May 19, 2021
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Bridging The World

"What if continental drift sequence hadn't happened? Would India be part of Australia?" (Outlook, August 23, 2004.) May be. Or may be not. But Indians might be Australians, Australians might be Americans and so, Indians would be America

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Bridging The World

"Gondwana 96 m BC: What if continental drift sequence hadn’t happened? Would India be part of Australia?" (Outlook, August 23, 2004.)

May be. Or may be not.

But Indians might be Australians, Australians might be Americans and so, Indians would be Americans.

Is your head spinning like the globe?


* * *

When Christopher Columbus sailed onto the American soil, he thought that he had reached the Indian shores. He had called the Native Americans "Indians", a name that still lingers on.

It took nearly a century of research and debate to arrive at the plausible conclusion that the original Americans had arrived from Asia. "Paleo-indians" or "Old Indians" might have reached North America some 13,000-14,000 years ago when sea levels were much lower. It is thought that they might have walked across land ‘bridges’ in the "Beringia" area, which is now the Bering Straits that separates Siberia from Alaska. The new arrivals would have then migrated and spread across the American landmass.

The oldest Native American skull, discovered and dated by Archaeologists, is 9000 years old.

Silvia Gonzalez, a Mexican scholar from John Moores University in Liverpool, at the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science dropped an archaeological bombshell earlier last month (September 6th 2004). She disclosed her discovery in Mexico and California of much older skulls and their possible origins. She said that carbon dating on a well preserved female skull had revealed the ‘head’ to be12,700 years old. Silvia further traced evidence to show that the first migration was into the Pacific Coast of America (Baja California) from Australia through Japan and Polynesia.

DNA testing is underway to corroborate this heady claim.

Britain's Natural Environment Research Council is funding this project as well as 10 other projects that focus on diet, dating and dispersal of people down the millennia in the face of climatic changes.

These researches may give the world of Anthropology a new map to be drawn to explain the peopling of the earth.

Social Anthropologists have always been fascinated whenever similarities in social customs appeared between geographically separated communities. Take the case of cross-cousin marriages (a cross-cousin is the child of one’s mother’s brother or father’s sister). The fact that they occur in many Indian communities, in several Australian Aboriginal communities as well as a few Native American tribal communities have been discussed and debated for long (I am excluding Africa from this piece for the sake of brevity).

A scientific thread to unite these continentally separated communities was what was lacking all along. The female DNA extracted by Silvia Gonzalez might just prove to be the mother of all migratory DNAs.

* * *

If America was first peopled by Australians, then who were the original Australians?

During the Ice Ages, Gondwanaland was a huge mass in which India and Australia were neck and neck neighbors besides others. The Continental Drift pushed them apart. However, for thousands of years the two lands could be reached through ‘bridges’ in the Indian Ocean when the ocean levels were much lower.

The globe’s orientation in the region was such that this critical area was named after Gondwana. The very name Gondwanaland is derived from the name of one of the ancient tribes in India, the Gonds. The Gonds had ruled over the area of "Gondwana" in South Central India around Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh from the 15th century to the mid 18th century when they were overthrown by the Muslims and the Marathas. In public memory, however, the Gonds came into prominence when Verrier Elwin, the British Anthropologist, married a Gond woman.

The Aborigines are considered to have migrated into the Australian continent around 40,000 years ago. Research reveals that the Australian Aborigines could have possibly migrated from the Indian land. The Mundas from the Bengal region (today’s Bangladesh) and the Veddas from the Tamil region (today’s Sri Lanka) are perhaps the original Aborigines of today’s Australia. This ‘Proto-Dravidian’ ancestry of the Australian Aborigines is generally accepted.

One of the consorts of the Hindu God Murugan is Valli. He is believed to have wooed and wed her in dramatic fashion, and their love story is recounted with great passion in Tamil lore. Valli is considered to be the adopted daughter of a Vedda chief, Nambi Raja.

While on the topic of ‘Dravidian’ influence on Australian Aborigines, it is interesting to note that the Aboriginal Flag has a black half while the other half is red and in the center of the flag is a bright yellow sun. I am sure the DMK party would be proud of their ‘originality’. The DMK flag’s sun is rising while the Aboriginal sun is fully blown (Will the party spend their time talking about the sun setting in America now?).

* * *

Christopher Columbus wasn’t fully wrong after all.

Indians can cross continental bridges.

Further, ancient Indians did believe that the world was one large family, didn’t they?

G. Sujatha is a Social Anthropologist from the University of Madras. She now lives in Sydney, Australia.

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