A Caucasian skull, found near the banks of the Manning River on the eastern coast of Australia in 2011, could rewrite the history of European contact for the continent. Captain Cook is given credit as the first European to land on its shores in 1770. However, testing of this skull found that these remains belonged to an individual who was born in the mid 1600’s, which pre-dates British settlement by more than a century.
An anthropologist found that the skull belonged to a Caucasian male, findings confirmed by DNA testing. Carbon dating performed on two different areas of the skull revealed that it belonged to someone who was born around 1650 and died between 1660 and 1700. Though the tests performed on the skull do not have a high accuracy rate on dates before 1950, investigators pulled samples from different areas on the bone and used computer modeling to reduce any errors. There is an 80% chance that this individual was born in the mid 1600’s, and died before the 1700’s.
The circumstances of the skull’s discovery concern investigators because no other remains were found and this could be part of a medical collection. The investigators are rightfully cautious. It would be odd for someone to discard or bury a medical specimen, but weirder things have happened.
I will say that since this skull was found near the banks of a river, that recent flooding may have uncovered the remains. When I did some quick research I found that the Manning River did indeed flood in the summer of 2011. Floods have a tendency of disturbing ancient remains and burial grounds. The skull itself does look like it was buried for a long period because of the soil staining, but who know for how long. You can see the pictures here. It’s really annoying that all of the news stories on this skull only show the left side, but it looks like the right side has a lot of damage. Hopefully investigators will return to the area of the Manning River where this skull was found and look for more remains.