In 1974 the discovery of a 42,000 year old human skeleton buried with extreme care and intricate ritual in the lunar like landscapes of Australia’s Mungo National Park reshaped the saga of the Australian continent and our entire view of prehistoric world migration.
Just as revolutionary was what Mungo Man meant for the understanding of the timeline and complexity of Australian Aboriginal culture. The discovery unveiled a new indication of extraordinary sophistication. The treatment of the body—the oldest ritual burial site ever found—revealed a concern for the afterlife eons before the Egyptian pyramids.
The bones of Mungo Man would spend the next 43 years at the Australian National University in Canberra, taken without permission of his descendants the Ngiyampaa, Mutthi Mutthi and Paakantyi people, a symptom of a time when Indigenous Human remains were treated as scientific keepsakes by researchers and museums.
In 2017 Mungo Man was finally handed over to his descendants and ceremonially repatriated to his discovery site at Lake Mungo.
Recent work for Smithsonian magazine accompanying a feature story by Tony Perrotet. Many thanks to photo editor Jeff Campagna. The story can be seen online here.