Fifty thousand years ago, a lush landscape greeted the first Australians making their way towards the south-east of the continent. Temperatures were cooler than now. Megafauna — giant prehistoric animals such as marsupial lions, goannas and the rhinoceros-sized diprotodon — were abundant. The Lake Mungo remains are three prominent sets of fossils which tell the archeologists the story: Mungo Man lived around the shores of Lake Mungo with his family. When he was young Mungo Man lost his two lower canine teeth, possibly knocked out in a ritual. He grew into a man nearly 1.7m in height. Over the years his molar teeth became worn and scratched, possibly from eating a gritty diet or stripping the long leaves of water reeds with his teeth to make twine. As Mungo Man grew older his bones ached with arthritis, especially his right elbow, which was so damaged that bits of bone were completely worn out or broken away. Such wear and tear is typical of people who have used a woomera to throw spears over many years. Mungo Man reached a good age for the hard life of a hunter-gatherer, and died when he was about 50. His family mourned for him, and carefully buried him in the lunette, on his back with his hands crossed in his lap, and sprinkled with red ochre. Mungo Man is the oldest known example in the world of such a ritual.
This treasure-trove of history was found by the University of Melbourne geologist Professor Jim Bowler in 1969. He was searching for ancient lakes and came across the charred remains of Mungo Lady, who had been cremated (火葬). And in 1974, he found a second complete skeleton, Mungo Man, buried 300 metres away. Using carbon-dating, a technique only reliable to around 40,000 years old, the skeleton was first estimated at 28,000 to 32,000 years old. The comprehensive study of 25 different sediment layers at Mungo concludes that both graves are 40,000 years old.
This is much younger than the 62,000 years Mungo Man was attributed with in 1999 by a team led by Professor Alan Thorne, of the Australian National University. The modem day story of the science of Mungo also has its fair share of rivalry. Because Thorne is the country’s leading opponent of the Out of Africa theory —that Homo sapiens had a single place of origin. “Dr Alan Thorne supports the multi-regional explanation (that modern humans arose simultaneously in Africa, Europe and Asia from one of our predecessors. Homo erectus, who left Africa more than 1.5 million years ago.) if Mungo Man was descended from a person who had left Africa in the past 200,000 years, Thorne argues, then his mitochondrial DNA should have looked like that of the other samples.”
However, Out of Africa supporters are not about to let go of their beliefs because of the Australian research, Professor Chris Stringer, from the Natural History Museum in London, UK, said that the research community would want to see the work repeated in other labs before major conclusions were drawn from the Australian research. But even assuming the DNA sequences were correct, Professor Stringer said it could just mean that there was much more genetic diversity in the past than was previously realised. There is no evidence here that the ancestry of these Australian fossils goes back a million or two million years. It’s much more likely that modern humans came out of Africa.” For Bowler, these debates are irritating speculative distractions from the study’s main findings. At 40,000 years old, Mungo Man and Mungo Lady remain Australia’s oldest human burials and the earliest evidence on Earth of cultural sophistication, he says. Modem humans had not even reached North America by this time. In 1997, Pddbo’s research group recovered a mtDNA fingerprint from the Feldholer Neanderthal skeleton uncovered in Germany in 1865 – the first Neanderthal remains ever found.
In its 1999 study, Thorne’s team used three techniques to date Mungo Man at 62,000 years old, and it stands by its figures. It dated bone, teeth enamel and some sand. Bowler has strongly challenged the results ever since. Dating human bones is “notoriously unreliable”, he says. As well, the sand sample Thorne’s group dated was taken hundreds of metres from the burial site. “You don’t have to be a gravedigger … to realize the age of the sand is not the same as the age of the grave,” says Bowler.
Thorne counters that Bowler’s team used one dating technique, while his used three. Best practice is to have at least two methods produce the same result. A Thorne team member, Professor Rainer Grun, says the fact that the latest results were consistent between laboratories doesn’t mean they are absolutely correct. We now have two data sets that are contradictory. I do not have a plausible explanation.” Now, however, Thorne says the age of Mungo Man is irrelevant to this origins debate. Recent fossils finds show modem humans were in China 110,000 years ago. “So he has got a long time to turn up in Australia. It doesn’t matter if he is 40,000 or 60,000 years old.
Dr Tim Flannery, a proponent of the controversial theory that Australia’s megafauna was wiped out 46,000 years ago in a “blitzkrieg” of hunting by the arriving people, also claims the new Mungo dates support this view. In 2001 a member of Bowler’s team, Dr Richard Roberts of Wollongong University, along with Flannery, director of the South Australian Museum, published research on their blitzkrieg theory. They dated 28 sites across the continent, arguing their analysis showed the megafauna died out suddenly 46,000 years ago. Flannery praises the Bowler team’s research on Mungo Man as “the most thorough and rigorous dating” of ancient human remains. He says the finding that humans arrived at Lake Mungo between 46,000 and 50,000 years ago was a critical time in Australia’s history. There is no evidence of a dramatic climatic change then, he says. “It’s my view that humans arrived and extinction took place in almost the same geological instant.”
Bowler, however, is skeptical of Flannery’s theory and says the Mungo study provides no definitive new evidence to support it. He argues that climate change at 40,000 years ago was more intense than had been previously realized and could have played a role in the megafauna’s demise. “To blame the earliest Australians for their complete extinction is drawing along bow.”
五万年前，澳洲人第一次迈开了向这片陆地的东南部开拓的步伐，等待他们的是一片绿林繁茂的土地。那时的温度比现在要低。巨型史前动物群，像袋狮，巨蜥，和这 种犀牛般大小的双门齿动物数目繁多。3组蒙戈人遗骸化石的发现清晰地向考古学家昭 示着一个故事：曾经有一群蒙戈人带着他们的家人生活在蒙戈湖岸四周。[第9题]这个 蒙戈人小的时候，他的两颗下犬牙掉了，可能是在一次仪式上敲掉的。等到成年，他长 到了 1.7m的个头。这么多年来，他的臼齿渐渐磨损，臼齿上还有刮痕，可能是由于他 平时吃的东西里面沙子太多，或许因为为了制作麻绳，他需要经常用牙齿咬掉水芦苇的 长长叶子。随着他一天天老去，这个蒙戈人遭受着关节炎给他带来的骨骼上的疼痛，尤 其是他的右胳膊肘，骨骼破坏如此严重，有一部分骨头己经完全磨损，甚至裂开了。这 是一种常年使用标枪投掷器扔掷矛枪的人所患的典型性骨头磨损。这个蒙戈人活到了 50岁，50岁的寿命对于靠采猎为生艰难度日的蒙戈人来说己经相当长了。他的家人为 他默哀，小心翼翼地把他埋葬在这个半圆冢中，让他面部朝上，将他的双手交叉放在大 腿上，洒上代赭石。蒙戈人是迄今为止所知道会采用这种仪式的最古老人类
这段埋藏于地下的历史在1969年被墨尔本大学地质学家Jim Bowler发现。他当 时正在搜寻古代湖泊，无意间发现了一具蒙戈女子的遗体，这名蒙戈女子是被火葬的[第 1题]。接着在1974年，他找到了第二具完整的骨骸，这次是一名蒙戈男子，葬在离女 子300米远的地方[第11题]。通过碳测定年代法，这具骨骸一开始是被估计年龄在 28000年至32000之间，碳测定年代法可靠测定年代范围在4万年左右。之后通过对 25种不同沉淀物层进行综合分析，得出这两个墓穴己经有40000年的历史。
这与1999年由澳洲国立大学Alan Thorne率领的团队所测定的62000年相比大大 年轻了很多。现代社会不同派别之间关于蒙戈人的研究也存在互相竞争的观点。因为 Thorn是澳洲本土“走出非洲”理论的主要反对者一“走出非洲”理论认为智人只有 一个发源地。“而他支持的是多地区起源论的支持者（多地区起源论认为现代人类通 同时出现非洲，欧洲和亚洲，并且源于同一始祖，即150万年前离开非洲大陆的直立 人，）”如果蒙戈人是20000年前离开非洲的后代，Thorn反驳道，那么他的线粒体DNA 就应该与其他样本是一样的。
然而，“走出非洲”理论的支持者绝对不会就此放弃他们所支持的理论。来自 英国伦敦国家历史博物馆的Chris Stringer教授说，研究界希望看到在澳洲研究者 们下定论之前，其它实验室能出现重复结果。但是即使假定DNA的排序是正确的， Stringer博士说那只能说明远古人类的基因多样性比人们以前意识到的丰富得多。 但这并不能表明这些澳洲人类化石的始祖可以追溯到100万或者是200万年前。相 反却恰恰说明现代人类来自非洲的可能更大了。对于Bowler来说，这些争论使得人 们的思考偏移了这次研究的主要发现。他说，凭借着40000年的高龄，这对蒙戈男女 称得上是澳洲最古老的被埋葬的人类，他们也可以作为地球文化复杂性的最早证明。 截至到那个时候，现在人类甚至都还没有到达北美。而在欧洲，现代人类也是刚刚开