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Mungo Man, The Last Voyage of A 40,000-year-old Ancestor

Photographer Dean Sewell has cut across all over Australia to follow the last journey of the first Aboriginal ancestor.

In 1974, a young geologist by the name of Jim Bowler, while on expedition for the Australian National University, was riding his bicycle around the edge of Lake Mungo, an ancient lake system in the far south west of New South Wales, Australia. There, he discovered something glowing, jutting out of the sand and clay.

What Jim Bowler discovered would change our scientific understanding of human kind and set back to almost 20,000 years the period in which we thought Australian aboriginals roamed the continent. The ancient remains would later be known as Mungo Man (LM3) and their age would be settled at 42,000 years, around the same time as the end of the Ice Age. After more than four decades in the custodianship of the Australian National University and later the Australian Nation Museum, the remains were handed back to traditional owners for repatriation to where they were first discovered on the edge of Lake Mungo. As well as 104 other ancient ancestors, Mungo Man was placed on a coffin carved in a 8,000-year-old timber and set out on a three-day journey to attend a public ceremony and to be taken by a group of traditional owners who buried him in an undisclosed location. This event is of great importance for the traditional groups of the Willandra Lakes region because it acts as an instance where Natives have to have full control over their own affairs without any State intervention.

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