Mungo National Park is a part of the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area, a chain of dried-out lakes that were once strung between Willandra Creek and the main channel of the Lachlan River in Outback NSW.
Lake Mungo dried up around 14,000 years ago, and today a great crescent-shaped dune, called the Walls of China, stretches along the eastern shore of the lakebed. These dunes, of mud and sand, are continually eroding by wind and water. Left behind is a fragile landscape of crinkled, fluted outcrops and shifting sand, which changes colour from a daytime khaki to the vibrant yellows, oranges, and deep wine reds of sun set.
It was at Mungo, in the drought-affected summer of 1969, that a young scientist stumbled across the remains of a cremated skeleton of a human, later to be known as Mungo Woman. Six years later, he found Mungo Man, buried in a pit strewn with ochre.
Carbon dating showed that Mungo woman was at least 26,000 years old, and that Mungo Man lived some 62,000 years ago. The discovery threatened to rewrite the history of human occupation in Australia, and had profound implications for the origins of modern man. More recently, the scientific consensus is that both skeletons are around 40,000 years old.
Stone flake tools are scattered across the landscape, and peeking out of the mud are ancient wombat holes, fossilised chunks of Eucalyptus trees, and the bones of long-dead marsupials, including extinct buffalo-sized wombats and giant kangaroos.
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