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J Hum Evol. 1999 Jun;36(6):591-612.

Australia's oldest human remains: age of the Lake Mungo 3 skeleton.

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Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.


We have carried out a comprehensive ESR and U-series dating study on the Lake Mungo 3 (LM3) human skeleton. The isotopic Th/U and Pa/U ratios indicate that some minor uranium mobilization may have occurred in the past. Taking such effects into account, the best age estimate for the human skeleton is obtained through the combination of U-series and ESR analyses yielding 62,000+/-6000 years. This age is in close agreement with OSL age estimates on the sediment into which the skeleton was buried of 61,000+/-2000 years. Furthermore, we obtained a U-series age of 81,000+/-21,000 years for the calcitic matrix that was precipitated on the bones after burial. All age results are considerably older than the previously assumed age of LM3 and demonstrate the necessity for directly dating hominid remains. We conclude that the Lake Mungo 3 burial documents the earliest known human presence on the Australian continent. The age implies that people who were skeletally within the range of the present Australian indigenous population colonized the continent during or before oxygen isotope stage 4 (57,000-71,000 years).

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