42,000 years ago were not of Asian or European ancestry. It has now been proven through genetics that the Asian and European races came into existence around 35,000 years ago. As such, the fact that human occupation in East Timor spans back no less than 42,000 years ago narrows the field of possible occupants from 4 to 2: the First Australians or Africans.
While genetic study can reveal the lineage of human evolution, it does not reveal geography, thus the scientists who conducted the analysis of the Australian Aboriginal genome could only make a “best guess” as to whether the Africans or Aboriginals were the source race, contingent on a “series of puzzles”. According to what these scientists found, the first theoretical migration out of Africa could only have been an express route straight through Asia at a considerable speed with absolutely no stop-overs. Always moving forward, these adventurous Africans supposedly raced across the globe at a cracking pace before settling only in Australia. According to the current understanding of the evolution of the human genome, these theoretical African explorers barely had time to set up a temporary camp before departing, never staying in one place as they purposefully raced across the Asian continent, then setting sail from Timor (the closest Asian island and the supposed final step in this momentous voyage across the ocean) and settling in the uninhabited and presumably unknown continent of Australia without leaving any genetic traces along their way.
So let’s examine this theory: if African migrants were constantly in transit with no intention of a permanently settling, why is it that birds, snakes and bats were hunted and eaten? The hunting or trapping of these land-based animals requires an intimate knowledge of the geography, climate, habitats and habits of these food sources, and yet the researchers found “38,000 bones from almost 2,900 fish” as part of their Timorese discovery. To catch that many fish with shell hooks takes considerable time, patience and presence, and its practice implies there was some form of long-term settlement. The people who sailed to this island were not merely passing through, stopping over to replenish supplies; the length of their tenure was born out by occupation dates ranging from 16,000 to 42,000 years.
The numbers just don’t add up, especially since the minimum starting date is 42,000 years. According to the results of the human genome studies, Australians were already well settled before that date, and elsewhere the Asian (and European) races had not come into existence. That being the case, who caught these thousands upon thousands of deep sea fish? As the facts stand, it was either pods of very skilled dolphins or non-Asian Homo sapien sapiens.
Logically, it cannot have been the hypothetical African Homo sapien sapiens who populated Australia after sprinting through Asia. There are no ancient African mtDNA, Y-Chromosomes or Genome patterning evident in the DNA of the Original people, nor African bones found in Australia. So all that is left in the boat are the resident Australians. And there is actually ample archaeological evidence found throughout the country, and many other locations off-shore, that substantiates the use of massive ocean-going boats by ancient Aboriginals.
Well Before Their Time
Not only do we dispute from where the first ocean-going boats set sail, the upper limit of 42,000 years falls well short in our estimation. Research in Flores Island which, after Timor, is the next closest island to Australia, seems to indicate similar maritime technology and degrees of co-operative activity between various hominids was actually occurring no less than 800,000 years ago. In 1998, the late Professor Michael Morwood (1950-2013) published a paper detailing “indisputable” proof that “some 800,000 years ago Homo erectus… had reached the island of Flores”.
The unexpected arrival of what Morwood assumed to be Homo erectus so long ago involved “water crossings of at least 19 kilometres of open sea” in numbers large enough to establish a viable population. And due to the “impoverished nature of the ancient flora of the island” of Flores, they too, like those on Timor, must have been skilled mariners and fishermen/women or they would have perished if relying solely on what was readily available to hunt or gather.
Such a date, as sensational as it may seem, has never been openly challenged. According to researchers, “the dating is reliable – volcanic tuff deposits from above and below indisputable stone artefacts and associated extinct fauna were securely dated by the well-tried and tested fission-track method”. And yet these sound findings appear to have been quickly forgotten in academic circles. Despite the climate of academic selectivity, the issue still remains; every academic and official text denies that Homo erectus was able to invent such a boat, nor was bold and intelligent enough to embark on such a leap of faith into the unknown, yet this hard evidence exists.
One can only imagine the skills in communication, organization and imagination needed to construct the boat and convince others to step aboard, en route to an unknown destination across the sea. This leads to one of two logical explanations: either Homo erectus was much smarter than is claimed, or Homo sapien sapien evolved much earlier than is assumed.
In what must further muddy the waters for proponents of the 60,000 year old African theory, the ‘hobbits’ of Flores have been dated at between 18,000 to 96,000 years old. These extremely small hominids are regarded as entirely separate from the present-day taller indigenous people of Flores, a distinction which genetic and morphological studies have indisputably confirmed. From these studies we understood that these smaller people were also, as it was with Homo erectus, an import to Flores Island and could only have gotten to there by sailing a sizeable boat from an unknown destination.
But enough of Africa…. none of these archaeological findings make any sense if one assumes that Africa was the sole birth-place of modern humanity. It is only when the First Australians are acknowledged as the Original race from which Homo sapien sapiens evolved that these apparent irregularities can be resolved. The extensive array of scientific and historical evidence we have presented in previous articles merely reinforces what this recent archaeological discovery and genetic analysis unintentionally bear witness.
[For more information, check out the previous article: DNA Evidence De-Bunks Out-Of-Africa Theory of Human Evolution]
Walking Onto Site, Without Sight
Ever since we began our research into the First Australians’ ancient history, there has existed one ever-present obstacle: archaeologists and anthropologists who wander onto Original country rarely seek Original permission first, and most seem incapable of grasping anything of substance beyond the most basic and obvious. So much of what they assume and conclude is lost in translation, with no understanding of, or enquiry into, Original history and lore. To accurately comprehend and report the mysteries, esoteric powers, history and culture of the First Australians requires much more than a degree, clipboard, computer or camera…. it requires the guidance of the Original people, and the acuity to examine evidence without the baggage of historical pre-conception.
The sad part of the recent archaeological report from Timor, and so many others, is that the shell hook is merely an introduction that leads to much more enlightening avenues upon which to research and contemplate. There is more than one way to catch a fish! But as usual, mainstream academics are unwilling to progress any further than what they want to see, hindered by government regulation and a culture of closed-mindedness in their ranks. Thus their examination is restricted only to the hook, line and spear. Although the liaison and combined endeavour evidenced in Timor undoubtedly crosses the boundaries of ‘accepted’ history, further implications of this discovery are simply ignored in favour of the status quo.
As a perfect example, the first time that we saw the photograph of a group of Aboriginal men by a river engaged in an activity described by Jennifer Hoff in her book Bundjalung Jugun as an example of “a large group of tribesmen spearing fish”, we found her description as humorous as it was symptomatic. So caught up in her historical conditioning, this manifestly incorrect commentary highlights how little was understood of the First Australians. First up, there is not one spear visible or in use in the photograph. The men are definitely hunting for fish, and the devices, songs and participants are there for the lens to record…. but, despite claims that she consulted closely with the Bundjalung people (sic), such detail was beyond the limited vision of the photographer. There was no need to carry or brandish any weapon in this ancient activity; the most essential ingredient in this fishing expedition was the song given by the Elder standing with his arms outstretched. He was singing to his aquatic brothers and sisters: the dolphins.
In times when the Old Ways were observed, many coastal tribes made a compact with their aquatic kin who they regarded as their brothers and sisters. A few men would attract the dolphin’s attention by flailing leafy bushes against the water, while most silently stood with heads bowed in reverence and thanks. This sacred ancient alliance was forged in the Dreaming, and until the Elder who was the custodian of a song that consecrated this inter-species alliance stood and broke into song, the dolphins were at the ready but the hunt could never begin. Everything was dependent on the Elders voice and verse, all the hunters had to do was to stand in the shallow water and keep perfectly still. The rest was easy, they silently waited and watched as the dolphins drove a school of fish to their feet. Once their brethren had completed their part of the bargain, the catch was gathered up and divided, guaranteed food for all, and the Elder sang songs of thanks.
Dolphins Up and Down the Coast
This concord was neither limited to one area nor hidden from non-Aboriginal observers. In the mid 1860’s, magistrates and police stationed at Stradbroke Island (QLD Australia) filed reports of the same coalition sharing in song, methods and catch. According to their eyewitness accounts, dolphins and humans worked as one and regarded each other as equal in every respect.
Before allowing the left-hemisphere of the brain time to object, it needs to be acknowledged that this ancient truth is also chronicled by the greatest historians from the oldest living culture in the world, via the Dreaming stories. In a ‘Bundjalung Confederation of Language and Tribes’ Dreaming story, “The Man Who Killed a Porpoise”, it is made clear that “the porpoises were the old people’s friends”. One day “two young men took their net down to the beach” and unintentionally caught a dolphin. Being “puzzled about porpoises”, one of the men “wanted to know how they came to be so clever”, so he “killed the porpoise and cut it open”. The next time the men went down to the beach in preparation for another shared hunt, the dolphins did not respond to the beating of branches or song. The “Old-men” knew something was amiss and didn’t take long to identify the culprit. “Because he did such a bad thing, they took him and killed him with a boomerang… like an axe. Then they threw his body into the sea, and tossed the boomerang in after it”. This narrative from the Dreaming serves two purposes; it is both a factual account of a well-known form of co-operative enterprise, and a warning to any who transgress and interfere in any way with dolphins.
Of those who may be prepared to conceded that such extraordinary events could possibly occur, many will undoubtedly prefer to believe that this practice was all part of days long gone and of no relevance today. We disagree. The next account is of the exact same partnership, still in operation less than two decades ago in the 1990’s on the Evans River (NSW Australia). This interaction between species was known of by many locals and, confirming its authenticity, the same story was shared with me by two Original people present on the river-bank on the day in question, both of whom offered pledges of absolute honesty when they recalled what happened on that memorable and sacred day.
Even when the two old men made their way down the river bank, those assembled on the two banks were still none the wiser. They had been summoned to attend by these Elders, but no-one knew what purpose sitting on the side of the bank would serve. They had no hook, tackle or net. As the boat was freed from its moorings and slowly drifted towards the middle of the river, no-one spoke or had the slightest idea what was supposed to happen.
The two men seated in the boat broke into song, some of the Old words were familiar to those assembled, but many were not. Even though the dinghy was nearly two kilometers (1.2 miles) from the ocean, it didn’t take long before the dolphins responded to their ancient call. It wasn’t so much their unexpected appearance that caught the spectators unaware, but the offerings they were directing towards the old men. The school of fish were frantic. Close behind were around ten dolphins in close pursuit, and ahead an escape route which was getting shallower and narrower. For many fish there seemed to be one available avenue of escape: the small boat. Fish were quite literally jumping out of the water and into the laps of the elderly crew of two. Barely a minute passed before the dinghy was so laden with fish there was a real possibility it would sink. The load was lightened by throwing some fish out of the boat in thanks, as the Old men slowly rowed the boat towards the shore.
As was (and still is) the custom and law, the catch was shared equally between the two Elders seated in the boat, those watching from the riverbank and their aquatic kin swimming in the river.
It would be a mistake to assume that these mid-sized dolphins were the only animals with which the Aboriginal people could establish communication and share endeavours. The largest of their species, the killer whale, was also willing to hunt as a partner.
The numerous stories of the famous killer whales (Orcas) at Twofold Bay (NSW Australia) herding and capturing many species of whales then seeking out their partners’ whaling boats and guiding them back to their prey may seem a myth, but it isn’t. There are literally hundreds of accounts testifying to the truthfulness of these unusual events, and many were meticulously researched and documented. However, the inspiration and motivation behind this extraordinary example of co-operation was far less publicised.
As is often the case, it all began in the Dreaming. Remarkably, even European accounts acknowledge that this practice was of Aboriginal inspiration and was occurring well before their arrival. According to the Original custodians, this long-standing arrangement was reached at a time well past. The Yuin people decided to light fires all along the headland to arouse the curiosity of their reincarnated aquatic brothers and sisters: the killer whales. After they gained their attention, one Elder limped along the top of the headland, grimacing as he dragged himself near the cliff’s edge. Once their empathy was stirred, the killer whales gathered together and drove a whale of a different species onto the beach below. They were deceived; they acted from compassion, believing the old man was incapable of hunting and would therefore starve. But so the pattern began. Every time the killer whales beached a whale for the Original people, the Elders would cut out the tongue and lips as a ‘payment’ which they called the Law of the Tongue. This obligatory offering of what was a delicacy to the Orcas, became an eternal Law.
Of course a different version of this relationship is told by white commentators, one which is far more accommodating to accepted European history. But this does no more than reflect a tendency of academics to denigrate and reinterpret any aspect of Aboriginal society that contradicts their preferred interpretation of the world and its ancient history.
In an account of this activity published in The Daily Telegraph (June 5th, 2006), researcher Jeremy Stevens claims the reverence and inter-species kinship shared by the Originals and the whales was purely due to deduction and never the outcome of a special relationship. He alleges that “the Yuin Aboriginal people had observed orcas herding baleen whales and the killer whales were soon regarded as the re-incarnated spirits of Yuin ancestors… the Yuin came to believe the orcas were providing food for the tribes”. Jeremy Stevens feels such an empathetic relationship never existed, and that the associated songs, ceremonies and Dreaming story are fabrications that were used to explain the normal activity of the orcas, irrespective of any tribal ritual or song.
But there are obvious contradictions in Stevens’ reasoning. Firstly, his assumption that Original people observed the orcas and merely leveraged the opportunity they presented requires that the Original people were previously able to survive and thrive in this coastal region without a viable means of fishing, until the orcas provided one. Moreover, he showed no understanding of the motivation that originally inspired these killer whales to share in the hunt in the first place. The reality is that Jeremy Stevens was never going to accept the Aboriginal explanation, instead he ameliorated and reworked an ancient Original truth into something more comforting and less threatening to non-Original sensibilities and history. So let us ignore this poorly researched piece of shallow journalism.
The Law of the Tongue was widely accepted by Aboriginals and white whalers alike as sacrosanct and compulsory. The offering of the tongue and lips was a reflex reaction, and an essential part of the hunt. And so it continued for centuries, until one arrogant white captain refused to make payment after a successful hunt. Despite the vociferous protests from crew members, pleading with him to obey the Original Law that both peoples obeyed, he considered himself to be above such primitive superstition and refused to make the exchange. From that fateful day, the compact was broken and the killer whales moved on. The Aboriginals left the area in disgust at this desecration and the custom rapidly stopped.
The Final Word
This article has two complementary agendas: to provide evidence of the Original peoples’ maritime history, and to highlight how the sciences of genetics and archaeology are subjective pursuits where, in many cases, the researchers’ academic conditioning and cultural baggage narrows their focus and blinds them to the bigger picture. It makes no difference whether the observer is an author, archaeologist, photographer or reporter, the professionals I have discussed today approached the task primed only to record what was convenient, what could be absorbed into their pre-conceived limitations, and what was never there in the first place.
Earlier in this article, I alluded to the fact that most scholars are ‘restricted only to the hook, line and spear’. In their haste to prove currently-held theories, they failed to conduct genuine scientific enquiry and simply ignored or reinterpreted any evidence that was inconvenient to the status quo. Excited by one shell hook, they fabricated many spears, and then cast out the same tired old African theory without consideration of the wider historical implications of the facts.
Whether the greatest casualties are the opportunities lost or historical truths denied, there is a reason this tragic state of affairs came about; disrespect for the Original people and their ways, and the distrust this causes. Darkinoong Elder Auntie Beve’s response to archaeologists wandering on to her country uninvited was the initial inspiration behind this article, and highlights why this impasse still exists:
“They have written much that was never to have left country. They have written much that was never near the truth… there is much we never tell or show them because of this… the Old people knew when they were being belittled so they put their tongue in their cheek and said “yes boss, you know it all”.
Academic preconceptions and cultural disrespect will never uncover the truth of our origins. The only way this sorry state of affairs can be overcome is with a broadness of the mind and an openness of the heart.
About the authors:
Steven Strong is an Australian-based researcher, author and former high school teacher. Together with his son Evan, his work is to explore the ancient story of the Original people, a narrative that was almost lost to aggressive European colonisation.
Edited and additional commentary by Andy Whiteley for Wake Up World.
This article © Wake Up World.