LM3 and Port Phillip non-Bay

She was buried on her right hand side. Hand clasping hand and not that far from Mildura. It was probably just how she wanted it too. An emotional ceremony within sight of her beloved warm, shallow lake. Home.

Well, it was close to Mildura in distance. Probably 100 kilometres as the crow flies. A bit further away in a temporal sense. They buried her 62,000 years ago with equal parts dignity and red ochre.

Her name is LM3. Sounds more like a robotic companion from a b-grade science fiction movie. Actually it stands for "Lake Mungo 3" and she may not be a she at all.

The "lake" vanished thousands of years ago. It's now a huge bowl in the desert off to the north east of Mildura. A few other important skeletons [1] had been found there in the 1970s, but the rains of '73 exposed something quite interesting. The gender of earlier finds could be determined and they were given names like Mungo Man. This third major discovery - in 1974 - proved more difficult to classify [2] and was given the name generic tag of LM3.

Evidence suggests that Lake Mungo back 62,000 years ago would have been a very nice place indeed. The lake would have been quite shallow and probably teaming with wildlife. A permanent larder of fish and fowl for LM3 and her friends and family.

It is a quietly moving experience to travel to Mungo today and watch the sun set. Your car drops down in to the lake bed. It seems to be only a few metres below the surrounds. Kangaroos and emus go hurtling past you, reflecting a drier version of LM3's larder. You finally reach the eastern edge. Even now fragments of bone are visible on the 'shore'. Look but don't touch.

As the sun sets over the dry bowl it puts things in context. Captain Cook did his stuff about 230 years ago. Some 7 generations have passed since then. LM3 was standing here over 2000 generations ago. Who knows how long before that her distant relatives arrived up North.

In a converse way Lake Mungo 2001 has its parallels with Melbourne of 18,000 years ago. Back then the seas around Australia were some 150 metres lower than today. Doesn't seem much, does it? But more than enough for Port Phillip Bay to be dry. Oh and Bass Strait too [3].

The Bay of 16,000 BC would have been a shallow depression, probably not even noticeable as the trees within it would have been taller than the dip. A mega-river flowed along the east side of this bowl, out through the two hills and off over the Bass Plains to "Tasmania". The remanent it left behind is what we call the Yarra [3]

The remains of LM3 have only recently been dated. Three different techniques were used and the combined results point[4] towards 62,000 years with an error of about 10%. Think about that. The error margin is 6200 years. Even this error margin predates the start of the great Egyptian civilisation by 1000 years.

[1] Archaeology of the Dreamtime Josephine Flood, 1988
[2] Australasian Science magazine May 2000 p28-31
[3] Aboriginal Melbourne Gary Presland 1994
[4] It must be said that not all Archaeologists accept this figure

Copyright © 2004 David Sidwell (Artwill Services) Back to Freelance Writing