The last time I was at Mildura was for my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary. To avoid the roast of the day at the RSL I took my newly purchased Canon 40D via the Pooncarie Road to visit Mungo National Park. I had heard of Mungo Man and wanted to find out what significance he held and where he had been found.
Lake Mungo of Mungo National Park is one of 17 dry lakes in the Willandra Lakes Region World Heritage Area and is listed in recognition of its Aboriginal heritage and preserved information of past climates. The crescent shaped lunette, otherwise known as the Walls of China, stands 30m high and stretches roughly 25km along the now dry lake’s eastern shore. Buried within the lunette is extremely well preserved campfires, cooking hearths and burials of ancient Aboriginal people.
This screenshot of a Google map satellite image will give you an idea of the lunette’s size and shape.
Sediments have been deposited in the lunette for 100,000 years.
There are three distinct layers of sands and soil forming the Walls. The oldest is the reddish Gol Gol layer, formed between 100,000 and 120,000 years ago. The middle greyish layer is the Mungo layer, deposited between 50,000 and 25,000 years ago. The most recent is the Zanci layer, which is pale brown, and was laid down mostly between 25,000 and 15,000 years ago. Quote Source
The Mungo layer is the most archaeologically rich because it was formed during a period of increased rainfall when the lakes would have been largely inhabitable. This period was followed by an ice age, causing the water level in the lakes to fall thereby turning Lake Mungo into a salt lake. This alkalytic transformation preserved the remains buried within the lunette, which includes the Mungo Man.
Mungo Man was discovered by ANU geologist Dr. Jim Bowler in 1974 when shifting sand dunes exposed his remains. There has since been multiple attempts made by Australian universities to date the remains.
In 2003, a group of scientists from several Australian universities, led by the University of Melbourne, reached a new consensus that Mungo Man is about 40,000 years old. This age largely corresponds with stratigraphic evidence, and used four different dating methods, and brought together scientists from several different universities. The age of 40,000 years is currently the most widely accepted age for the Mungo Man and makes it the second oldest anatomically modern human remains found outside of Africa to date. Quote Source
Also available is a media release from Melbourne University about this conclusion: New age for Mungo Man, new human history.
With the knowledge of this ancient history I had seemingly stepped back in time wandering around the lunette at Lake Mungo. When I saw this shipping container all on its lonesome, it reminded me of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Analogous to the apes, it really sparked my curiosity in wondering who would leave such a thing out here. I then started smashing bilbys with spare femurs that were lying around…