Skip to content

Dispersal by Aboriginal people

The journey of the black bean and its connection to Indigenous people

Aboriginal people called this land their home for many tens of thousands of years before we even knew it existed. As the ecosystems around them evolved, so the people adapted and moved to make the most of their surrounds. What we did not understand until recently is how their movements have contributed to the overall make-up of that environment.
Through the study of the native black bean tree, we have learned about the significant contribution Aboriginal people made in the dispersal of native plants throughout Australia. Botanist and Senior Principal Research Scientist Dr Maurizio Rossetto collaborated with academics and Aboriginal elders alike to follow the behaviours and practises of the Aboriginal people.
Dr Rossetto’s research revealed a surprising fact about the dispersal of the black bean. Over thousands of years, the black bean had migrated from the far north into NSW. Through its DNA, every plant in NSW revealed itself to be related to one maternal ancestor.
As it turns out, we can map the movements of the local Aboriginal people who were highly likely to have been responsible for this dispersal. The black bean holds great cultural significance, used in trade, food and ceremony. This study has provided a fascinating crossover between botany and anthropology.