PIE vs. Proto-World (Proto-Language)

Nicholas Widdows nicholas.widdows at traceplc.co.uk
Fri Aug 20 08:57:00 UTC 1999

If the question relates to IE the answer must too.

<Pete said:>
Incidentally, where do Australian Aborigines fit into this?  Wasn't there
some evidence (or suggestion) in the news about 18 months ago, that the
Aborigines were very much older than had been previously thought?   How do
the time scales fit together?

There was evidence of great age, but it was later contradicted by more
accurate tests. The Jinmium cave paintings were dated to something like 70
000 yr BP based on one test, thermoluminescence, which however samples
aggregates so could be fooled by ochre grains falling down into earlier
natural deposits. But optical stimulated luminescence (and I might have
these two the wrong way round -- not my field) can test single grains, and
that brought the ochre grains forward to much more recent (ten or twenty
thousand). This was reported in _Nature_, oh, three months ago? The earliest
widely-accepted evidence for humans in Australia sets them at about 50 000
yr. There is also a deposit of ash about 120 000 yr ago that is unusual in
nature and looks like evidence of deliberate burning.

If a long date is ever established, perhaps the first inhabitants didn't
have modern language, though they did have art. Australian languages are
oddly bunched, with many small families in Arnhem Land and Kimberley (just
where you'd land from Asia) and one huge, close family occupying all the
rest, which therefore can't represent the ancient population. Aborigines are
a genetic mix: there was a second wave around 10 000 BP. (Old memory of
mine: I don't know what mtDNA says about this mix.) It's just possible that
these brought speech along with the dingo.

Nicholas Widdows

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