Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Cossack Skull

This extremely robust skull was found near Cossack in northwestern Western Australia, nearly 5000 km from Lake Nitchie and Kow Swamp. The skeleton was at the base of an eroding coastal dune. The dune was formed when the sea level reached its present height, so it cannot be more than 6500 years old. The skull is from a man who was about 40 when he died. He had a large, powerful build. The forehead slopes backwards, and the skull is very thick. This man has the most sloping forehead, and is the longest, dolichocephalic, skull ever found from an Aboriginal , past or present. He was missing his right front tooth, which was probably knocked out during initiation.

The Cossack man resembles the Kow Swamp man, and both differ from modern Aboriginal People in Western Australia. This find demonstrates that the robust type of Aboriginal was widespread across Australia, and lasted right up to post-glacial times.

It has been suggested that the long, sloping foreheads, extreme frontal recession, to be technical, as seen in skulls from Cossack, Cohuna and Kow Swamp, might have been artificially produced. The practice of binding the heads of children to produce this effect in adults was used by a number of people around the world. It wasn't common among Australian Aboriginal People.

There are only 3 known examples in Australia of this practice among Aboriginal groups. There are no artificially  flattened skulls in museum collections in Australia. The 3 known groups are in Victoria, Cape York and Mabuiag in the Torres Strait. It is not known which method was used in Victoria. In 1852 the practice was observed in Cape York. In this case the mother pressed on the forehead with one hand while pressing on the occipital region with the other. The skull was longer and wider than it would normally have been.

It has been suggested that the high, flat sloping foreheads could have resulted naturally from mixing of gracile and robust types. Similar foreheads have been seen on some Aboriginal People from Central Australia who have not had their skulls deformed.  

Sources & Further reading

  1. Josephine Flood, Archaeology of the Dreamtime, J. B. Publishing, 2004
  2. Phillip J. Habgood & Natilie R. Franklin, The revolution that didn't arrive: A review of Pleistocene Sahul, Journal of Human Evolution, 55, 2008
Author: M. H. Monroe
Last updated: 30/09/2011

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