Back in February of 1974 researcher Jim Bowler and his team found an enigma as they were sifting through the sand dunes near the dry Lake Mungo in southwestern New South Wales, Australia. That enigma is known as “Mungo Man” today and it was to cause controversy that would challenge the Out of Africa theory head-on!
According to the Out of Africa/Replacement Theory AMH (Anatomically Modern Humans) didn’t appear in Australia until a mere 42-48 kya. Possibly they arrived there via the migrations of people cross land bridges or making short sea crossings from what is today SE Asia. These first people may have been the ancestors of modern indigenous Australians who were hunter-gatherers with a complex oral culture and spiritual value system based on reverence for the land and a belief in “Dreamtime.”
Mungo Man was originally dated at 60 kya. Well that didn’t fit in with the OOA theory timeline did it? That’s about 20,000 years before the OOA theory says man arrived in Australia! Further, Mungo Mans’ DNA didn’t trace back to the infamous “mitochondrial Eve” either!! This posed a BIG problem for the OOA crowd needless to say and caused waves of controversy as the evidence from Mungo Man challenged the OOA theory head-on! Mungo Man also provided evidence for the alternative Multiregional Theory that postulates traits of modern humans evolved in SEVERAL PLACES not just Africa and gene flow created the genetic uniformity we find today in humans, NOT recent migrations of a single population (Homo erectus) from Africa.
Bowler initially said Mungo Man had to be at least 30 kyr based on his studies of the dry lake’s geology. Then in the late 90’s (uranium-thorium dating, electron spin resonance dating, and optically stimulated luminescence dating) produced new date estimates younger than the original 60 kyr date. Amazing isn’t it? Every time dates come back that conflict with the OOA theory suddenly a new dating technique brings them right in line with what the OOA crowd claims. Just add a few zeros or subtract a few!!
These techniques placed Mungo Man as being up to 62 kyr but likely 50 kyr. And that just happens to be when the OOA crowd estimates man arrived in Australia from Africa. Adding fuel to the fire a grad student named Greg Adcock from Australian National University analyzed mtDNA from a bone fragment found with Mungo Man and discovered he had a lineage both older and distinct from the common ancestor that originated in Africa known as the “mitochondrial Eve.” He and his colleagues further added fuel to the fire by claiming this as evidence for the multiregional theory.
Suddenly, in 2003 the science was settled! Sound familiar? Global warming advocates use the same term!! What the term means is we are NOT to question THEIR conclusions! Other dating techniques were employed and just like magic Mungo Man was suddenly dated at 40 kyr which puts him well within range of what the OOA people claim for man’s arrival in Australia from Africa. They also claimed Mungo Man did NOT conflict with the OOA theory because he may simply have descended from a different maternal line in Africa that was a dead-end! A dead-end? But there are descendants of Mungo Man alive in Australia today! How can that be a dead-end????
Let me get specific here with Mungo Man 🙂 The Mungo Lake remains of ancient human ancestors actually consist of not one but 3 specimens! Lake Mungo 1 is also known as Mungo Lady (LM1 and ANU 618). This specimen was actually discovered back in 1969 prior to Bowler’s discovery. It is also one of the world’s oldest known cremations! This specimen was dated at between 24.7 to 19 kyr using C14 dating. Charcoal from a hearth dated these remains at 28.3 kyr as well. These remains were poorly preserved. They were also found by Bowler btw. It is believed to be one of the oldest burials in Australia and it suggests burial rituals were used by the people who buried her. It’s believed that after this woman died she was cremated then smashed, then burned a second time then covered liberally with ocher.
Lake Mungo 2 was found in the Willandra Lakes region. Lake Mungo 3 is what we call “Mungo Man.” This specimen was discovered by Bowler in 1974 and actually dates to anywhere between 40-68 kyr depending on who you want to ask lol!! This places this specimen as living during the Pleistocene Epoch. These remains are the oldest known AMH remains found in Australia to date. His age continues to be a matter of dispute! This specimen (Mungo Man) appears to have suffered from osteoarthritis in the lumbar vertebrae and showed severe wearing of teeth. It’s believed he was around age 50 when he died (which makes him an old man in those times). One thing that is amazing about Mungo Man is that his height is estimated to have been 6.5 inches tall!! This is unusually tall for an aboriginal from Australia so this guy would have been a GIANT!! Hmmm…not really if he was a H. erectus!!
There is still a lot of hot and heavy debate around Mungo Man today to say the least. Frankly, I think Mungo Man was a H. erectus species. He may have come down from SE Asia across a land bridge or by boat to Australia! Consider the skull of Mungo Man. Below is a reconstruction of the Mungo Man skull.
Below is the reconstructed skull of Homo erectus
They do have similar features!
So Mungo Man shows now shared DNA with the African mtDNA Eve! That means he didn’t come from Africa so where did he come from? Maybe from nowhere! Maybe this species has always been in Australia or nearby.
Mungo Man is still a matter of debate as are many other remains found around the world. He doesn’t fit into the clean little OOA model but he fits very nicely in the alternative Multiregional model. As more and more research is being conducted in Australia I’m sure Mungo Man is only the tip of the iceberg. Australia is an enigma itself with strange animals found nowhere else in the world having odd features. I’m sure the land down under has many more surprises for us in the near future! And just to be clear, personally I DO believe Mungo Man is more likely near Bowler’s original date of 60 kya.