42,000-year-old bones set to rest | free press


Some of Australia’s oldest known human remains have finally been laid to rest and buried in uncharted locations.

This decision by the Australian government puts an end to a year-long conflict between the indigenous people and the authorities. Among the 108 bones are the bones of Mungo Man and Mungo Lady – the remains of two Australian Aboriginals are among the most famous archaeological finds in the Down Under. Estimated to be 42,000 years old, they were discovered with 106 other skeletons between the 1960s and 1980s in Mungo National Park, 750 kilometers west of Sydney.

The Local Indigenous Advisory Group has campaigned since 2018 for unidentified graves in the Lake Mungo Dry Area, part of the Willandra Lake UNESCO World Heritage Area. “I am grateful that the remains of our ancestors were finally buried in the traditional way in the countryside,” said Chief Patsy Winch.

Environment Minister Susan Lee had earlier announced the decision to move. While it is important to document the country’s history, it is also important to respect the heartfelt wishes of grandchildren.

“It is time to let their souls rest in peace.”

Regional Heritage Minister James Griffin said he understood the grief of many Aboriginals. “Especially when you consider that some of the old people who fought to recover the remains are no longer with us,” he said, referring to the indigenous peoples’ long struggle to protect their ancestors. It’s time to let their souls rest in peace.”

However, some of the country’s traditional owners have expressed anger that the decision was made by the central government in Canberra and not by the indigenous people themselves: “I am so angry, this has to stop,” said Jennifer Jones of the Bakante tribe. “Mongo Man should not be buried until the traditional owners have made this decision together.”

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The bones of the Mungo Man also provided the first evidence of burial rituals in Australia. In 1974, they were taken without Aboriginal permission, examined and kept at the Australian National University in Canberra.

Only five years ago, Mungo Man returned to his home in the Outback. However, there was no agreement at the time on the method of burial, so the remains were buried directly on the visitor center grounds in a coffin made of eucalyptus wood. All 108 human remains will now be interred at unspecified locations in the national park in the coming months. (dpa)

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