Was Adam from Australia?

The mystery of ‘Mungo Man’

by and Jonathan Sarfati

17 January 2001, updated 20 February 2003

Although many Australians believe their continent to be something akin to the Garden of Eden, the answer, sadly for them, is no, Adam was not from Australia, despite recently reported findings.

UPDATE 20 February 2003

The so-called infallible dating methods that assigned a date of 62,000 years ago to Mr Mungo are now considered to be flawed. Now they have revised the date considerably downwards to 40,000 years. See Tests knock 22,000 years off ‘Mungo Man’, based on Bowler, J.M. et al., New ages for human occupation and climatic change at Lake Mungo, Australia Nature 421:837–840, 20 February 2003.

Current ideas by the evolutionary establishment on the origin and evolution of modern humans seem to be in a continuous state of ... well, evolution. For example, a news article from December 2000, Mother Africa: Mitochondrial DNA Study Supports ‘Out of Africa’ Evolution (<http://abcnews.go.com/sections/science/Daily
News/human_evolution001206.htm>, which is no longer available online) reported that, according to recent mtDNA research, the date of our early ancestors’ migration out of Africa needed to be revised from 100,000 years ago, to 52,000 years ago. This research seemed to lend credence to the ‘Out of Africa’ hypothesis, which states that Homo sapiens evolved in Africa and rapidly migrated across the world and replaced other hominids. For responses, see ‘Out of Africa’? A brief response ... and A shrinking date for ‘Eve’.

Now a recent find by a team of Australian researchers claims to bolster another, competing idea concerning human origins.1 DNA tests conducted on the remains of an anatomically modern human (dubbed ‘Mungo Man’) found in New South Wales, Australia in 1974 supposedly show that he was genetically different from modern humans—despite looking identical to people living today.2 This would mean that Mungo Man was not descended from the small group of Homo Sapiens that allegedly evolved in Africa. This apparently casts doubt on the ‘out of Africa’ idea, and supports the opposing view, called the ‘regional-continuity theory’ (or ‘multi-regional’ or ‘candelabra’ theory), which suggests ‘modern man evolved from Homo erectus[3] in several different places.’4

Dr Carl Wieland explains both the ‘out of Africa’ and ‘regional-continuity’ ideas and offers a Biblical view in his article, No Bones about Eve. The acrimony between the proponents of these rival theories is due to, according to the anthropologist Peter Underhill of Stanford University: ‘Egos, egos, egos. Scientists are human.’5

Incidentally, the ages assigned to Mungo Man allow us the opportunity to once again point out the tenuous nature of any secular dating method: originally assigned the age of 40,000–45,000 years old by the man (Professor Jim Bowler) who discovered the bones, Mungo Man received another age of 62,000 years in May 1999 by Dr Alan Thorne, who conducted tests using methods different from Bowler’s. The evolutionary paleoanthropologist Peter Brown mentions a number of problems with the 62,000 year date, citing with approval the papers by Bowler and others in Journal of Human Evolution, e.g.:6

  • internal inconsistency
  • inconsistency with other dating methods
  • inappropriate selection of samples
  • problems with the assumptions.

Professor Bowler stands by his age and Dr Thorne believes his age to be right.7

Which is the correct age for Mungo Man—40,000 or 62,000? The criticisms—by evolutionists!—just show that all ‘dating’ methods, like all claims about the past, have problems because scientists who weren’t there have to make certain assumptions. This is far from a rare example of the fallibility of dating methods—see Q&A: Radiometric Dating.

If one accepts the assumption that the Bible is the infallible eye-witness account of creation (see Q&A Bible for good reasons to believe this), then one would argue that neither 40,000 or 62,000 is correct. Rather, the Biblical framework suggests that Mungo Man lived less than 4500 years ago—after Noah and his family came off the Ark and after the dispersion at Babel.

It’s important to note that of the two evolutionary dates put forward, either one would further damage the credibility of Hugh Ross and other compromisers, who try to marry the Bible with billions of years and a local flood. Ross dates this Flood that wiped out all humanity (apart from Noah and his three sons) at 20–30 thousand years ago. Since he claims it was a local middle Eastern flood, he has to claim that humanity had not yet dispersed beyond the Middle East. Yet here we have humans that looked identical to modern humans living well before his date of the Flood. This puts day-agers like Ross in a bind, because they affirm the general reliability of long-age dating methods in other respects.

Dr John Mitchell of La Trobe University adds another interesting facet to ‘Mungo Man’ by saying, ‘The sheer ability to analyse 60,000-year-old DNA is revolutionary.’8 Perhaps this comment stems from the fact that DNA has been shown to decay relatively rapidly after death (living cells have elaborate repair mechanisms), and would not be expected to survive longer than around 50,000 years.9 Of course, starting from the Biblical framework, we would say that since Mungo Man is, in fact, only a few thousand years old, it is perfectly within reason to expect some DNA to have survived.

So, who was ‘Mungo Man’ and when did he live?

The Bible reveals that all humans share a common ancestor in Adam, and more recently Noah. After Noah and his family came off the Ark, God used the confusion of languages at Babel (at around the time of Peleg, Genesis 10:25) to cause Noah’s descendants to spread out and fill the earth (Genesis 11:1–9). Therefore, Mungo Man lived less than 4500 years ago and was a relative to you and me.

Published: 3 February 2006

References and notes

  1. Holden, C., Oldest Human DNA Reveals Aussie Oddity, Science 291(5502):230–231, 12 Jan 2001. Return to text.
  2. Since no-one doubts that Mungo was a true human, it shows that allegedly largely different DNA is not proof that Neandertals were not human either. See Note 3. Return to text.
  3. Most modern creationists regard Homo erectus as a variety of true humans, descended from Adam and Eve, and probably post Babel. This is supported by the overlapping of cranial vault sizes (Woodmorappe, J., How different is the cranial-vault thickness of Homo erectus from modern man? TJ 14(1):10–13, 2000) and many other physical characteristics (see The non-transitions in ‘human evolution’ — on evolutionists’ terms and Marvin Lubenow’s book Bones of Contention). And an article by Wolpoff et al. in Science 291(5502):293–297 (comment p. 231), as recently as 12 Jan 2001, showed that the features of various human skulls indicated that there must have been interbreeding among modern-looking Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals and even Homo erectus (Claims of Neanderthal and Human Mixing Leave Some Cold, NYTimes.com, 14 January 2001). Thus they are all the same species by definition, and therefore Hugh Ross is wrong to claim that the latter were soulless pre-human hominids.Return to text.
  4. Scientists Challenge Evolution Theory, ABCNews.com, 10 January 2001. Return to text.
  5. Claims of Neanderthal and Human Mixing Leave Some Cold, NYTimes.com, 14 January 2001. Return to text.
  6. Brown, P., The first Australians: The debate continues, Australasian Science 21(4):28–31, May 2000. Return to text.
  7. Tait, Paul. Fossil Finder Disputes Age, Backs Evolution Claim, Daily News, 10 January 2001. Return to text.
  8. Dayton, Leigh. DNA clue to man’s origin, The Australian, 10 January 2001. Return to text.
  9. Lindahl, T., ‘Instability and decay of the primary structure of DNA’, Nature 362(6422):709–715, 1993. S. Pääbo has found that DNA fragments a few hours after death into chains 100–200 units long, that water alone would completely break it down by 50,000 years, and that background radiation would eventually erase DNA information even without water and oxygen, ‘Ancient DNA’, Scientific American 269(5):60–66, 1993. Return to text.