Australia's Oldest Human Remains

In 1974 a near complete skeleton was found near Lake Mungo, a dry lakes in western New South Wales. The corpse of this individual, Lake Mungo 3 was covered with red ochre before burial. In 1999 the specimen was restudied (Thorne, et. al.,1999). The researchers carried out ESR and U-series dating study. The age estimate obtained for the human skeleton through the combination of U-series and ESR analyses was 62,000 6000 years. The age agrees with age estimates for the burial sediment, 61,000 2000 years.

The age results are far older than previously assumed. The authors concluded that the Lake Mungo 3 burial documents the earliest known human presence on the Australian continent. The specimens age implies that the present Australian indigenous population colonized the continent by 57,000-71,000 years ago.

The Lake Mungo modern and gracile morphology predates by some 40,000 years the earliest known of the robust remains from other Australian sites. These findings are important to the modem human debate, the Multiregionalism and recent Out-of-Africa models. Gracility appears first in Australia while Indonesia had a long history of robusticity and clear skeletal robusticity developed in Australia over a relatively short period.

The use of red ochre in the LM3 burial indicates that ochre was used from an early date in Australia.


Thorne, Alan, Rainer Grün, Graham Mortimer, Nigel A. Spooner, John J. Simpson, Malcolm McCulloch, Lois Taylor, and Darren Curnoe. 1999. Australia's oldest human remains: age of the Lake Mungo 3 skeleton. Journal of Human Evolution 36:591-612.

Did Homo sapiens sail to Australia 176,000 years ago?


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