On the reliability of age estimates for human remains at Lake Mungo
The lunettes that fringe the ancient shorelines of Lake Mungo, in the Willandra Lakes region of southeastern Australia, have been a source of sustained archaeological and environmental interest since 1968, when Jim Bowler found the first of many recently exposed human burials. Most attention has been directed toward the Mungo 1 and Mungo 3 burials, excavated from the southern end of the ‘‘Walls of China’’ lunette (Bowler et al., 1970, 1972; Bowler & Thorne, 1976). More than 200 radiocarbon (14C) and thermoluminescence (TL) age estimates have since been obtained from a wide range of materials associated with human occupation and with the evolving landscape on which the archaeological record is imprinted. However, direct 14C dating of the human skeletal remains has been rarely attempted, because most material is fragmentary with negligible organic preservation, and never without robust criticism of reliability or context.