Aboriginal Groups Warm to Studies of Early Australians

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Science  29 May 1998:
Vol. 280, Issue 5368, pp. 1342-1343
DOI: 10.1126/science.280.5368.1342

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Elizabeth Finkel LAKE MUNGO, NEW SOUTH WALES-- Nearly 30 years ago, Australia was brought into the front ranks of research on human prehistory with the discovery here of a bone from a 26,000-year-old female skull; further digging over the next decade yielded the richest record yet of ancient human occupation in Australia. That period of discovery, however, was brought to a halt by a rising Aboriginal rights movement that spawned numerous state and federal heritage laws and led to the cancellation of digs and the return of scientifically valuable material; it also coincided with a sharp downturn in support for academic archaeology (see sidebar). But although relationships between archaeologists and Australia's indigenous population can still be frosty, there has been a slow thawing that could revive science and help answer questions that intrigue researchers around the world.