Category Archives: AUSTRALIA

Geologist who discovered Mungo Man fights for 40,000-year-old remains

Geologist who discovered Mungo Man fights for 40,000-year-old remains

Forty years after Mungo Man was unearthed in the dunes of western New South Wales, the geologist who made the discovery is urging the NSW government to speed up repatriation of the remains.

Professor Jim Bowler said the process of returning the remains dated at more than 40,000 years old, whose 1974 discovery confirmed that Indigenous Australians belonged to the world’s oldest continuing culture, had “stalled”, and needed to be “dealt with quickly, and dealt with authoritatively by Robyn Parker”.

Bowler said the World Heritage-listed Willandra Lakes region, where the remains where found, was being improperly managed and could soon “fall into a stage that we would regret, unless moves are made to put management into a better, more efficient level of operation”.

It had been hoped that the repatriation would take place on 2014, 40 years to the day since Bowler made his famous find. But obstacles meant it would still be “some weeks” before Mungo Man was returned to country, he said.

“We’re waiting on the protocols to be worked through. But we’re using the anniversary to highlight the relevance of Mungo Man, and to speed up his repatriation.”

Long-term plans to commemorate the discovery include building a mausoleum near the site, “as we have built for Australian soldiers in Fromelles”, Bowler said. “The remains we hope will be put in a crypt with appropriate dignity, in a place that’s in keeping with their sacred nature and their national and international importance.”

Mungo Man is currently housed at the Australian National University in Canberra, where his remains have been intensely scrutinised. The ancient bones have been Cat-scanned and thoroughly documented at a local hospital.

But the research has long since been exhausted, and Mungo Man now sits “incarcerated in a cardboard box in Canberra”, Bowler said. “The time has come now for the bones to come back to country.”

Bowler discovered Mungo Man (though some local Aboriginal elders insist it was the other way around) while conducting geological research in the dried-up lake basins of far-western NSW.

The rich sands had, five years before, yielded the 20,000-year-old remains of a woman, dubbed Mungo Lady, whose bones showed signs of ritualistic cremation and burial, evidence she had belonged to a developed culture.

That afternoon, heavy rain had battered the dunes, forcing the geologist to take shelter. When he emerged, he spotted a patch of bone glinting in the shore of a then unnamed lake. He brushed away the sand to reveal an intact jawbone.

Archaeologists would soon unearth Mungo Man, the oldest skeleton ever discovered in Australia. Dated at 41,000 years old, it more than doubled previous estimates of the length of human settlement in Australia.

Mungo Lady was returned to what is now called Lake Mungo national park in 1991, and is awaiting reburial.

Bowler said he hoped to forge an agreement with the local Aboriginal people to allow scientists future access to both her and Mungo Man. He was also working to “develop a forum with scientists, Aboriginal people and the community, to discuss the incredible significance of this turning point in Australian history”.

“There will be a national dialogue about the contribution of these remains. They are the iconic foundations for the World Heritage area. They have defined the almost sacred nature of Aboriginal connections with land,” he said.

“It puts the Australian cultural context right at the forefront of the international story of what it means to be human.”

Parker said in a statement: “The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and the Aboriginal community at Mungo are in discussion about how to best manage the repatriation of remains to Mungo national park, including those of Mungo Man.

“These discussions and associated planning is now occurring while the current keeping place at Mungo national park is being upgraded to improve its cultural appropriateness in readiness.

“While we are committed to the repatriation as soon as possible, the decision as to what will occur with the ancestral remains rests with the traditional owners – members of the Mutthi Mutthi, Ngiyampaa and Paakantji tribal groups, and those discussions are continuing.”

A 4.4-billion-year-old zircon crystal fragment is the oldest piece of Earth ever found

A 4.4-billion-year-old zircon crystal fragment is the oldest piece of Earth ever found

Zircon is the oldest known material on our planet. They offer a window in time back as far as 4.4 billion years ago, when the planet was a mere 160 million years old.

Because zircons are exceptionally resistant to chemical changes, they have become the gold standard for determining the age of ancient rocks.

The Jack Hills are a range of hills in Western Australia that are home to some of the oldest rocks on Earth. In these rocks, scientists have found zircon crystals that are over 4.4 billion years old.

These zircons are the oldest known solid materials on Earth, and they provide a glimpse into the early history of our planet.

Zircons are a type of mineral that is commonly found in igneous rocks. They are formed when molten rock cools and crystallizes. Zircons are very resistant to weathering and erosion, so they can survive for billions of years.

This makes them valuable tools for geologists, who can use them to date rocks and learn about the conditions that existed on Earth in the past.

The zircons from the Jack Hills are some of the oldest and most well-preserved zircons ever found. They are very small, typically only a few millimeters in size.

However, they have been carefully studied by scientists, who have been able to learn a great deal about their composition and age.

The Jack Hills zircons are thought to have formed in a magma ocean that existed on Earth shortly after the planet formed. This magma ocean was a vast sea of molten rock that covered the entire planet.

As the Earth cooled, the magma ocean began to solidify, and the zircons formed as crystals within the solidifying rock.

The Jack Hills zircons provide a valuable window into the early history of Earth. They show that the planet was already capable of forming solid rocks billions of years ago. They also provide evidence that the Earth had an atmosphere and oceans at a very early stage in its history.

The discovery of the Jack Hills zircons is a significant breakthrough in our understanding of the Earth’s early history. These zircons provide us with a glimpse into a time when the planet was very different from what it is today. They also help us to understand how the Earth formed and evolved into the planet that we know today.

The Importance of the Jack Hills Zircons

The Jack Hills zircons are important for a number of reasons. First, they are the oldest known solid materials on Earth.

This means that they provide us with a window into the early history of our planet when conditions were very different from what they are today.

Second, the Jack Hills zircons show that the Earth was already capable of forming solid rocks billions of years ago. This means that the planet was able to cool and solidify relatively quickly after it formed.

Third, the Jack Hills zircons provide evidence that the Earth had an atmosphere and oceans at a very early stage in its history. This is important because it suggests that the Earth was habitable at a much earlier time than previously thought.

The discovery of the Jack Hills zircons is a significant breakthrough in our understanding of the Earth’s early history. These zircons provide us with a glimpse into a time when the planet was very different from what it is today. They also help us to understand how the Earth formed and evolved into the planet that we know today.

Scientists Found The Remains of a 700,000-Year-Old ‘Hobbit’ Like Human Ancestor in Indonesia

Scientists Found The Remains of a 700,000-Year-Old ‘Hobbit’ Like Human Ancestor in Indonesia

An international team of researchers has just announced the discovery of 700,000-year-old remains that are related to a tiny species of human ancestor, lovingly referred to as ‘hobbit‘.

Found on an island in Indonesia, the newly found hominins only grew to around 1 metre in height, and it’s not year clear whether they represent a new species.

But they look remarkably like the currently known hobbit species, Homo floresiensis – the big difference is that they lived more than 600,000 years before them, which shakes up our understanding of hominin evolution.

“This find has important implications for our understanding of early human dispersal and evolution in the region and quashes once and for all any doubters that believe Homo floresiensis was merely a sick modern human (Homo sapiens),” said lead researcher Gert van den Bergh, from the University of Wollongong in Australia.

“Remarkably, these fossils, which include two milk teeth from children, are at least 700,000 years old.”

The team discovered a fragment of jaw and six teeth, from at least one adult and two children, buried beneath an ancient riverbed at a site known as Mata Menge, on the Indonesian island of Flores.

This is the same island where H. floresiensis was discovered back in 2003. Nicknamed the ‘hobbit’, the species is pretty incredible, because they might have lived alongside modern humans, right up until 12,000 years ago.

But some scientists have argued that, instead of a species of tiny hominins, the remains they were identified from could have simply been sick humans. 

A scientist’s estimation of what the “hobbits” might have looked like

This new discovery adds more evidence against that argument – in fact, it suggests that ancestors of the small-statured hominins were roaming Indonesia hundreds of thousands of years before Homo sapiens showed up. In other words, hobbits were real.

“All the fossils are indisputably hominin and they appear to be remarkably similar to those of Homo floresiensis,” said one of the researchers, Yousuke Kaifu, from Tokyo’s National Museum of Nature and Science, who compared the fossils against modern and extinct hominins.

So where do these hobbits fit on our family tree? And how did they end up on a remote island? Publishing their results in Nature, the team proposes that they might have evolved from tall, upright species, Homo erectus, and somehow shrunk again.

“The morphology of the fossil teeth also suggests that this human lineage represents a dwarfed descendant of early Homo erectus that somehow got marooned on the island of Flores,” said Kaifu.

The fossils included some tiny teeth.

“What is truly unexpected is that the size of the finds indicates that Homo floresiensis had already obtained its small size by at least 700,000 years ago,” he added.

In fact, the discovery of ancient tools at the same site dating back 1 million years suggests the hobbits might have been living there even longer, and for some reason evolved their small stature to suit the island environment. 

If that’s the case, it would force us to do a rewrite of the hominin family tree.

“It is conceivable that the tiny Homo floresiensis evolved its miniature body proportions during the initial 300,000 years on Flores, and is thus a dwarfed side lineage that ultimately derives from Homo erectus,” said van den Bergh.

“It is also possible that this lineage pre-dates the first hominin arrival on Flores, implying speciation occurred on a stepping-stone island between Asia and Flores, such as Sulawesi.”

There’s still a lot of work to do, but we’re now a lot closer to understanding this enigma of a tiny species, and where it fits on our family tree. 

For van den Bergh, it’s a pretty huge moment, seeing as he’s been digging at the site for more than 20 years – and worked alongside Australian scientist Mike Morwood during that time, who discovered the original hobbit species in 2003, and who passed away three years ago. 

The team is now digging even deeper into the ancient riverbed to find more complete skeletal remains, which will be key to properly evaluating and classifying the discovery. They’re also looking for a precursor species that would explain the link between Homo erectus and Homo floresiensis.


9,000-Year-Old Stone Houses Found On Australian Island

Archaeologists working on the Dampier Archipelago, just off the West Australian coast, have found evidence of stone houses dated to shortly after the last ice age, between 8,000 and 9,000 years ago – making them the oldest houses in Australia.

The Dampier Archipelago is a group of 42 islands, and on one of the islands, the team uncovered knee-high rock walls.

“Excavations on Rosemary Island, one of the outer islands, have uncovered evidence of one of the earliest known domestic structures in Australia, dated between 8,000 and 9,000 years ago,” said lead researcher Jo McDonald, from the University of Western Australia.

“This is an astounding find and has not only enormous scientific significance but will be of great benefit to Aboriginal communities in the area, enhancing their connections to their deep past and cultural heritage.”

The researchers suggest that the structures’ inhabitants used branches or other plant materials to make the roofs. The houses are also quite sophisticated, with multiple ‘rooms’.

“Inside the houses, you have separate areas – it could have been a sleeping area and a working area. There is evidence of people grinding seeds on the rock floors inside the houses as well as shell food remains,” McDonald told Paige Taylor from The Australian. 

“We don’t really know what they were used for as these types of structures were not used in the historic periods.”

This particular structure should help researchers to investigate how Aboriginal groups lived after the ice age – a time when sea levels rose 130 metres, at a rate of 1 metre every five to 10 years. This would have eventually cut the Archipelago islands off from the mainland.

“We assume they were a way of marking out social space for groups living close together as the sea level rose after the ice age, pushing groups inland into smaller territories,” says McDonald.

“While these people were hunter-gatherers, these structures suggest people were developing social strategies to be more sedentary, to cope with environmental change.”

The team discovered the houses back in 2022, but they have only recently been dated using shells of edible mangrove gastropods found inside.

Although the researchers haven’t yet published a paper, so we can’t get too excited until then, there should be more information released as the team find it, and they will hopefully publish a paper in the next few months.

Murujuga, which includes the islands and the nearby Burrup peninsula, are also hugely culturally important to the Aboriginal people in the area, and important for researchers trying to understand the past. A number of interest groups are pushing for Murujuga to become World Heritage listed.

“As well as containing more than one million rock engravings of great scientific and cultural significance, the Archipelago is home to one of the country’s largest industrial ports,” McDonald said in a statement today.

She says that research from the last 12 months indicates that there was a human occupation in the area dating back 21,000 years, even before the last ice age.

Just 100 km west, on Barrow Island, researchers have also found evidence of human occupation dating back 50,000 years. 

According to McDonald, although there are similar structures around Australia, the houses on Rosemary Island are the oldest found.

We hope this valuable area will be protected for many years to come. 

This Man Was Killed by Brutal Boomerang Blow 800 Years Ago

This Man Was Killed by Brutal Boomerang Blow 800 Years Ago

Since analyzing markings of an 800-year-old fossil, Australian anthropologists have found evidence that its owner has been killed in a vicious boomerang attack.

Boomerangs are popular hunting weapons used by the Aborigine and Torres Strait Islanders, however, the latest findings indicate they may still be used for warfare well in advance of the arrival of European settlers in Australia.

The findings give a rare insight into pre-colonial, intertribal disputes, which have, rather than archeological facts, been based on historical accounts for a long time.

The skull of a skeleton found two years ago is marred by a long gash, initially thought to be the result of a fatal blow from a sharp metal blade – but, analysis of the remains reveals this occurred long before the Europeans arrived to the region with these types of tools

“I don’t know if it was a continent-wide phenomenon, but we do see evidence in this part of [Australia] that … supports intertribal conflict,” team member Michael Westaway from Griffith University told Traci Watson at National Geographic.

The skeleton is thought to have belonged to a 20- to 30-year-old Aboriginal male, who locals have named Kaakutja (meaning “older brother” in Baakantji). It was discovered in 2014 in Toorale National Park in eastern Australia.

After its discovery in 2014 by William Bates, a member of the Baakantji, the skeleton was named ‘Kaakutja,’ meaning ‘older brother.’ Pictured above, three Barkindji men prepare the remains for reburial

Looking at the long wound on the dead man’s skull, researchers originally thought he died from a sword strike by a member of the British Native Police – a task force responsible for the deaths of many Aboriginals in the 1800s.

Two years later, further analysis of the remains suggest that the man actually died in the 1200s – about 600 years before Europeans arrived.

After further investigation, the team found a nearby cave that contained Aboriginal paintings of warriors with shields, clubs, and boomerangs, reports Watson. They then compared the gash wound on the man’s skull to the average size of a boomerang, and showed that the two matched up.

Their investigation revealed that this likely was the case; the team found that sharp club-like weapons known as ‘Lil-lils’ and hooked fighting boomerangs called ‘Wonna’ could have caused the injuries observed in Kaakutja. Various types of boomerangs are pictured

Besides the gash, the man was also found have broken ribs and a partially severed arm, Bob Yirka reports for, which suggests that he was a long-time fighter, who had survived many battles before his death.

During Kaakutja’s time, boomerangs were a commonly used for a number of tasks, such as digging, hunting, and – based on these findings – combat.

Contrary to the image of boomerang combat that most of us probably have in our minds – with two combatants standing far away from each other, lobbing boomerangs at range – the team says they were probably used for close combat, likely thrown around a shield, allowing warriors to smack guarded foes without revealing themselves.

While understanding how boomerangs were used as weapons is an important find in itself, the team says this is important evidence to suggest that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people used to fight intertribal conflicts before European colonisation.

“There are those who think [pre-colonial Australia] is the Garden of Eden, and those who say it’s a hostile place,” Jo McDonald from the University of Western Australia, who wasn’t involved in the study, told National Geographic. “The evidence here is that it’s kind of both.”

With further analysis of Kaakutja’s remains, the team hopes to find more clues about tribal relations in pre-colonial Australia.