A lock of hair can symbolize many things. Superstitions say owning a piece of someone else's tresses means you have power over that person. For others, hair can mean good luck.

But when an Aboriginal man from the western Australia gave a lock of his hair to a British anthropologist over a century ago, it opened up a way for researchers to piece together the history of indigenous migration.

An international team of researchers found that Aborigine descendants traveled from Africa to settle in Australia 24,000 years before the next migration wave that settled Asia and Europe.


Researchers previously hypothesized that all modern humans came from a single migration wave from Africa into Europe, Asia, and Australia. But the new research shows that early humans colonized Asia in two waves with the Aborigines' ancestors making their move long before the second wave led to settlements in Europe and Asia, scientists said.

Aboriginal Australians descend from the first human explorers, said Professor Eske Willerslev from the University of Copenhagen. He led the study published in the journal Science. The study received the full endorsement of the Goldfields Land and Sea Council. It is the organization representing the Aboriginal of the region.

While the ancestors of Europeans and Asians were sitting somewhere in Africa or the Middle East, yet to explore their world further, the ancestors of Aboriginal Australians spread rapidly; the first modern humans traversing unknown territory in Asia and finally crossing the sea into Australia, Willerslev said. It was a truly amazing journey that must have demanded exceptional survival skills and bravery.

No evidence for boats

But for them to make this journey the first inhabitants of Australia had to cross from Asia to Sahul, the ancient continent that comprised of Australia, New Guinea and Tasmania. And this had to be done before the sea level rise at the end of the Ice Age. One would therefore, think that the early inhabitants must have had superb boat-building skills and technology.

However, Dr. Richard Klein, a paleoanthropologist at Stanford University, told The New York Times that there isn't any archaeological evidence for boats. Therefore, the Aborigine's occupation of Australia is quite puzzling to some researchers. This is because evidence of the stone tools found there indicated simpler tools when compared to the Upper Paleolithic tools found in Europe around the same time frame, according to The NY Times.

I don't understand why they looked so primitive, Klein said.

Learn more about the study in the video provided by the University of Copenhagen below.