Captain Cook not first European to reach east coast of Oz?

Last Updated: Monday, July 1, 2013 - 18:11

Melbourne: The discovery of a white man`s skull, dating back to the 1600s, has raised doubts whether Captain James Cook really was the first European to land on Australia`s east coast.

The perfectly intact skull was found at Manning Point, near Taree, in November 2011.

The results of the scientific testing - which came back last week - have revealed that the skull belonged to a white male, with an 80 per cent chance of it dating back to the 1600s, decades before Cook arrived aboard Endeavour on his first voyage, the `Daily Telegraph` reported.

"The DNA determined the skull was a male," Detective Sergeant John Williamson said.

"And the anthropologist report states the skull is that of a Caucasoid aged anywhere from 28 to 65," said Williamson.

The carbon dating results put the skull - dubbed Taree - as being from two time periods, the 1600s or late 1700s.

"Using carbon dating on bone fragment and looking at enamel from a tooth, there are two possible time periods from when the person was around," Dr Stewart Fallon, of Australian National University, said.

Fallon said the first period suggests the male was born between 1650 and 1660 and died 40 to 50 years later.

"The second period suggests the skull belongs to someone born anywhere from 1780 to 1790 and died between 1805 and 1810," said Falon.

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

Falon said he was carrying out his own tests to try to establish the geographical origins of the skull.

While archaeologist and historians are excited by the discovery, they want to tread cautiously.

"Before we rewrite the history of European settlement we have to consider a number of issues, particularly the circumstances of the discovery," renowned Australian archaeologist Adam Ford said.

"The fact the skull is in good condition and found alone could easily point to it coming from a private collection and skulls were very popular with collectors in the 19th century, he said.


First Published: Monday, July 1, 2013 - 18:11

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