Human Skull Found Along NSW River Could be First White Male in Australia Before Captain Cook

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By Reissa Su | July 3, 2013 4:36 PM EST

A human skull discovered on a NSW river bank may belong to a white man that came before Captain Cook.  History books say Captain Cook was the first white man to arrive on Australia's east coast, but scientists suggest otherwise due to the new discovery. 

The NSW Police investigated the site after the skull was found on the riverbank of Manning Point on the northern coast in November 2011.  DNA reports indicate the human skull belonged to a male.

Results of the anthropology report came back on the last week of June, suggesting that the skull belonged to a Caucasian male who set foot in Australia in the 1600s.  Captain Cook is said to have arrived in Australia in 1770. 

The skull, named Taree, was subjected to carbon dating test, according to detective Sergeant John Williamson.  Test results show that the skull had an 80 per cent chance of belonging to a white male, between 28 and 65 years of age, who has lived in the 1600s or late 1700s.   

Dr Stewart Fallon from the Australian National University said his analysis showed that the skull came from the middle of 17th century.  The man was probably born between 1650 and 1660 and died 40 to 50 years after. 

Despite the strong evidence, experts have advised against rewriting history books.  Renowned archaeologist Adam Ford said the skull could have come from a private collection in the 19th century due to the fact that it was found in good condition. Collecting skulls were quite popular during that time. 

Although the discovery is quite fascinating to historians, circumstances of the discovery should also be considered.  No other skeletal remains were found along with skull, which has made the scientific find controversial.  Mr Ford said the skull could have come from a relative stored on a farm since it was found after heavy rains.  However, he does not discount the need for further examination which could make the skull a significant find.    

Mr Fallon said exact carbon dating was impossible.  He is working on more tests to determine where the skull's geographical origin.  Mr Fallon used bone fragments and tooth enamel in carbon dating tests.    

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