Mungo Man Returns Home

The remains of Australia’s oldest aboriginal man, who died about 42,000 years ago, has been returned to his original burial ground in  New South Wales. For years, he had been at a university in Canberra for study purposes.

The skeleton was discovered in 1974 in a dry salt lake in Mungo National Park about 800 km west of Sydney. The remains were taken to the University of Canberra to be studied. At the time, the Aborigines protested heavily against removing the remains from their original burial grounds.They have been fighting for decades to bring the skeleton, known as Mungo Man, back home.

Mungo Man was probably a hunter-gatherer, who died at the age of 50. Scientists think that the man probably suffered from arthritis. He was found lying on his back with his hands crossed in his lap. His limbs were stretched out and his body was covered with red ochre, which came from some 200 km away.

Aborigines celebrated the return of the remains in a traditional ceremony with green gum leaves burned over a small fire. In an official statement, the university apologized for the pain they have caused by not letting the ancient human rest in peace.

satellite image of Lake Mungo, where the remains of Mungo Man were discovered.
Satellite image of Lake Mungo, where the remains were discovered.

Words

  • aboriginal = connected to someone who has lived in  a place or country from the earliest times
  • Aborigines = someone who belongs to the race of people who have lived in Australia from the earliest times
  • apologize = to say you are sorry about something
  • arthritis = disease that causes bones and flexible parts of your body to become painful and swollen
  • burial ground = place where a person is laid to rest after they have died
  • cause = create
  • celebrate = to show that an event is important by doing something special
  • ceremony = important social or religious event
  • decade = ten years
  • discover = to find for the first time
  • gum leaves = leaves from a gum tree; they produce  a strong smelling oil that is used in medicine
  • heavily = very much; strongly
  • hunter-gatherer = person who lived  by hunting animals and looking for plants that could be eaten
  • lap = the upper part of your legs   when you are sitting down
  • limbs = arms and legs
  • ochre = red-yellowish earth
  • official statement = here: the university announced something in public
  • original = here: for the first time
  • remains = the body or skeleton of someone who has died
  • remove = bring away from the original place
  • scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • skeleton = structure of all the bones in the human body
  • study purposes = when something is looked at or examined closely by scientists and experts
  • suffer = to feel pain because you are ill