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The Australian National University

Centuries old skull raises questions over Australia’s early European history

Thursday, July 4, 2013 - 20:04

In 2011 the skull of a Caucasian male was found on the banks of the Manning River, near Taree. Police investigating the case called on Dr Stewart Fallon of the Australian National University radiocarbon laboratory to determine how old the skull was.

Dr Fallon’s results were astounding. Using carbon dating on the skull bone and enamel from a tooth shows that the skull was much older than anyone had imagined.

Dr Fallon said, “the radiocarbon results show us that there are two possible time periods when the person was alive.”

“The first period would mean the man was born between 1650 and 1660 and died 40 to 50 years later. The second period suggests the skull belongs to someone born from 1780 to 1790 and who died between 1805 and 1810.

But he said his data suggested there was an 80 per cent chance the skull came from the mid-17th century.

Dr Fallon is now analysing the oxygen isotope and strontium composition of samples from the skull to gather more evidence on where this person may have lived.

A full news report on the Manning River skull can be read on

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