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White man’s skull has Australians scratching their heads

world Updated: Jul 02, 2013 04:25 IST
skull discovered

The centuries-old skull of a white man found in Australia is raising questions about whether Captain James Cook really was the first European to land on country’s east coast.

The skull was found in South Wales in late 2011, and police initially prepared themselves for a gruesome murder investigation.

But scientific testing revealed it was old and possibly belonged to a white man born around 1650, well before Cook reached the eastern seaboard in 1770.

“The DNA determined the skull was a male,” Sergeant John Williamson said.

“And the anthropologist report states the skull is that of a Caucasoid aged anywhere from 28 to 65.”

Australian National University expert Stewart Fallon, who carbon-dated the skull said he was at first shocked at the age of the relic. He said the test used was quite accurate for dates after 1950 but for earlier samples it was more difficult, and the two samples yielded different dates.

“Using them together we can do some modelling as to what we expect the calendar age to be ... and the way it works out by using those two dates is that we get about an 80% probability that the person was born somewhere around the 1650s,” Fallon said.

Historians are cautious. “The fact the skull is in good condition and found alone could point to it coming from a collection.”