This episode further explores the finding of Lady Mungo and Mungo man. It looks at the information that the discoveries provided about the way that people lived at the time and examines burial customs.

Burial customs (2:02)

Episode 10 – Burial customs

Warning – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following video may contain images and voices of deceased persons.

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Please be aware. The following information may be confronting for some people. Please end this recording if you feel uncomfortable at any time.

The body of Mungo Lady had been burnt, and then the burnt skeleton was smashed. The ash and the bones were gathered together and placed in a small sand hollow next to where the body had been burnt. Mungo Man, an adult male, had been buried on his side with his hands clasped together. Red ochre had been thrown over his body.

Ivan Johnston – Discovery Ranger, Mungo National Park

They noticed that on his skeleton remains, they noticed this red pigment, that red pigment is ochre. You cannot get ochre from around this here area. so, that was traded in from a different area. For someone to be buried in that way, it'd have to be someone who's high up. Must've been a king or a chief of the tribe at that period of time. So, they did bury their dead respectfully at the time.

Harvey Johnston – Archaeologist, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage

And that ceremonial aspect is there, so, we know that that ceremony was taking place and we know people are being treated with great respect when they were buried in that process of ritual and ceremony was very clear in the archaeology.


The discovery of Mungo Man and Mungo Lady demonstrated that the people of Mungo area had advanced spiritual beliefs and were practicing cremation burial ritual earlier than any other human society. Traditional Aboriginal burial practices vary throughout Australia, but each death is mourned through a series of rituals, to ensure that a person's spirit leaves the area and returns to its birthplace or country from which it can later be reborn.

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List of sources and acknowledgements

  • Image: Archaeological dig site. Provided by Jim Bowler

  • Image: Recreation of Lake Mungo. Provided by Giovanni Caselli

  • Image: Sediment layer pan. Source image provided by Jim Bowler

  • Images: Mungo Man dig site. Provided by Jim Bowler

  • Image: Red Ochre. Retrieved from

  • Image: Burial Customs. Image retrieved from

  • Narration. Voice over by Melissa Ellis, Southern Cross School of Distance Education.


NSW Government Public Schools, Learning Systems, DART connections, Southern Cross School of Education. Virtual Excursions 2017.

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